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Why do you need to know what browsers your visitors use?

“User technology” is a report in your website analytics which tells you what browser, operating system and screen resolution your visitors have. For most people, this information falls under the category of “interesting to know, but ultimately not of any practical use”. However, it can give you a warning of a wasted opportunity out there.

Here’s the sort of thing you might see, going back over a few months (things do change, so a period of – say – six months might be as long as you’d need). Note, interestingly, that for the first time in ten years or more, Internet Explorer may not be the most commonly-used browser among your visitors – indeed, it may have dropped to third place for some websites.

Now, one way in which this report can be useful is by looking at the “bounce rate”. I’ve mentioned this figure many times as being a dangerous one to make assumptions from, but it can be used to make comparative studies. What would we deduce if one or more browsers had a significantly higher bounce rate than others? I’d say it was because users of that browser were seeing something different to everyone else …something which probably didn’t make sense, and which was causing them to bounce straight back to where they’d come from. In that case, you’ll need to do some investigating into what they might be seeing, and how you could fix it.

With Google Analytics, if you click on the browser name, you can see data for individual versions of that browser, and you’re even more likely to see discrepancies there. Making a website look the same in Internet Explorer version 6 as it does in other browsers is notoriously difficult for website designers. However, unless it’s easy to do so, I wouldn’t spend too much time “fixing” your website in old versions of browsers if the bounce rate seems to be high.

Finally, it’s worth repeating the exercise with the “operating system” and “screen resolution” reports. You might find that visitors using a 320×480 screen (usually an iPhone) might be bouncing away at a high rate, and you should consider getting a “mobile version” of your website made.

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