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Browser choice less than 2% - forget it



OK - this is disturbing me just a little bit:

It seems that the Central Office of Information released (quietly) a consultation paper last Friday regarding which web browsers should be used for Public Sector testing..Oh, ok, so we have the government telling us what browsers we should be avoiding and how to use them? Slightly, bizarre, no?

Well, check this out: It suggests that Web designers need not test against browsers with a share of less than 2%. Also, that the same designers place an notice stating to the user that they 'should change to an alternative and supported browser' - which in my opinion is potentially dangerous ground.

Telling our Mac & dedicated Safari lover out there that he/she should leave Safari and go over to IE would not make them a happy bunny at all. It is true that the public sector is definately emerging from an 'IE' only mindset, but the problems is that people will be spending more time developing than they actually need to. The funny thing is is that the following are figures posted by the COI in terms of visits to their site:

a) IE - 83.25%
b) Firefox - 8.68%
c) Safari - 3.99%
d) Firefox for Mac - 2.53%

Opera doesn't even get a look in because COI considered that it 'failed the disability concession'. However, they seem to have forgotten that Opera can pose as IE or Firefox when on the web and therefore its web server logs fail to reflect its true usage. Also, they go back against their logic, as they seem to accept Linux even though it falls below the 2% usage law.

I for one disagree with this. There is no doubt that when web designers and developers come together to work on a project, they are primarily designing for Firefox/IE and maybe Safari - and that's it. It depends on whom your target audience is, whether it is for public consumption or limited access and also whether your site has the kind of complexities in mixed-media such as Flash, Streams and/or 3D etc.

COI released this document in quiet I think, because they knew the response that it would get from across the waters. I do tell you one thing though - that any future ad or design agency looking to put tenders into the government for the web, is going to have a much tougher time at the usability & accessibility stages!

The original article was at my favourite news site: The Register

Who knows, maybe before all future sites load in the government sector, we'll get a notice on the first page saying:

You must use Internet Explorer 7 to view this site, otherwise please leave.Foot in mouth