Don’t Look at Browser Reports: Some Blasphemy for a Friday Afternoon

Don’t Look at Browser Reports: Some Blasphemy for a Friday Afternoon

As a numbers gal, I dig a good list. Optimizely’s 71 A/B Testing ideas? #6 is my favorite. 15 Mobile UX Facts and Insights for 2016. #13 makes my life difficult. 5 Awesome Things Toggl Button Can Do To Improve Your Workflow. #4, because I’m the Pomodoro Queen!

I’ve seen my share of “top random number reports you must run in Google Analytics to be a Ninja/Unicorn/Save the World.” I mostly enjoy these. But I’ve noticed a recent trend in these lists. You’re a Google Analytics failure if you’re not running browser reports.

Let me tell you something. If you’re running browser reports for the reason I think you’re running browser reports, you are hurting humanity.

There are a few situations when looking at Browser data can be a good thing:

  • You have a problem. You just changed your template/CMS/CRM/dentist, and out of nowhere, conversion rates plummet. As you’re troubleshooting, go ahead and look at that browser report. Make sure you don’t have any compatibility issues.
  • Knowing your market. There’s a ton of research out there on the demographic difference between iPhone and Android users, and who is a Mac or a PC. In the absence of demographic data, looking at browsers and devices might be able to give you insight. But just a little bit.

But most of the time, when someone asks me to run a browser report, this is actually what they are saying:

We’re redesigning our site. Let’s target the top 5 browser/OS combinations. Those Android-powered Opera Mini users can stick their phones where the sun don’t shine.

There was a time when the top browsers rendered in outrageously different ways. At that time, browser reports were appropriate. And you know I threw a party when IE6 dropped out of the 10.

Though are still differences between the most popular rendering engines, most have coalesced around certain layout standards. So usually, we’re talking about differences in the single pixels. Not broken layouts. And with responsive design and the wide variety of screen sizes, a pixel here and there is not the same tragedy it used to be. These days, broken layouts are about screen size and pixel density.

You’re not designing for browsers. You’re designing for people. Ask for that in your Google Analytics reports.