Thursday, October 16, 2014

Browser Wars: How Do Prospects See Your Web Site?

If you haven't checked out the blog on SitePoint, it's worth a look. Here's their October browser update report:

This is based on the excellent stats you can see in real time at StatCounter -

Every month someone tells us that the entire world will soon be mobile. For example, this story from earlier this week: "There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world."

Like you, I sit at my desk, with my real keyboard an real big monitor, and read this news. And maybe like you, I wonder whether this applies to me. The global trends will affect us all eventually, of course. But what about MY real world today? How mobile are MY clients, viewing MY web sites?

Let's look at the global stats first. Here's the division of browser usage globally on desktops:

And here's what it looks like when we include mobile browsers. The lines from above about the same, but they now represent a smaller share of the overall pie.

One of the great confusions about "advice" for businesses is the difference between B2C and B2B. Business-to-Consumer includes all those mobile device. Business-to-Business includes a lot fewer mobile devices. BUT when the business owners go to lunch, or stand in line at the DMV, they pull out their iPhones and start cruising the Internet.

It's still not clear that that affects you. After all, are they watching cat videos or shopping for a new service provider? I'm a firm believer that any business looking to do business with another business is probably using a desktop computer. We consume products on mobile devices. We watch cat videos on mobile devices. But we do serious research on our desktops when we need to make an important business decision.

My Own Logs

I manage several dozen web sites for my own businesses. Most of them (like most small businesses) are very low volume. In the small business space, "high" volume is probably anything over 1,000 hits a day. By that standard, I have three high volume sites.

Without getting into the details of Chrome vs. IE vs. Firefox, I lumped together all the desktop browsers with at least 1% of the total and all of the mobile and tablet browsers with at least 1% of the total for my own sites.

The pattern I see for my sites seems to be divided between content-focused larger sites and product-specific smaller sites. The Small Biz Thoughts blog, SMB Books store, and the Great Little Book sites are viewed by desktop browsers about 80-90% of the time and by mobile/tablet browsers about 6-10% of the time.

Note that these are also the three "high" volume sites.

Product-specific sites with few pages (Managed Services Operations Manual, Great Little Seminar, and Managed Services in a Month) are pretty consistently viewed by desktop browsers about 60-66% of the time and by mobile/tablet browsers about 25-30% of the time. That's a significant difference.

Relax Focus Succeed is basically in the middle. You might say it's product-specific since it does promote one book. But there are lots of articles there discussing a variety of topics. So with a split of 62% to 34% it's much closer to the product-specific sites than the other content-focused sites.

What Does It Mean -- If Anything?

For me, the big message is that my audience might do some quick reading about a specific offering on their mobile or tablet device. But when it's time to dig in and spend time on a site, folks do that from the desktop. The length-of-visit statistics bear this out. Excluding bounces (5 seconds or less) and forgotten visits (60 minutes or longer), the average length of visit for the product-specific sites is seven or eight minutes. With the larger content sites and the book store, the visit lengths are in the range of 10-24 minutes.

What I don't track is whether people showed up on a phone and then came back to "stay" from their desktop. I'd like to think that's true.

As for YOUR site, you need to do some investigating. If you're not tracking your logs, I recommend you start. If you want a free tool that's easier to use that Google Analytics, I recommend Yes you have to pay some money when you have larger log files. But it's easy to get truly usable statistics.

There will always be mobile users and there will always be desktop users. More and more, you can expect clients and prospects to use mobile as well as desktop. So the next question is, what should you DO about it?

Luckily, I think the answer is pretty easy. You should make sure your site looks good with "flexible content" browsing. Don't just set the width to 900 and assume it will look good on any device. Sometimes a tiny little version of your web page is impossible to use. With a flexible content template, menus are converted to be usable on a very small screen.

I think is a great example. In fact, I've been told that it looks better on the phone than on the desktop! If you're not sure what is meant by flexible content, check out the menus on SMB Books.

The bottom line is that your prospect might give your site a 20 second tour on their mobile device. If you "pass" that test, they may come back on a desktop browser. If you don't pass the test, they'll be gone for good. That's not fair, but that's the way the world works sometimes.



  1. Will Mays12:12 AM

    Hi Karl - on this topic, your weekly newsletter doesn't look so great on a mobile device - I have to turn my phone landscape and then zoom in and out / across to read the main piece of content. Any chance you can make the newsletter "flexible content" as well?

  2. Excellent point, Will. It's a Constant contact template. We'll look into it.

    I'm scared to change anything, though, since my open rates are so high. But it might be easy.

    Thanks for pointing that out. I look at the newsletter on a tablet, but not my phone.


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