The Importance of Browser Compatibility for eCommerce Business

The growth of the Internet has been staggering. It started with one website in 1991, and this number has now grown to about 2 billion. The exact numbers are difficult to pinpoint since the Internet keeps growing by the day.

So, according to Statista, there were about 1.72 billion websites in 2019, and it’s estimated that over 500,000 new websites are created per day. Keep in mind, though, that this number fluctuates daily as new websites are launched, and others are lost.

When it comes to eCommerce, it’s estimated that there are about 12 million to 24 million eCommerce sites on the Internet, with more being created every day. In addition, there are about 4.66 billion active Internet users, and over 75% of people shop online at least once a month.

To do this, they use a variety of devices and browsers. In fact, people are using the Internet on more than 3000 different types of devices and platforms.

And this creates a problem, especially for eCommerce retailers. With the variety of devices available, it creates browser compatibility issues that can eliminate a significant part of their available market.

But what exactly is cross-browser compatibility, and why is it important?

What Is Cross Browser Compatibility?

Before looking at what cross-browser compatibility is, it’s necessary to delve a bit deeper into how websites work. Website developers create websites by using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Sure, there are other technologies available, but at its core, it’s all about these three coding languages.

So, to create a website, developers write their code in a text file. Browsers then translate this text into the content on a web page. And this is where the problem comes in. Every browser translates this code differently, and this causes compatibility issues with websites.

In addition, other compatibility issues happen when the same browser is used on different devices and operating systems. So, for example, a user using the same browser on their phone, laptop, and tablet will have different results if the website is not optimised for all of them.

It’s almost the same as thinking of an app on both Apple and Android. Although it’s the same app, it only works on one device. If app developers only develop an app for one platform, they miss out on a large part of the market.

Likewise, a website must be optimised to work on all devices and platforms.

The Importance of Browser Compatibility

It’s simple, if a website is not optimised to work on all devices and platforms, it will lose visitors. Now for a typical website, this can be a problem, but for an eCommerce site, it could be devastating simply because visitors are where its revenue comes from. Just think of the impact it will have if a brick-and-mortar store closes its doors for a few hours every day. It’s apparent that it will lose a lot of revenue.

But, for eCommerce retailers, it goes further than just making sales.

For example, if a website does not work on their browsers:

  • 45% of users will hesitate to visit the website again or will stop going to it completely.
  • 32% of users will be less likely to use a website’s services or buy an eCommerce retailer’s products.
  • 55% of users will form a negative perception of the company or retailer.
  • 22% of users will leave for good.

Simply put, when these users leave, they’ll probably go to a competitor. As a result, optimising a website and eliminating cross-browser compatibility issues is therefore vital. A better way to explain browser compatibility and put it into numbers is by using an example.

Browsers by Market Share

Before looking at an example, it’s necessary to lay the foundation by looking at what browsers people are using the most.

The top five web browsers according to market share as of April 2021 are:

  • Chrome with 65.3% of the market.
  • Safari with 16.7% of the market.
  • Internet Explorer and Edge with 5.7% of the market.
  • Firefox with 4.1% of the market.
  • Opera with 1.6% of the market.

Now, drilling down to the top 5 platforms, the statistics show that:

  • Windows 10 has 22.48% of the market share.
  • Android 10 has 16.6%.
  • iOS 14 has 13.76%.
  • Android 9 has 7.36%.
  • Mac OSX has 6.29%.

These statistics show that users use the Internet on a variety of browsers, platforms, and devices.

Browser Compatibility by Example

To put those numbers into perspective, imagine an eCommerce store. Now, work on the basis that this eCommerce store has 10,000 visitors a month. The next thing to think of is the conversion rate.

Generally, the average conversion rate for eCommerce websites is about 2.86% but keep in mind that several factors could influence the conversion rate and either increase or decrease it. For that reason, work with a conversion rate of about 2%. In addition, work on an average of $80.00 per sale.

Now it’s time for some math. The numbers above would mean that, for every 10,000 visitors a month, the eCommerce store would make 200 sales. So, that means the store would generate $16,000 of revenue each month.

Going back to the figures above, if 16% of the users are using Safari but the website isn’t compatible with it, it could lead to a potential loss of revenue of $2560.00 every month. This equates to over $30,000 a year.

This example perfectly illustrates why browser compatibility is so important and why an eCommerce website should be cross-browser compatible.

Common Compatibility Issues

With that in mind, it’s now time to look at some common compatibility issues and how to fix them.

No Testing on Real Devices

One of the biggest issues is that developers don’t test their websites on real devices. In simple terms, the best way to test a website to make sure it’s bug-free and compatible across a range of devices and browsers is to test it on real browsers and devices.

This presents a challenge because there are so many devices and platforms available. So, testing on a real device can be difficult and expensive. The solution is to use a platform like BrowserStack that provides instant access to a real device cloud with over 2000 device and browser combinations.

HTML/CSS Validation

As said before, different browsers use different methods to translate the HTML and CSS in a web page. This creates a challenge for developers. For example, a simple error like not closing an HTML tag can cause errors on some browsers, but other browsers will auto-correct it.

This solution is to use code validating tools for HTML and CSS.

Browser-Specific Functions

When developing features and functionality for websites, it’s often necessary to use specific code in the CSS depending on a particular browser. This is essential to avoid cross-browser compatibility issues. These functions must be added with the necessary prefix to make them compatible with the browser and without the prefix to ensure compatibility with other browsers.

DOCTYPE Error

These errors usually occur due to a missing line in the code, which causes the site to render incorrectly. Many outdated browsers often check for doctype, and if it’s missing, they won’t render the site correctly.

Browsers generally operate in two modes, strict mode, and quirks mode. With strict mode, the browser does much stricter checks for code errors, while in quirks mode, it doesn’t in an effort to improve compatibility with older browsers.

As a result, the browser will default to quirks mode if the doctype tag is missing and won’t display the page correctly. The simple solution is to include the doctype line at the beginning of the codebase.

Outdated Browser Detection

Browsers contain technology that allows them to optimise the output of websites. If it’s an old browser, it’s possible that JavaScript can fail to detect the browser. This, in turn, leads to the browser not rendering the page correctly. The solution is to use a tool like Modernizr that lets developers tailor a website to a user’s browser.

Missing CSS Resets

Browsers have a default design layout that they apply to every website a user opens. So, if a website wants to use its own layout, it must override the default. If it doesn’t, the website will be rendered differently depending on the browser. The solution to this issue is to use CSS reset style sheets to reset the website to the basic settings.

Layout Compatibility

When developers apply CSS resets, they often remove the default design layout in the browser. This can cause compatibility issues because of a non-responsive design or a lack of support for specific layouts. The common solution is to use floats and, when working with modern layouts, to use CSS grids and Flexbox.

The Bottom Line

With so many devices and platforms available on the market today that users can use to view websites; developers will inevitably encounter cross-browser compatibility issues at some time.

Despite this, it’s crucial that website, especially those of eCommerce retailers, be cross-compatible. Not only will this ensure that they don’t lose revenue, but it will also prevent them from losing customers permanently.

Hopefully, this post helped illustrate the importance of cross-browser compatibility and solutions for common compatibility issues.

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