Finding Browser Versions to Optimise For in Google Analytics

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It’s a great idea to ensure that your site is able to function properly across different browsers. IE, Chrome and Firefox are the most often cited, but Opera gets plenty of action along with Safari. Making a sparkly creative piece is all well and good, but if it’s not working in just one browser, it needs fixing.

It’s not just the type of browser being used that needs to be taken into account. The version of that browser is something worth keeping in mind too.

More recent versions of browsers are able to use more recent versions of CSS, HTML and Javascript. When creating a web page, there should be alternatives stipulated in the code if, for example, the browser version can’t understand CSS3.

In any case, it’s pretty easy in Google Analytics to see how much of your traffic is coming from older versions of a browser. You can find the dashboard which will tell you all about it within the ‘Browser and OS’ section of the Audience tab.

browser analytics

You can then set the secondary dimension as ‘Browser version’ to see how old the browsers are which people are accessing your site with.

browser version analytics

In order to test whether your site is truly compatiable on older versions of browsers, you’ll need to pay for a browser testing tool. There are quite a few of them, but browserstack is the one I’ve heard banded about the most.

In a pinch however, you can use a free browser snipping service Browsershots. This gives you the option of choosing which older versions of a variety of browsers you want to test a page on your site on. You might have to wait a couple of minutes, but you’ll get back a series of screenshots of what your page looks like in your chosen browsers and their respective versions.

cross browser test

I chose Go Compare’s homepage as an example. It’s a pretty quick and nifty way of finding out if a page you have created looks awful in an older browser version.


Should I Optimise for Old Browser Versions?

The current version of Chrome I am using is version 43, which at the time of writing is the most recent version. However, that doesn’t mean everyone is using that version to access the web.

Using Chrome as an example, you would expect to see versions as low as 30 making hits on your site, maybe a little lower. What you wouldn’t expect to see is visits from some of the earliest versions of Chrome ever.

old browser versions in analytics

The above example shows that over the last month, supposedly version 1.5 of Chrome delivered 217 visits – 21st highest out of all versions – and version 4.0 wasn’t far behind. That’s an awfully old version to have to optimise for, but if users are coming to the site on it you’ll need to make sure the site is responsive on it; especially if its that high in the prefered browser list.


It’s not actually version 1.5.

By applying the secondary dimension ‘Device Category’, things start to get a bit clearer.

analytics browser device

All those visits were from a mobile device. So it’s likely to be an issue with a kind of device that people are using. Changing the secondary dimension to ‘Mobile Device Model’, we can see the model numbers of the devices our users are supposedly using old browser versions on.

old browser versions in analytics

A quick search shows that these devices are Samsung smart phones. They aren’t using an old version of Chrome – they are usually using a version of around 23 and above – but Analytics misreads the User Agent String to return 1.5.

In my example, the device most likely to use the ’1.5′ browser version was the Samsung Galaxy s4 (GT-I9505). According to the user strings, it’s actually using version 28 of the Chrome browser.

So in this instance, it turns out you don’t need to make your site compatible for a really old version of Chrome at all.

This has been an issue in Analytics for a while. No doubt there’s a fix on its way soon.


Written by Sarah Chalk

Sarah Chalk

Sarah is an SEO Account Manager at 360i and has a keen interest in all things SEO. She has also written for a number of sites, including Vue cinema’s film blog and a number of tech websites.

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