An interesting discussion over at WebmasterWorld; once again incrediBill has tossed a pebble for the fun of watching the conflicting ripples.
Why do you enable old browsers?, 06-August-2014.
I'm just curious of all the reasons designers continue to coddle the older browsers.
If we all stop doing it, they'll be forced to upgrade when nothing works properly.
We exist for the user. The user doesn't exist for us.
Go read it. Some good comments on both sides of the argument.
However, I have an opinion.
First, the driving force behind which browsers to support is indeed the user/visitor
with the following two provisos:
1. the primary data set should be based on your site(s)' customers/visitors browser usage.
Note: preferably AFTER you exclude bots. If you don't the data will definitely be badly skewed.
Note: metrics and analytics, folks; remember them?
2. the secondary data should be drawn from the regions/countries where prospective audiences live.
Note: try to use at least two different data sets, i.e. Net Market Share, StatCounter, and a dash or three of common sense in conjoining them.
Note: if you aren't interested, for instance, in traffic from India then you do need to know and adjust for the fact that over a quarter of StatCounter mobile pageview traffic is from there.
Note: when deciding whose/which stats to use and how to filter do read and understand the different methodologies. Comparing apples and oranges is difficult but even more so is not knowing how the numbers were derived aka whether it is an apple, an orange, or an orangutan.
As the object of the exercise is to decide which browsers should (still) be supported the fact that various datasets get the order and percentage quite different is largely immaterial. You need to set a base limit below which the effort value is not worthwhile.
* I set a 'pay attention' threshold of <=2% as that is what I consider my base conversion rate.
* I typically just use the lowest of the data sets' numbers, i.e. if SC has Chrome 31 at 40%, NMS at 13% I use 13%; if NMS has IE 8 at 21%, SC at 8% I use 8%. It's above the pay attention threshold so it's getting supported, period.
Disclaimer: as I'm not building new sites and already have templates that call display/rendering support depending on browser all the way back to IE5.01 ... I just have to keep an eye on support differences required for new browser versions. However, the above is how I decided which to support way back when.
Note: I AM building new apps and it is how I decide which browsers and versions to support.
Note: often the biggest headaches are how to support media. If you build in graceful degradation as I initially did or follow the principles of progressive enhancement such problems should be minimal. Best practices are called that for a reason!
There are new wrinkles in the 'which browser' discussion:
1. incorporating WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Application) specification; progressively enhancing HTML4.01 or xHTML; gracefully degrading where overlap exists with HTML5.
Note: a large minority of web users are disabled such that ARIA makes their browsing experience more enjoyable, don't lose them to a competitor by default.
2. porting between Open Web and Chrome app API's and/or working around their differences.
Note: don't forget the web is increasingly accessed by mobile devices and the bookmark<->app choice is one you want to win regardless.
3. how to stop your app's, site's support of browser version.
Note: some sites/apps go the old 'best viewed' in IE/NN route of long ago and when they detect an older no longer supported browser send an UPGRADE message. My advice: either do NOT (or at least first do A/B testing) because doing so can cause a significant drop in conversion rate.
Note: remember progressive enhancement?
4. when a new app or a new site should not bother supporting older browser versions (or even which of the current/new ones should be supported).
Note: a business decision: how much work you can realistically do or buy against the returns of revenue and recommendation.
Note: as noted above I use the 2% of non-bot traffic threshold on existing site's and/or apps after which I consider conversions/recommendations/revenue in relative and absolute numbers, new/return visitor usage, etc. And err on the cautious side. But that's me and my niches and my audiences. You and yours may differ.