Which Browsers Should Your Website Support?

This article is part of a series created in partnership with SiteGround. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

The question “which browsers should my website/app support?” is often raised by clients and developers. The simple answer is a list of the top N mainstream applications. But has that policy become irrelevant?

What are the Most-used Browsers?

The top ten desktop browsers according to StatCounter for May 2017 were:

  1. Chrome — 59.37% market share
  2. Firefox — 12.76%
  3. Safari — 10.55%
  4. IE — 8.32%
  5. Edge — 3.42%
  6. Opera — 1.99%
  7. Android (tablet) — 1.24%
  8. Yandex Browser — 0.48%
  9. UC Browser — 0.41%
  10. Coc Coc — 0.33%

Mobile now accounts for 54.25% of all web use so we also need to examine the top ten phone browsers:

  1. Chrome — 49.23%
  2. Safari — 17.73%
  3. UC Browser — 15.89%
  4. Samsung Internet — 6.58%
  5. Opera — 5.03%
  6. Android — 3.75%
  7. IEMobile — 0.68%
  8. BlackBerry — 0.26%
  9. Edge — 0.15%
  10. Nokia — 0.12%

The worldwide statistics don’t tell the whole story:

  • Patterns vary significantly across regions. For example, Yandex is the second most-used Russian browser (12.7% share). Sogou is the third most-used browser in China (6.5%). Opera Mobile/Mini has a 28% share in Africa.
  • New browser releases appear regularly. Chrome, Firefox and Opera receive updates every six weeks; it would be impractical to check versions going back more than a few months.
  • The same browsers can work differently across devices and operating systems. Chrome is available for various editions of Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS and ChromeOS, but it’s not the same application everywhere.
  • There is an exceedingly long tail of old and new, weird and wonderful browsers on a range of devices including games consoles, ebook readers and smart TVs.
  • Your site’s analytics will never match global statistics.

Are Browsers So Different?

Despite the organic variety of applications, all browsers have the same goal: to render web pages. They achieve this with a rendering engine and there is some cross-pollination:

  1. Webkit is used in Safari on macOS and iOS.
  2. Blink is a fork of Webkit now used in Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi and Brave.
  3. Gecko is used in Firefox.
  4. Trident is used in Internet Explorer.
  5. EdgeHTML is an update of Trident used in Edge.

The majority of browsers use one of these engines. They’re different projects with diverse teams but the companies (mostly) collaborate via the W3C to ensure new technologies are adopted by everyone in the same way. Browsers are closer than they’ve ever been, and modern smartphone applications are a match for their desktop counterparts.

However, no two browsers render in quite the same way. The majority of differences are subtle, but they become more pronounced as you move toward cutting-edge technologies. A particular feature may be fully implemented in one browser, partially implemented in another, and non-existent elsewhere.

Can My Site Work in Every Browser?

Yes. Techniques such as progressive enhancement (PE) establish a baseline (perhaps HTML only) then enhance with CSS and JavaScript when support is available. Recent browsers get a modern layout, animated effects and interactive widgets. Ancient browsers may get unstyled HTML only. Everything else gets something in between.

PE works well for content sites and apps with basic form-based functionality. It becomes less practical as you move toward applications with rich custom interfaces. Your new collaborative video editing app is unlikely to work in the decade-old IE7. It may not work on a small screen device over a 3G network. Perhaps it’s possible to provide an alternative interface but the result could be a separate, clunky application few would want to use. The cost would be prohibitive given the size of the legacy browser user base.

Site Owner Recommendations

Site owners should appreciate the following fundamentals and constraints of the web.

The web is not print!
Your site/app will not look identical everywhere. Each device has a different OS, browser, screen size, capabilities etc.

Functionality can differ
Your site can work for everyone but experiences and facilities will vary. Even something as basic as a date entry field can has a diverse range of possibilities but, ideally, the core application will remain operable.

Assess your project
Be realistic. Is this a content site, a simple app, a desktop-like application, a fast-action game etc. Establish a base level of browser compatibility. For example, it must work on most two-year-old browsers with a screen width of 600 pixels over a fast Wi-Fi connection.

Assess your audience
Don’t rely on global browser statistics. Who are the primary users? Are they IT novices or highly technical? Is it individuals, small companies or government organisations? Do they sit at a desk or are they on the move? No application applies to everyone — concentrate on the core users first.

