Modern Browser Technology and You

One of the biggest questions out of the mouths of most Front End Developers around the world when asked to do something is, “What’s the browser support for this?” Most of the time the response will come back stating all the major players in the browser industry. Chrome. Firefox. Safari. Internet Explorer. Each browser comes with its own set of strengths and shortcomings. Each browser also comes with different versions, each of which has its strengths and shortcomings over other versions (and even other browsers and the different versions of those too!). It can be a lot to keep in mind sometimes and can wind up being a little overwhelming if the original SoW leaves this too vague.

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How Browsers Impact Your eCommerce Site

So what does all this have to do with analytics and big data? Why should any of this have anything to do with the look and feel of your site anyway? Shouldn’t it all just work? Well… yes… and no. The advancement of browser technologies means you can do a whole lot more with your websites. The important thing here is determining what kind of browsers your customers are using. Your analytics data can keep you from having to spend extra time and money trying to make a website look and do everything you want for a barely there, and sometimes even non-existent, portion of your clientele.

With analytics systems like Google Analytics, it’s possible to actively monitor a lot of information. A small portion of this data relates to the computer the users are using. Operating system, type of computer, browser, browser version. It’s all there. If none of your customers use Internet Explorer 8, why spend an extra couple weeks trying to get it all working flawlessly in that browser?

Related: The Anatomy of an eCommerce Site

Limited Functionalities

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Further to this, when legacy browsers are required to be supported, developers are limited in the kinds of functionality they can use. This is especially prevalent with respect to HTML5. Things like the video tag can’t be used in legacy browsers, which means that the video needs to be run through a Flash container which won’t work on tablets or phones. Of course there’s graceful degradation/progressive enhancement, but that’s effectively doubling up on the time it takes to put that element into place. Two pieces of the same functionality plus the time it takes to serve each one up to the browsers that can serve each one, respectively. Other things can’t be done at all, and the only graceful degradation solution is to hide it on browsers that can’t handle it.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

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My motto of “The Right Tool for the Right Job” comes to mind again here. When considering functionality, you must always consider the endpoint of the application. In business logic, that endpoint is your customer. Use the data that’s available to you to cater an experience that will pull your customers in and bring them back for more. No matter how amazing the functionality is, if your customers can’t see it, it’s not worth it. On the flipside, if you don’t need to sacrifice functionality because your customers are on modern browsers, why spend the time, money, and developer sanity trying to recreate some functionality in a platform that needn’t be catered to?

How are you using your analytics to refine your online store and give your customers a better experience?

Let us know so that we can help to define a user experience just for them.

Related: eCommerce Glossary of Terms and Definitions for Merchants