Browsers Galore!

There are so many web browsers to choose from these days but the four most popular are Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer.   There are many different versions of each of these browsers as well as many different platforms they can run on.  Also, each browser has a different feature set that attracts a certain audience.  Google’s Chrome Browser for example is great if you are heavily invested in the Google universe.  Safari might appeal more to somebody that owns or uses more Apple products.  People can become attached to a specific browser and can prefer to use that browser on every computing platform they use. 
(Market Share Graphs below)

With a Surplus of Choices Comes a Surplus of Responsibilities
This wide range of options for how an end user will consume the content we produce can create a considerable challenge. Each browser has a rendering engine that takes the content and the formatting information and displays that information on screen for the user.  Each rendering engine functions differently, thus can at times render the content differently.   This can be a problem if an agency expects a website to have a certain look and feel.  Because each browser uses a different rendering engine the website might look quite different in Chrome than it does in Firefox or Internet Explorer.  Moreover, Internet Explorer has a history of introducing proprietary extensions to many of the web standards which can cause some websites to only work in Internet Explorer.  If this wasn’t bad enough the rise of mobile platforms means we now need to accommodate a variety of resolutions and aspect ratios. 
When a user navigates to your website you want to provide him or her with a great experience, independent of the web browser or platform the content is being viewed on.  You want to make sure that the buttons work properly and it is easy to navigate and most importantly: all functionality is working.  If a website doesn’t render or operate correctly it makes everyone look bad. 
 So, how do we make sure our websites look great regardless of the platform?
The Bureau of Information and Telecommunications has purchased a subscription to a service called BrowserStack.  BrowserStack provides a service to test websites on different browsers and different versions of each browser including the mobile versions of each browser. BrowserStack allows for cross-browser testing against different versions of Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari on Windows, IOS, and Android platforms.
BrowserStack consists of 4 products:
  • Live-Connects you to a cloud hosted VM from where you can test any website on any browser interactively
  • Automate-Allows for use of selenium scripts to automate your testing
  • Screenshots-Creates a zip file that includes images of what you website looks like on different browsers
  • Responsive-Tests how responsively designed a website is
Ready to get going?
For information or an invite to join the South Dakota BIT team on BrowserStack contact your manager or send an email to Chad Severson.
Browser Market Share
Internet Explorer leads in the desktop market share currently, but mobile browser market share is another story.

Desktop Browser Market Share (April 2014)

Mobile Browser Market Share (April 2014)
 A special thanks goes out to Chad Severson for providing the BIT blog with this article!

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