Can you afford to blow off a part of your audience?

The other day, me and Diana were talking about the concept of "supported" browsers, and how big corporations often restrict their online applications for use only with certain browsers. This is a throwback to the days when you needed ActiveX or certain IE-only features, and is rooted in old school corporate IT nonsense.

But there are still a lot of financial institutions in particular that keep telling you what browser to use, and that's just stupid. I was looking at the stats for my sites today, and it shows that 15% of visitors are Mac users, and only about 55% are IE users. Even the iPhone is closing in on 1%, which is crazy.

That's the world we live in. If you blow off 15% of your audience, can you afford that? Imagine if Amazon did this. Their holiday quarter did $225 million in profit. Do you think they'd be OK with leaving $33 million on the table?

I ran into another support issue today, when trying to view the video clips for the Halo prequel and the body control stuff for Xbox. I'd love to watch them, but they use some goofy stream that's presumably Windows Media based and I can't watch them on the Mac. Technologist apologists seem hell bent on declaring that this kind of thing is OK, but especially for marketing intent, why would you exclude any percentage of your audience?

I'm not suggesting we all need to test for IE6 at this point, but come on man... with the standards and frameworks we have, it isn't that hard to reach 99% of your audience.


  • My shop has a government requirement that we know the computer name when the user logs into our web application. The only way we can do this (so far) is through an ActiveX control. So in some cases, these browser restrictions are out of our control. We're lucky in the fact that all of our users run Windows and use IE. So far, they haven't demanded the use of Firefox, Chrome, or Opera.

  • Really? My audience is down under 9% now, which is definitely lower than the Mac crowd.

    And honestly, I think you know what I meant. IE6 will passably work, even if the formatting isn't great, if you can get it to work in later versions.

  • Your article is easy for you to believe in when it is not your company giving you a truckload of work and wantint it instantly (or else someone else will get your job.) Restricting browsers is just one way to keep your job and be productive with limited time and need for quick-production. It is better that you address your article to W3C, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Mozilla and other groups responsible for "subjective standards" and "not following standards." Yes, Software Engineers ought to give customers great software and be silent about excuses. However, this is the real world and it comes with limitations.

  • I think that's a bit of a cop-out. I've had tough jobs too, and honestly it was those very jobs that instilled my opinion. Blowing off even 1% of the audience (the Opera users ;)) would lose money, and it was easy to justify getting things right because the cost of the effort was far less than the loss in revenue. Multiply it out to a bigger audience, like Safari and Mac users, and it's a no-brainer.

    I reject your notion of the real world. Losing money is not a world I want to live in.

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