Pharma statistics on desktop browser usage and trends
by Chris Nelson
August 3, 2010
As the Web has evolved, so has the concept of the browser. We now have mobile devices, rich Internet applications and tablet computers all navigating the Web. This is why three-screen viewing is on the rise.
But for digital pharma marketers and Web developers, how well a site renders in the major desktop browsers is still very important. The majority of patients and health care professionals (HCPs) still browse the Web via traditional desktop browser. Additionally, large institutions and hospitals are often running older computers that may not have the latest and greatest software on them.
A poorly rendered page can lead to major usability problems, such as pushing a critical marketing call-to-action off the screen. In order to better develop websites that take this into account, Intouch Solutions regularly looks at desktop browser use across many branded and unbranded, consumer and HCP websites we manage. Below are some of our recent key findings.
The big picture of desktop browser usage for pharma
As of March 2010, Windows Internet Explorer (IE) remains the dominant Web browser with a 74.5% share. Following at a distant second, Mozilla Firefox (FF) nets only a 16.3% share. The remaining browser share is a combination of Apple Safari (6.4%) and Google Chrome (2.8%).
A closer look
At first glance, it would seem that IE has an iron grip on the browser market. But, the long-term trends of the other browsers show steady growth at — what appears to be — the expense of IE. Since January 2009, IE has declined 6.4% and the other browsers have grown 25%. This may indicate that patients and doctors are becoming savvier Internet surfers, gravitating toward the new features, functionality and security that other browsers offer.
Adoption rate of new browser versions
Simply knowing the browser name is not enough. A Web page can render quite differently from one browser version to the next. And predicting how quickly a browser version is adopted by the public helps project annual budgets and identify existing sites that may be afflicted by poor rendering.
At Intouch Solutions, a browser version must show at least a 10% market share to be supported as part of a standard website build. So, we took a look at the top three browsers to see how the new version uptake is shaking out.
IE users tend to upgrade their browsers very slowly. This causes all three of IE’s latest versions to fall above the 10% threshold. Unfortunately, this causes some issues with Web development. (More on this complexity below.)
Right off the bat, we can see that the upgrade trend of FF users is much faster than IE. Historically, FF’s latest version peaks above the 10% threshold after only a few months, and the other versions decline in share quickly.
Safari users seem to upgrade at around the same rate as FF users. However, even with the release of the iPhone and the growth of the mobile Web, Safari has yet to break the 10% threshold.
The IE6 browser complexity
IE6 was first released in 2001, which to is more than 9 years ago. Since then, it has developed a poor reputation in the Web development community. The browser has never supported common Web standards, and many developers who had followed Web standards when first building a site subsequently have had to re-code the entire site just so it will display properly in IE6.
In fact, IE6 is so infamous in the Web development community that there are entire sites and a Twitter hash tag dedicated to the demise of IE6. Major online players, such as Google, are dropping support for IE6 soon. Even Microsoft is trying to encourage users to upgrade by offering a donation to Feeding America every time an IE6 user migrates to IE8.
But, still IE6 use remains strong. There is much speculation as to why this might be, but we expect it is primarily two things:
- Microsoft has never been very good at selling new features of its browsers to the online community. Especially to non-savvy Web surfers. “Why upgrade when I think IE6 runs fine?”
- Corporate enterprise standards. A typical cubicle warrior’s computer is locked down tight. They cannot install upgrades even if they wanted to do it. IE6 launched in 2001 when viruses, phishing and spam were running wild. Large companies began restricting users to a single browser version to help minimize exposure. As newer versions of IE were released, most large companies did not feel it was worth the time and effort to upgrade all of their computers. The problem just snowballed from there.
IE6 usage has been slowly declining in the last year, but it looks like IE6 will continue to be a troubling browser for Web developers. We can hope that as popular sites like Google’s YouTube phase out support, IE6 may finally be phased out as well.