Examine the analytics of your existing system where possible but appreciate the underlying data. If your app doesn’t work in Opera Mini, you’re unlikely to have Opera Mini users. Have you blocked a significant proportion of your market?

Change happens
It’s amazing that a web page coded twenty years ago works today. It won’t necessarily be pretty or usable but browsers remain backward compatible. (Mostly. The tag can stay dead!) However, technology evolves. The more complex your site or application, the more likely it will require ongoing maintenance.

Web Developer Recommendations

With a little care it’s possible to support a huge variety of browsers.

Embrace the web!
The web is a device-agnostic platform. Content and simpler interfaces can work everywhere: a modern laptop, a feature phone, a games console, IE6, etc. Learn the basics of progressive enhancement. Even if you choose not to adopt it for your full application, there will be pockets of functionality where it becomes invaluable.

Adopt Defensive Development Techniques
Consider the problem before reaching for the nearest pre-written module, library or framework. Understand the consequences of that technology before you start. Frameworks should provide a browser support list because they have been tested in limited number of applications.

Learn about browser limits and quirks. For example, if you’re considering an SVG chart, be aware that it can look odd in IE9 to 11 and fail in IE8 and below. That doesn’t mean it’s a binary choice of rejecting SVGs or abandoning IE support. There are always compromises which do not incur significant development. For example:

  • accept SVG rendering is weird but it remains usable
  • only show a table of data in IE, or
  • provide an SVG download which IE users can open elsewhere.

Test early and test often
You cannot possibly test every device, but developing for a single browser is futile.

Continually test your project in a variety of applications. Leaving testing to the end will have catastrophic consequences. It’s easy for us to blame tools and browser inadequacies, but the majority of issues can be rectified during the development process if they’re spotted early.

That’s not to say everything must work identically in every browser every time. Feature regressions are inevitable. For example:

  • Progressive Web Apps do not work offline on iPhones and iPads — but online operation is fine.
  • CSS Grid is not supported in IE — but float, flexbox or full-width block fallbacks should be acceptable.
  • The desktop edition of Firefox does not show a calendar for date fields — but users can still enter one.

Install a selection of browsers on your development PC. Mac and Linux users can obtain Microsoft Edge and IE testing tools at developer.microsoft.com/microsoft-edge/. It’s more difficult for Windows and Linux users to test Safari; online test services such as BrowserStack are the easiest option.

Modern browsers have excellent mobile emulation facilities, but use a few real devices to appreciate touch control and performance on slower hardware and networks.

Use HTTPS on your end

The web is gradually making HTTPS the preferred protocol, and this trend is going to continue. Google Chrome is even starting to indicate that non-HTTPS sites as insecure, which is a good reason for you to configure your site to use HTTPS. Our web hosting partner, SiteGround, for example, made it easy for their clients to make the move to HTTPS. To do that, they automated the installation of Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates for all new WordPress accounts, and for existing ones, they made the switch to HTTPS possible with just a click.

You Haven’t Answered the Question!

The question “which browsers should you support?” has become too restrictive. Presume your answer was just “Chrome”:

  • which devices and OS is it running on?
  • what range of screen sizes will be supported?
  • which version are you referring to? The latest? Chrome 10 and above?
  • what happens when a new version of Chrome is released?
  • what will happen in other browsers when Chrome effectively becomes your application’s runtime?

Providing a browser support list has become impractical for client-facing projects. Perhaps the best answer is: “we’ll develop your project according to presumed demographics then test as in many devices, OSes, browsers, and versions as possible according to budget and time constraints”. Even then, you’ll miss that aging Blackberry the CEO insists on using.

Develop for the web — not browsers.

How to Disable “Save Passwords” Option in Browser

The built-in password manager in most browsers is extremely insecure. The fact that it usually uses your PC’s login password for protecting all your other passwords is more than enough reason to drop it in support of third-party password managers.

If you’re concerned about the security of your passwords, then you should switch to a secure password manager such as LastPass and disable the browser’s built-in password manager.

And to help you with this security leap I’m going to show you how to both disable the Save Password option and remove previously saved passwords in all of the major browsers.

