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Basing page building on suspect browser stats is risky. With the advent of bigoted sites doing browser sniffing, the mass majority of the 3rd party browser people have switched their agent name to match ie or nn. Either through a ad cacher like junkbusters or nearsite, or a host of other options. Add in the fact that most statistics programs don't properly identify all browsers, and most of them are off 20%.
It is like stat market reporting that 85% of the net uses ie, and 14% use nn. If they can be that wrong about a simple browser statistic, their entire system is junk data and not to be trusted.
I always get a kick out of the occasional comment along the lines: "I write Zhtml for the Zhtml browser, and my stats show that 95% of my hits come from the Zhtml browser. The other 5% only visit one page. I'm on the right track with Zhtml because my stats prove it!".
When I do browser/page testing, I do the on/off thing. Turn it on for a day then off for a day. Then do the same thing next week in reverse.
Some of my own recent tests (min 500k unique): cpu=click per user (which is the important stat when page testing for browsers).
Turn on a moderate external css: cpu drops by almost 10%. Like flipping a light switch (hmm, why?). Tests done with the w3c core style sheets custom delivered for each agent.
Banner ads: turn them on (non js) cpu drops by 5-8%.
Banner ads: on with js (rich media) cpu drops by 13-15%.
Minimum non intrusive js, cpu drops by 5%.
Heavy unfettered large complicated js, cpu drops by almost 20% (especialy if you base navigation on the js).
Specific IE dhtml navigation: cpu down by more than 25% (I couldn't stand it, I turned it off after seeing 15k hits in the stats - that figure is probably substantially higher).
Java applets. We tried two for 50k uniques on an ecom site. Only 62% of the uniques actually dl'd either of the applets. Stats after that are inconclusive. We saw a bump in the cpu for users that did get the applet, but cpu for those that didn't were down. So it was kind of a push. Never investigated further.
We did the same tests in january and last october and there have been some shifts. The biggest change we have seen is that banner ads don't have quite the negative impact on cpu that they once did. However; banners per unique have fallen with more and more people using banner busters.
The css impact is also falling. Last fall we saw cpu drop by almost 15% when we'd turn it on. Don't know whether that is indicative of people turning off css at the browser level, better browser support, or just what the deal is there - can't decide. There doesn't appear to have been any major shifts in browser usage in the last 9 months except for the continuing ie creep.
I'm the worst offender when it comes to browser sniffing and burdening the site with js/dhtml --particularly for site navigation. I do not, however, use CSS stylesheets or Java. Basically, I'm willing to throw away 5 to 8 percent of the traffic to gain control. I would not be so cavalier if I had smaller sites, but because I have sites that run into thousands of pages, I really don't have other options. I have several criteria (banner revenue is weighted at approximately 25%) that make up my internal composite score of how my sites are doing --let's just call that "Sales." Since instituting browser sniffing and dhtml-driven site navigation, my sales have risen by 50 percent.
I've already made a decision to get worse, even more bigoted. This is to lighten the total K of js overhead and speed initial page loading. Rather than sniffing for browser version numbers, I'm basically going to shorten the code to "if MSIE, go to A. if NS, go to B." If Opera (gotcha), WebTV, or Macs can't follow, I'm sorry.
Do I get protests from users? Yes, two or three times a month a year ago, but I can't remember how many months its been since the last one. Mac users, particularly AOL Mac users, used to be hard hit. But, that also seems to have diminished to zero. There is even an occassional phone call from sponsors and advertisers concerned that their customer couldn't get on the sites. Again, sorry, but I can't do what I do and make it work for everyone.
Here's my post from that other forum
Re compatability with older browsers, it's not really a concern. Here's a current shot from my logs [uniques in brackets]. Even if you consider only Ver 4+, you're covering 95%.
MSIE 5  51.00%
Netscape 4  21.25%
MSIE 4  17.97%
AOL 4  4.92%
Netscape 3  2.16%
WebTV 1  0.99%
MSIE 3  0.86%
AOL 3  0.57%
Netscape 2  0.11%
Other  0.08%
MSIE 2  0.02%
Netscape 5  0.01%
reply to quick quibble:
to semi-quote Rhett, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a rat's derriere." (I'm reading from my deposit slips.)
Seriously, I agree with what you are yellow-flagging here for others that are pursuing "optimization" of their sites. But, there are trade-offs publishers --particularly those with large sites-- must consider.
Your target clientele may be just as important: no non-tech-savvy user will be able or willing to modify his or her UserAgent, whereas geeks and hackers may do little else if only for the heck of it. So if you're catering to those, it's another story again.
In honor of the Summer solstice, your strange thought for the day:
Me, grew up on a corn and cattle farm 15 miles outside sioux city iowa. Old man raised pure breed angus bulls.
Ted Wait: grew up on a corn and cattle farm 15 miles outside sioux city iowa. Old man raised pure breed angus bulls.
We actually met when we were kids. My old man sold his old man a bull and we ended up (literally) playing in the sand box while the folks did their thing.
I could set here and list over 300 parallels between my life and Ted's (including a brief stint with a pony tail). Our families are almost identicle. Our careers (up until that gateway thing - lol) were also very close.
I had a gf a few years ago who sat down and wrote out 250 things that were identicle about us and she finally gave up because she got tired of writing. It was almost spooky. When she got done, I reminded her of the biggest difference? Yearly incomes...
Lynx isn't the trouble. The touble is IE 4, NN3, proxy servers, proxy agents, IE 5, NN4, NN6, Opera3 , Opera 4, NetPositive, Mac IE, Mac NN, Mac IE, BeOs, Epoc, Wap, Wml, Linux NN. The trouble is that you'd be hard pressed to get two of the above to display a page the same.
The biggest current offenders are the ad busters like webwasher or nearsite. Did you know Nearsite claims they've had 7million downloads? That's alot of people trying that stuff. Ever try it? It can really walk all over jscript, yet you'll never know it was even in the loop. The only result will be you missed a sale and you never realized it.
I just don't get the whole dhtml thing. I've looked and looked at sites using it, and I can't see it enhances the experience one lick. Mostly, I sat here drumming my fingers waiting for the stuff to download and render.
The AOL browser supposedly lags about one version behind regular IE. In other words AOL 5.0 uses IE4, roughly.
But roughly is the key word here. I found I need to keep an AOL account just to test pages, especially for consumer oriented sites. One day I'll discovr that AOL supports some cutting edge jscript and another day that it distorts some basic HTML.
Enough of this. I'm going to write my pages for the WebTV browser and be done with it.