New findings: How does browser usage vary throughout the day and week?

Last month, I questioned the validity of using Internet Explorer 8 as the default browser for performance testing. In the comments on that post, Stephen Pierzchala raised a good point:

I would be really interested to see a little more granularity in both the Akamai IO and Strangeloop data that shows browser usage by time of day and day of week. While it doesn’t change the aggregate results, it may indicate the type of browser that people choose to use, rather than the browser they are told to use.

We all tend to have semi-educated guesses about the browsers that people choose to use at work/school versus those they use at home, but I wasn’t able to find any studies that answer Stephen’s question. So I took a look through our beacon data to see if I could spot any trends. I got some interesting results that confirmed a few of my assumptions.

Approach

  1. Gathered data for one month of traffic for two large North America-based ecommerce sites.
  2. Pared traffic down to four browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari.
  3. Aggregated data for each day of the week and plotted this on a graph for each site.
  4. Aggregated data for each hour of the day and plotted this on a graph for each site.

The results were interesting.

Observations

Browser usage throughout the week

As you can see on this pair of graphs:

  • Internet Explorer was the dominant browser for these sites.
  • Traffic for every browser, with the exception of Safari, either flatlined or decreased over the weekend.
  • Safari traffic spiked dramatically over the weekend.
  • Friday is a big browsing/shopping day across all browsers.

Browser usage throughout the day

These graphs bear a striking similarity to the daily breakdown graphs, in that IE, Firefox, and Chrome use begins to trend downward at the end of the workday, just when Safari use spikes.

Conclusions (aka “more educated guesses”)

While this data represents only two websites, I think there are enough similarities to make these findings a compelling argument for a couple of statements:

  1. Internet Explorer should still be the go-to browser for testing ecommerce sites in North America. The primary reason for this, in my opinion, is that many people are browsing/shopping while at work.
  2. Safari is a serious contender as the browser of choice for home shoppers, particularly those in desirable demographics (in other words, the Apple crowd). This is more of a hunch than an educated guess, but my feeling is that this partially based on the massive recent growth of the iPad market. I say this because everyone I know who uses a MacBook uses Chrome or Firefox instead of the default safari browser, whereas everyone I know who owns an iPad uses Safari. (Like I said, it’s just a hunch.)

I definitely don’t consider this the last word on the subject. The browser wars are far from over, and there’s enough flux in the industry that it’s anyone’s guess as to what the next year might hold. If you know of any comparable studies or statistics, let me know.

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4 thoughts on “New findings: How does browser usage vary throughout the day and week?

  1. Thanks for this. It is interesting.

    Now, some follow-up questions.

    Were these all visits or unique visitors? This would make a difference and might indicate some other trends in the data.

    And, as the often referred to StatCounter data shows, this may vary by region. Were these sites North America specific, or did they draw a global audience?

    smp

  2. Glad you liked it Stephen! Yes the sites were North America specific and the number refers to pageviews.

    Thanks for the comments!

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