Chrome

In Google Chrome, you can disable the Save Password option and remove the saved passwords as follows:

  1. Click on the main menu at the top-right corner and select Settings from it.
  2. chrome settings
  3. Click on Show advanced settings at the bottom and then uncheck the option “Offer to save passwords with Google Smart Lock for Passwords” under the Passwords and forms section.
  4. disable save password

This will stop chrome from prompting you to save passwords every time you log in to a website. If you want to delete previously saved passwords, then click on the Manage passwords link next to it.

A window will open up where you can see all your saved passwords. Simply click the cross (X) button next to each entry to remove it.

manage google passoword

Firefox

To remove the Save Password prompt and already saved passwords in Firefox, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on the hamburger menu at the top-right corner and select Options from it.
  2. firefox options
  3. Move to the Security section and uncheck the option “Remember logins for sites”. This will stop Firefox from saving your passwords in the future.
  4. disable save password

To delete previously saved passwords, click on the Saved Logins button on the same page. Here you can remove saved passwords and even import them to save anywhere else.

manage firefox password

Opera

In the Opera browser you can do the following steps to disable the Save Password option and delete the already saved passwords:

  1. Step 1: Open the Opera menu from the top-left corner and select Settings from it.
  2. opera settings
  3. Step 2: Here move to the Privacy & security section from the left menu and uncheck the option “Offer to save passwords I enter on the web”.
  4. disable save passwords

To manage the passwords, click on the Show all passwords button below it. You can click on the cross (X) next to each saved password to remove it.

manage opera password

Safari

You can disable the Save Passwords option and manage the previously saved passwords in Safari through below-mentioned steps:

  1. Open the Safari menu and click on Preferences in it.
  2. safari menu
  3. Now uncheck the option Usernames and passwords to stop Safari from saving your passwords.
  4. disable save password

To manage previously saved passwords, click on the Edit button next to the the Usernames and passwords option. Here you can remove passwords individually or in bulk.

Microsoft Edge

In Microsoft Edge, you can prevent the browser from saving your passwords through the following steps:

  1. Go to the Edge main menu at the top-right corner and click on Settings.
  2. edge settings
  3. Here scroll down and click on the View advanced settings button at the end. Scroll further a bit and toggle off the button below the Offer to save passwords option to stop Edge from saving your passwords.

You can click on the Manage my saved passwords button below it to see all the passwords and delete them.

Internet Explorer

And finally, in Internet Explorer, you can manage the Save Passwords option as well as the passwords saved before by doing the following steps:

  1. In Internet Explorer, click on the Gear menu at the top-right corner and select Internet options from it.
  2. internet explorer options
  3. Move to the Content tab and then click on the Settings button in the AutoComplete section.
  4. internet explorer settings
  5. Uncheck the checkbox next to Usernames and passwords on forms and Internet Explorer will stop asking you to save the password.
disable internet explorer save password

You can click on the Manage Passwords button below it to see all the passwords and remove them.

Alternative ways to Delete saved passwords in bulk

To disable the Save password option, you will have to go into the security settings of the respective browser. However, if you just want to delete all of the saved passwords, then there is an alternative method as well.

All browsers come with an option to clear browsing data. This feature also has an option to delete all the saved passwords in bulk. Usually, this option is located in the Privacy and Security settings of a browser. Go there and check the option Saved passwords and delete them.

clear saved password

You can use a cleaning tool like CCleaner to delete saved passwords in multiple browsers at the same time. Just open CCleaner and move to the Applications section. You will see all your installed browsers here. Simply select Saved Passwords under each of the browsers and click on Run Cleaner to delete all the passwords.

delete save password

Do keep in mind that CCleaner also deletes other types of junk files as well in order to clean your PC. If you don’t want to delete the junk data for any reason, then uncheck all the other options first.

Wrapping up

Even though you can decline the Save password prompt whenever you are asked, disabling the browser manager is still important. Simply because you may accidentally confirm the Save Password prompt while logging in and save a sensitive password in the browser’s insecure vault. And to be honest, the Save password prompt is quite annoying too.

How to Disable “Save Passwords” Option in Browser

The built-in password manager in most browsers is extremely insecure. The fact that it usually uses your PC’s login password for protecting all your other passwords is more than enough reason to drop it in support of third-party password managers.

If you’re concerned about the security of your passwords, then you should switch to a secure password manager such as LastPass and disable the browser’s built-in password manager.

