IT in Africa

Browser statistics and Commentary for Benin (or, IE6 isn’t going anywhere fast, so we might as well stop complaining and get back to work)

People Online still guarantees IE6 compatibility for almost 100% of the sites we develop. We don’t even charge extra for it! And this is why:

We’ve spent an awful lot of time in cybercafés in West Africa, and an awful lot of these cybercafés are still running Windows XP (or Windows 2000! Or Windows 98!) and IE6. Anecdotal evidence aside, the default install for Windows XP is IE6, and most offices here never upgrade (why should they?).

It’s all good and well to say that only stuffy corporate offices in the States are using IE6, but my experience has shown otherwise. I analyzed a sample of People Online’s 10 most trafficked websites, all aimed at both local and international audiences This criteria actually didn’t exclude anything, as none of the sites aimed exclusively internationally or locally made the top 10.

Browser share number crunching for Benin

19% of our traffic is local. Not bad, but not great. We should probably work more with clients to publicize the sites in country and optimize for Yahoo!, which gives us far more local referrals than Google (note to self: possible later blog post).

18.8% of our traffic uses IE6. This number by itself is relatively large, but still small enough that we could start quietly dropping support, warning our clients not to expect pixel-perfect results. Except that …

35.5% of our Beninese traffic is IE6. That is, over 1/3 of a major target audience is still using IE6. Oops. That’s far to large to drop support, especially considering that many sites have much higher percentages (up to 49.6%). In this sample, opposition newspapers tended to have the lowest IE6 usage rates, while pro-administration newspapers had the highest. That too probably merits its own blog post.

27.9% of Beninese users are using Firefox, and 16.6% are using IE7. Only are 15.4% using IE8. That might sound like good news for open source, but what it really means is that we’ve got a pretty even distribution of browsers, dominated by IE6. I imagine that Firefox will overtake IE6 by the end of 2010, but as long as IE6 is still overing around a third, we don’t have have a choice but to support it.

I think it’s marvelous that there are markets in Sub-Saharan Africa where IE6 holds a small enough share that developers can drop support. That’s wonderful! IE6 is a buggy disaster and it makes for both CSS and JavaScript nightmares; however, our market does not allow us to do the same. It doesn’t even allow us optional support.

Most of our local users connect from cybercafés and government offices. They don’t download the latest and greatest versions because it’s not their job to do so. If you’re in a developing market and you’re considering dropping IE6 support, take the time to study your analytics (you’re doing that anyway, right?). Africa’s Internet market is not monolithic.deeo

5 thoughts on “Browser statistics and Commentary for Benin (or, IE6 isn’t going anywhere fast, so we might as well stop complaining and get back to work)

  1. Good points all around. The fact that sites should be optimized for Yahoo! search is one that I think is lost on a lot of folks due to the perception of Google’s dominance… outside of Africa. Hadn’t even really thought directly about it as I’ve been using their Site Tools or whatever they call it, along with Google’s for some time now just to cover all the bases.

    I also agree that you can’t just drop support for IE6 overnight, but at the same time, if people aren’t given some encouragement to leave it, they never will. This is why I use a great, good, okay-ish approach to IE 8, 7, and 6 respectively. Basically, I make sure that it’s perfect on 8 (which is decently easy), good on 7 with hopefully few problems, and then just make sure that it works somewhat okay on IE6. If something doesn’t display 100% correctly, but people can still access the site, then that’s fine in my book. I noticed that Twitter has taken the same approach lately.

    I suppose it comes down to the issue of alpha transparency in pngs in that IE6 not supporting that has angered me to no end and made me want to give up on that broken browser to a large extent. Oh yeah, the broken box model is annoying too.

  2. I agree with Miquel, and I lately discovered a Javascript that shows on top of page when using IE6 or IE7 asking to upgrade to one of the 5 most compatible browsers (IE8, FF, Chrome, etc). And I do include it in all the website I build from then. Unless the client doesn’t put up with it…

  3. Miquel, you’re absolutely right about the broken box model being a hassle. There are, however, some well-known CSS hacks that solve the problem. Not idea, but it’ll do until IE6 gets down to 10 or 15% market share. PNG transparency can also be solved w/ JavaScript, although that too has its problems on loband connections.

    Zwan, I can’t imagine any clients EVER allowing a banner like that on their webpages. Do you track statistics on how many people click your download links?

    Either way, IE6 is a hassle, but it’s a hassle that seems to have incredible staying power.

    1. as a fellow beninese websurfer/master, i say to hell with IE all together! firefox and chrome are much better and its a shame people don’t know that yet. then again, i may be a special case since my OS is linux mint 8 LXDE…
      great blog btw! one of your students talked to me about it and i love it!

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