September 21, 2003
Whether you have a website or plan to get one soon, you would like to get as much traffic to your site as possible. In addition to getting traffic you would like all your visitors to get the best experience possible while visiting your site. Today, it is no longer a simple task to make sure that every user gets that best experience. Why, you may ask. Because there are so many possible platform and browser combinations out there it is difficult to design and program a website that looks the same on all of them. We have Windows platforms that come in many flavors. We have Mac operating systems that also come in many flavors, and now we also have Linux that is growing more popular. On each of the mentioned operating systems users have several choices for web browsers they use. Each browser is a little different, and that affects how your page may display in it, if in fact, it displays at all.
Many designers develop websites that look great in an Internet Explorer on a Windows-running computer. And since majority of people use this combination, they target a pretty wide audience. However, there are still many people who are using different operating systems or at least prefer different browsers and often they are left in the dark. We don't think you can or should ignore those people. Because an average user spends about 15 seconds waiting for a page to load, it is important to make sure that your website does load and loads relatively quickly before a potential visitor turns to look elsewhere.
We always design and test our websites to make sure they work and render the same way on all mentioned operating systems and browsers. It requires more work but it is worth doing it and not losing any visitors to your site. To add to the complexity of the situation, aside from operating systems and browsers you have to worry about the screen resolution used by your visitors and the plug-ins you expect them to use. You need to make sure that your website looks well on screens as small as 640X480 pixels and as big as 1024X768 and larger. Most laptop or notebook computers use resolutions of 1024X768 or greater and in fact our statistics show that now close to 50% of Internet users use this resolution. Plug-ins are important when you offer content on your website other than just the pages with graphics. This applies mainly to multimedia content such as video, audio, streaming video, PDF files, Flash animations and others. We provide you with several statistics below to show you what technology web users have today. Based on these statistics it is easier to target your website for majority if not all users. However, it is important that we cannot rely a 100% on any statistics as they are just approximations of the real numbers and these stats may differ depending on a website and its target audience. The stats below are based on our own data and some data from various global sources. These statistics are really general percentages on a global scale. Nevertheless, they show the overall trends across the globe in what technology is currently used and it's clear that Microsoft products are in the lead.
It is very clear that Microsoft Windows is the most popular Operating System (OS) out there. They cover over 90% of users and you can be sure that this trend will reflect on your website as well. When we say Windows, this includes different version of this OS including Windows 95, 98, Me (Millennium), NT, 2000 and XP. Even so, when designing a website you really need to target it more for a browser rather than for an OS. Every OS has several browsers to choose from. So in general, if you know the OS used by your viewers, you can then focus on browsers available for that OS. However, as we said before, you don't want to ignore the small percentage of users who don't fit into the majority. Apple computers use the Mac OS and the most popular ones out there are OS 9 and OS 10. OS 10 is becoming more popular because all new Apple computers have it pre-installed. Many artists of all kinds use Macs and if you are in that industry you may want to make sure that your website is specifically well designed for that OS and browsers used on that platform. We guarantee that all websites designed by us are fully compatible with all operating systems unless our client specifically requests that we design with one OS in mind.
Again, when you look at the browsers used by most people, it is clear that Internet Explorer (IE) is winning the war. However, it gets about 87% of the market only because Windows is the most popular platform and it comes with IE installed on every computer using Windows. When you look at Mac Os and Linux computers the percentage of IE users is much smaller on those platforms. In addition to that, different versions of IE don't necessarily display web pages the same way so it is important to test your website on all versions even of the same browser. Netscape Navigator, which was the most popular browser a few years ago, is now on the brink of extinction. However, there are still loyal users who continue to use it on both PCs and Macs. In addition to that, on a Linux OS there is Mozilla which is an open source version of the Netscape browser and as Linux is becoming more popular this browser cannot be ignored. The bottom line is that your website should be designed in such a way that regardless of which browser-OS combination you use it renders and functions well if not the same in all of them.
Our statistics show that now 1024X768 resolution is the leading resolution used. The main reason for this is the growing spread of notebook computers that usually use this resolution and the rapid growth of flat panels that often use even higher resolution settings. It seems that now only a very small percentage of users still have old 15" monitors that are set to 640X480 pixels. Most web developers are no longer concerned with those users and they optimize websites for 800X600. We optimize websites designed by us for 800X600 resolution, but we do it in such a way that users with 640X480 can still read the content on our site without scrolling left and right. Another thing to think about is those high resolution that are becoming more and more common. As time goes by more users have new machines and you don't want your website to look bad on their computers with an excessive amount of white space. This is why we suggest to our clients the use of "jello" or "liquid" design technique that makes the website stretch to fill up the entire screen regardless of the screen resolution. Our website has been made that way. You can test it by changing your screen size or simply changing the window size of your browser. You can read more about these types of design strategy and view samples on our layout page.