And to help you with this security leap I’m going to show you how to both disable the Save Password option and remove previously saved passwords in all of the major browsers.

Chrome

In Google Chrome, you can disable the Save Password option and remove the saved passwords as follows:

  1. Click on the main menu at the top-right corner and select Settings from it.
  2. chrome settings
  3. Click on Show advanced settings at the bottom and then uncheck the option “Offer to save passwords with Google Smart Lock for Passwords” under the Passwords and forms section.
  4. disable save password

This will stop chrome from prompting you to save passwords every time you log in to a website. If you want to delete previously saved passwords, then click on the Manage passwords link next to it.

A window will open up where you can see all your saved passwords. Simply click the cross (X) button next to each entry to remove it.

manage google passoword

Firefox

To remove the Save Password prompt and already saved passwords in Firefox, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on the hamburger menu at the top-right corner and select Options from it.
  2. firefox options
  3. Move to the Security section and uncheck the option “Remember logins for sites”. This will stop Firefox from saving your passwords in the future.
  4. disable save password

To delete previously saved passwords, click on the Saved Logins button on the same page. Here you can remove saved passwords and even import them to save anywhere else.

manage firefox password

Opera

In the Opera browser you can do the following steps to disable the Save Password option and delete the already saved passwords:

  1. Step 1: Open the Opera menu from the top-left corner and select Settings from it.
  2. opera settings
  3. Step 2: Here move to the Privacy & security section from the left menu and uncheck the option “Offer to save passwords I enter on the web”.
  4. disable save passwords

To manage the passwords, click on the Show all passwords button below it. You can click on the cross (X) next to each saved password to remove it.

manage opera password

Safari

You can disable the Save Passwords option and manage the previously saved passwords in Safari through below-mentioned steps:

  1. Open the Safari menu and click on Preferences in it.
  2. safari menu
  3. Now uncheck the option Usernames and passwords to stop Safari from saving your passwords.
  4. disable save password

To manage previously saved passwords, click on the Edit button next to the the Usernames and passwords option. Here you can remove passwords individually or in bulk.

Microsoft Edge

In Microsoft Edge, you can prevent the browser from saving your passwords through the following steps:

  1. Go to the Edge main menu at the top-right corner and click on Settings.
  2. edge settings
  3. Here scroll down and click on the View advanced settings button at the end. Scroll further a bit and toggle off the button below the Offer to save passwords option to stop Edge from saving your passwords.

You can click on the Manage my saved passwords button below it to see all the passwords and delete them.

Internet Explorer

And finally, in Internet Explorer, you can manage the Save Passwords option as well as the passwords saved before by doing the following steps:

  1. In Internet Explorer, click on the Gear menu at the top-right corner and select Internet options from it.
  2. internet explorer options
  3. Move to the Content tab and then click on the Settings button in the AutoComplete section.
  4. internet explorer settings
  5. Uncheck the checkbox next to Usernames and passwords on forms and Internet Explorer will stop asking you to save the password.
disable internet explorer save password

You can click on the Manage Passwords button below it to see all the passwords and remove them.

Alternative ways to Delete saved passwords in bulk

To disable the Save password option, you will have to go into the security settings of the respective browser. However, if you just want to delete all of the saved passwords, then there is an alternative method as well.

All browsers come with an option to clear browsing data. This feature also has an option to delete all the saved passwords in bulk. Usually, this option is located in the Privacy and Security settings of a browser. Go there and check the option Saved passwords and delete them.

clear saved password

You can use a cleaning tool like CCleaner to delete saved passwords in multiple browsers at the same time. Just open CCleaner and move to the Applications section. You will see all your installed browsers here. Simply select Saved Passwords under each of the browsers and click on Run Cleaner to delete all the passwords.

delete save password

Do keep in mind that CCleaner also deletes other types of junk files as well in order to clean your PC. If you don’t want to delete the junk data for any reason, then uncheck all the other options first.

Wrapping up

Even though you can decline the Save password prompt whenever you are asked, disabling the browser manager is still important. Simply because you may accidentally confirm the Save Password prompt while logging in and save a sensitive password in the browser’s insecure vault. And to be honest, the Save password prompt is quite annoying too.

