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I have to make recommendations to a team of engineers about which (IE) browsers to support and which to drop.

Analytics shows that over one year, IE6 is used in 0.0004% of unique pageviews (2/247K) and dropping that seems like a no-brainer.

  • IE7 > 3.6K/247K (0.8%)
  • IE8 > 15.1K/247K (3.5%)
  • IE9 > 22.7K/247K (5.3%)

0.8%? Sure, drop that. But 5.3%?

Is there an objective, reasonable way to determine where the line should be drawn when it comes to supporting browser versions?

  • 2
    It's also going to depend on what you are doing with your site? If it's a regular information driven website then it may not be much work to make it at least functional in legacy browsers (graceful degradation). However, if you are wanting to develop a bleeding edge application, then that's another matter. (How have you calculated the perc% - they don't seem to tie up to the quoted figures?) – MrWhite Dec 20 '16 at 17:39
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The objective measure is in money: How much does it cost to maintain the browser support vs how much it costs to turn away users because of browser compatibility.

Costs of turning away users

  • Immediate revenue lost from sales or advertising
  • "Bad will" where users remember that your site doesn't work and are less likely to use it in the future
  • Wasted customer acquisition costs
  • Impacts on SEO from bad usability or "mobile friendly" scores

Costs of adding browser support

  • Developer time (which may be difficult to estimate ahead of time)
  • Quality assurance time
  • Equipment and access to browsers
  • Opportunity cost (you could have been working on something else that makes more money)
  • Not being able to use technology because it is unsupported by some specific browser. (This may make your site look or behave worse for everybody.)

Having evaluated these factors myself, I usually use a 2% threshold. If the browser has at least 2% market share, it is worth supporting.

For the last 10 years, old versions of IE have been the most costly to support. They typically require more workarounds and support fewer features than other browsers. They also tend to be used far longer than old versions of other browsers. The costs of supporting IE 8 (3%) could be twenty times the cost of adding support for Opera (1%). You sometimes have to take it on an individual case by case basis and see how badly your website is broken in that browser.

  • Thanks for this well-rounded answer. It highlights one of the main challenges here i.e. that one set of costs is quite measurable, but the other set is less so. – dennislees Dec 20 '16 at 18:52
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Looking at the data, I would only support IE8 and IE9. However, IE8 may be lacking some functionality which may be core to your site, so you have to weigh up the benefits versus the time spent to support it.

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