In October 2006, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 and then as Windows XP computers were updated users started receiving it. It was a large download and some people still haven’t upgraded for different reasons, whether they were advised it would run slowly on their older machine, that it was full of bugs, or confusing. What this means to developers of web applications is that almost 3 years later we still have to support it and make sure our applications run on this browser. So if browser issues of 2006 aren’t going away, those of 2008 certainly aren’t. Now a whole new set of browsers have entered the market and it could get even more interesting. Read on to get a rundown of the browsers that now need to be supported and the issues that developers are facing.

Existing Browsers Aren’t Going Away

When you release a traditional application you replace the existing application in its entirety. Sure you struggle with existing users that may not update immediately, but you can setup expiration dates, support deadlines, and other incentives to upgrade. Like the one I just got for Quicken, saying that online banking would expire at the end of March.
Quicken 2006 Expiration

It would be wishful thinking to that the phone calls from disgruntled clients would stop once they were forced to upgrade their beloved browser.
IE6 Expiration Mockup

Unfortunately no such warning exists. Even Firefox is polite in the way it asks its users to upgrade and even has special events to help celebrate upgrades that even set a world record. But the number of people out there using web applications goes well beyond world record proportions and old browsers are still sticking around.

Statistics Provide Insight

If you look at the numbers on any given site statistics you’ll notice a decent contingency of Firefox 2.x and Internet Explorer 6 users. The important thing is knowing your audience and what browsers they are using to make sure that they aren’t having problems. I have a client that runs a gym and my designer and I both have to test in IE6, because that is what is installed in the managers office in the gym and is still being used by 10% of their audience. A statistic that is available in most web stats packages and worth reviewing on a frequent basis. Gomez‘s CTO, Imad Mouline had this to say about knowing your audience when setting up a test plan for your site: Gomez Customer Browsers.

Now what?

Once you know what browsers your customers are using you can then start to deal with identifying problems in those browsers, making sure that your web application works in those browsers, fixing any problems, and then continuing to monitor the application with browser changes. Tips on how to do this will be coming out throughout the week with a great panel of contributors.