Browser Add-Ons To Enhance Your YouTube Viewing Experience

YouTube is the most comprehensive medium of learning and entertainment. You can teach yourself a great deal through cooking, house-keeping, technology and various other channels, or you can simply watch cat videos all day.

However, there are minor annoyances that people often complain about. Most common complaints are about the layout being distracting, too much white space, and annoying advertisements that eat into your video-viewing time.

To tackle these problems, here are 8 browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox so next time you watch YouTube videos you get the best viewing experience.

1. Enhancer for YouTube™

As the name suggests, Enhancer for YouTube™ is created to enhance your overall YouTube experience with different tweaks. Some of the notable actions it adds include the ability to control volume and playback with the mouse wheel, remove annotations automatically, loop videos, and play videos in your preferred quality.

Enhancer for YouTube™

The extension also removes ads from the YouTube player, and you can enlarge the size of the player as well. Interestingly, if you don’t like the current theme of YouTube, then this extension also lets you apply custom themes that will surely please your eyes.

Get it on Chrome | Firefox

2. YouTube Flash Player

Agreed that HTML5 is the future of video playback, but Flash isn’t dead yet; and for a good reason. Flash is lighter on system resources such as CPU and RAM, and it keeps buffering the video even if you stop. Therefore, on a low-end PC and slow network, Flash player allows you to view HD videos by simply letting it buffer before playing. The YouTube Flash Player extension replaces YouTube HTML5 player with the Flash player.

YouTube Flash Player

A simple click on the extension will let you switch the player from Flash to HTML5 and vice versa. Although do keep in mind that Flash player may not work best on your specific device, so make sure you experiment with both the players to see which one works for you best.

Get it on Chrome | Firefox

3. SmartVideo For YouTube

If you want to play YouTube videos in full HD but YouTube keeps kicking you in the 360p club due to your slow internet speed, then this is the extension you need. It enhances your YouTube viewing experience by giving you full control over the buffering bar and play the video in your preferred quality without any lag.

SmartVideo For YouTube

It has multiple buffer strategies, like you can make the video play when it fully buffers or let it buffer but play it whenever you like. It also has a smart buffer feature that plays the video automatically when it could be fully played without stopping.

The extension is also highly customizable and you can manage settings for both the YouTube player and embedded YouTube videos separately.

Get it on Chrome | Firefox

4. YouTube Plus

Another handy extension that adds a ton of new actions to enhance your YouTube viewing experience. YouTube Plus lets you play your video in a pop-out window that will float in your desired place. You can then move around and even read the comments while still keeping the video in view.

It also gives you control over the video FPS rate and you can even view the video frame-by-frame (perfect for tutorials).

YouTube Plus

The extension removes ads from all the YouTube videos, and you can blacklist channels to never come in your suggestions or search results. Some of its other features include the ability to increase player size, reverse playlist, take screenshots of videos, see total uploaded videos by a creator, save video thumbnail, and more.

Get it on Firefox

5. YouTube Control Center

As the name implies, this extension lets you control basic features of YouTube and make them autonomous. You just need to specify your preferences and the YouTube player will work as you demand.

To name some of the features you can control, you can set playback quality, default playback volume, control autoplay, control buffer bar, pause current YouTube player when another player plays, control annotation, and more.

YouTube Control Center

Apart from playback, it can also hide comments, views info, buttons and video details. Furthermore, it can also block flash based advertisement, and even add custom themes to the YouTube player.

Get it on Chrome | Firefox

6. Video Preview

YouTube is loaded with clickbait videos. The video thumbnail suggests something really awesome, but inside there is nothing but disappointment. If you are tired of such videos wasting your time, then install Video Preview right away.

After installing the extension, you just need to hover your mouse cursor over a video’s thumbnail and it will show random pictures from it to help you get a better idea.

Video Preview

These pictures selected for preview span over the full duration of the video, therefore you’ll probably never fall for a clickbait again. Additionally, the extension shows the rating of the video right above their thumbnail to ensure you click on the right one.

Get it on Chrome | Firefox

7. Audio Only Youtube

Although YouTube is a video streaming website, but much of its content is focused on the audio. If you want to focus on listening to the audio of the video only, then Audio Only YouTube will get the job done. The extension disables the video and lets you listen only to the audio of the video.

Audio Only Youtube

You might think it will only hide the video, but it actually disables it and helps you save bandwidth. The developer claims it can you save up to 50% of bandwidth. It’s also easy to enable/disable the extension to watch the video or listen to the audio.

Get it on Chrome

8. ImprovedTube – YouTube Extension

ImprovedTube also adds a bunch of tweaks and controls to YouTube. It allows you to preset video quality and framerate that you think is right, and you can also expand the player to a full window size. Interestingly, it has a blue-light filter that helps you continuously watch video without any eye itching.

ImprovedTube - YouTube Extension

Some of its other notable features include the ability to hide video details, hide comments, hide related videos, set playback speed, set volume, manage autoplay, and play video in a pop-up.

Which Browsers Should Your Website Support?

browser check list

This article is part of a series created in partnership with SiteGround. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

The question: “which browsers should my website/app support?” is often raised by clients and developers. The simple answer is a list of the top N mainstream applications. But has that policy become irrelevant?

What are the Most-Used Browsers?

The top ten desktop browsers according to StatCounter for May 2017 are:

  1. Chrome — 59.37% market share
  2. Firefox — 12.76%
  3. Safari — 10.55%
  4. IE — 8.32%
  5. Edge — 3.42%
  6. Opera — 1.99%
  7. Android (tablet) — 1.24%
  8. Yandex Browser — 0.48%
  9. UC Browser — 0.41%
  10. Coc Coc — 0.33%

Mobile now accounts for 54.25% of all web use so we also need to examine the top ten phone browsers:

  1. Chrome — 49.23%
  2. Safari — 17.73%
  3. UC Browser — 15.89%
  4. Samsung Internet — 6.58%
  5. Opera — 5.03%
  6. Android — 3.75%
  7. IEMobile — 0.68%
  8. BlackBerry — 0.26%
  9. Edge — 0.15%
  10. Nokia — 0.12%

The worldwide statistics don’t tell the whole story:

  • Patterns vary significantly across regions. For example, Yandex is the second most-used Russian browser (12.7% share). Sogou is the third most-used browser in China (6.5%). Opera Mobile/Mini has a 28% share in Africa.
  • New browser releases appear regularly. Chrome, Firefox and Opera receive updates every six weeks — it would be impractical to check versions going back more than a few months.
  • The same browsers can work differently across devices and operating systems. Chrome is available for various editions of Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS and ChromeOS but it’s not the same application everywhere.
  • There is an exceedingly long tail of old and new, weird and wonderful browsers on a range of devices including games consoles, ebook readers and smart TVs.
  • Your site’s analytics will never match global statistics.

Are Browsers So Different?

Despite the organic variety of applications, all browsers have the same goal: to render web pages. They achieve this with a rendering engine and there is some cross-pollination:

  1. Webkit is used in Safari on Mac OS and iOS.
  2. Blink is a fork of Webkit now used in Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi and Brave.
  3. Gecko is used in Firefox.
  4. Trident is used in Internet Explorer.
  5. EdgeHTML is an update of Trident used in Edge.

The majority of browsers use one of these engines. They’re different projects with diverse teams but the companies (mostly) collaborate via the W3C to ensure new technologies are adopted by everyone in the same way. Browsers are closer than they’ve ever been and modern smartphone applications are a match for their desktop counterparts.

However, no two browsers render in quite the same way. The majority of differences are subtle but they become more pronounced as you move toward cutting-edge technologies. A particular feature may be fully implemented in one browser, partially implemented in another, and non-existent elsewhere.

Can My Site Work in Every Browser?

Yes. Techniques such as Progressive Enhancement (PE) establish a baseline (perhaps HTML only) then enhance with CSS and JavaScript when support is available. Recent browsers get a modern layout, animated effects and interactive widgets. Ancient browsers may get unstyled HTML only. Everything else gets something in between.

PE works well for content sites and apps with basic form-based functionality. It becomes less practical as you move toward applications with rich custom interfaces. Your new collaborative video editing app is unlikely to work in the decade-old IE7. It may not work on a small screen device over a 3G network. Perhaps it’s possible to provide an alternative interface but the result could be a separate, clunky application few would want to use. The cost would be prohibitive given the size of the legacy browser user base.

Site Owner Recommendations

Site owners should appreciate the following fundamentals and constraints of the web.

The web is not print!
Your site/app will not look identical everywhere. Each device has a different OS, browser, screen size, capabilities etc.

Functionality can differ
Your site can work for everyone but experiences and facilities will vary. Even something as basic as a date entry field can has a diverse range of possibilities but, ideally, the core application will remain operable.

Assess your project
Be realistic. Is this a content site, a simple app, a desktop-like application, a fast-action game etc. Establish a base level of browser compatibility, e.g. it must work on most two year-old browsers with a screen width of 600 pixels over a fast wi-fi connection.

Assess your audience
Do not rely on global browser statistics. Who are the primary users? Are they IT novices or highly technical? Is it individuals, small companies or government organisations? Do they sit at a desk or are they on the move? No application applies to everyone — concentrate on the core users first.

Examine the analytics of your existing system where possible but appreciate the underlying data. If your app doesn’t work in Opera Mini, you’re unlikely to have Opera Mini users. Have you blocked a significant proportion of your market?

Change happens
It’s amazing that a web page coded twenty years ago works today. It won’t necessarily be pretty or usable but browsers remain backward compatible. (Mostly. The tag can stay dead!) However, technology evolves. The more complex your site or application, the more likely it will require ongoing maintenance.

Web Developer Recommendations

With a little care it’s possible to support a huge variety of browsers.

Embrace the web!
The web is a device agnostic platform. Content and simpler interfaces can work everywhere: a modern laptop, a feature phone, a games console, IE6, etc. Learn the basics of Progressive Enhancement. Even if you choose not to adopt it for your full application, there will be pockets of functionality where it becomes invaluable.

Adopt Defensive Development Techniques
Consider the problem before reaching for the nearest pre-written module, library or framework. Understand the consequences of that technology before you start. Frameworks should provide a browser support list because they have been tested in limited number of applications.

Learn about browser limits and quirks. For example, if you’re considering an SVG chart, be aware that it can look odd in IE9 to 11 and fail in IE8 and below. That doesn’t mean it’s a binary choice of rejecting SVGs or abandoning IE support. There are always compromises which do not incur significant development, e.g.

  • accept SVG rendering is weird but it remains usable
  • only show a table of data in IE, or
  • provide an SVG download which IE users can open elsewhere.

Test early and test often
You cannot possibly test every device but developing for a single browser is futile.

Continually test your project in a variety of applications. Leaving testing to the end will have catastrophic consequences. It’s easy for us to blame tools and browser inadequacies but the majority of issues can be rectified during the development process if they’re spotted early.

That’s not to say everything must work identically in every browser every time. Feature regressions are inevitable, e.g.

  • Progressive Web Apps do not work offline on iPhones and iPads — but online operation is fine.
  • CSS Grid is not supported in IE — but float, flexbox or full-width block fallbacks should be acceptable.
  • The desktop edition of Firefox does not show a calendar for date fields — but users can still enter one.

Install a selection of browsers on your development PC. Mac and Linux users can obtain Microsoft Edge and IE testing tools at developer.microsoft.com/microsoft-edge/. It’s more difficult for Windows and Linux users to test Safari — online test services such as BrowserStack are the easiest option.

Modern browsers have excellent mobile emulation facilities but use a few real devices to appreciate touch control and performance on slower hardware and networks.

Use HTTPS on your end

The web is gradually making HTTPS the preferred protocol, and this trend is going to continue. Google Chrome will even start to indicate that non-HTTPS sites as insecure, which is a good reason for you to configure your site to use HTTPS. Our web hosting partner, SiteGround, for example, made it easy for their clients to make the move to HTTPS. To do that, they automated the installation of Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates for all new WordPress accounts, and for existing ones, they made the switch to HTTPS possible with just a click.

You Haven’t Answered the Question!

The question “which browsers should you support?” has become too restrictive. Presume your answer was just “Chrome”:

  • which devices and OS is it running on?
  • what range of screen sizes will be supported?
  • which version are you referring to? The latest? Chrome 10 and above?
  • what happens when a new version of Chrome is released?
  • what will happen in other browsers when Chrome effectively becomes your application’s runtime?

Providing a browser support list has become impractical for client-facing projects. Perhaps the best answer is: “we’ll develop your project according to presumed demographics then test as in many devices, OSes, browsers, and versions as possible according to budget and time constraints”. Even then, you’ll miss that aging Blackberry the CEO insists on using.

Develop for the web — not browsers.