The Average Web User

A huge task in web design is not only determining the demographics of your intended audience but also figuring out the measure of technology that they use to view your website. The W3Counter has a global report on user’s environments in order to most successfully develop for the largest number of environments.

Before I give what I feel to be the “average” web user it should be noted that these statistics aren’t the best for every audience. For instance, if your site is on bleeding-edge technology then it’s pretty safe to assume that you’ll have the best in web technology to design for; one example is that my Mint installations tell me that this site receives 63% of the users using Firefox, but my main blog, which has more of an average user base, has 33% of the users using Firefox. Be sure to take these statistics with caution, and also be sure to do proper demographic and usability studies to determine your target audience’s technology.

The “Average” Web User

From W3Counter’s latest summary and my main blog’s Mint installation, I believe we can summarize the average user as having a mix of the following conditions:

  • Browser: Internet Explorer 6.0/7.0; Firefox 1.5+
  • Operating System: Windows XP/Vista
  • Screen Resolution: 1024x768+
  • Language: English (Majority)
  • Flash: Most Users Have Version 8+

Final Observations

It is quite clear that Microsoft is still dominating the web world in terms of browser and operating system. However, Firefox is continually gaining now holding around a 30% market share. That’s impressive for an open source product! Internet Explorer 6 still reigns supreme, and that means we still have to live with most users not supporting modern CSS standards including their broken box model and the :hover pseudo-class on all elements besides the anchor tag. PNG transparency is still something that the majority of designs can’t yet take advantage of.

The 800x600 resolution has long been the lowest common denominator to design for, but I think we’re coming near the end of this resolution being something to design for (as happened to 640x480). The technology is advancing, but we still have a ways to go in order to effectively utilize a wide range of up and coming technologies.

4 Responses

  1. Dan Grossman June 4, 2007 / 5:57 pm

    800x600 and below is still at least 10% of web surfers, so it’s hard to stop designing for them… on the other hand, they’re increasingly exposed to designs that don’t fit their window well, so whether you are going to drive those users away with, say, an 780 pixel body with perhaps a right-hand sidebar off screen is questionable.

  2. Chris Poteet June 4, 2007 / 6:46 pm

    @Dan: Yes, I agree. I still for conservative’s sake still stick to a fixed width of 760, but I assume that can change soon.

  3. Justin Kohnen June 5, 2007 / 5:13 pm

    Hello choir, this is preacher…

    I too agree, we still have to support 800 x 600, but that doesn’t mean we need to limit applications to a fixed width. (I personally prefer the jello mold layout http://www.positioniseverything.net/articles/jello.html).

    However, I feel richer web applications are going to become the standard. (Look at the popularity of AJAX) This desire will move development more toward Flash and SilverLight solutions. At which point, vector imaging will overcome the resolution debate. But that’s not for another 5 to 10 years. Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  4. Chris Poteet June 5, 2007 / 5:22 pm

    @Justin: You might enjoy this article on Flexible Fixed Layouts. It sounds similar to the link you provided.

    While Flash and Silverlight are powerful tools, I wonder as the web becomes less and less about a desktop computer that we will once again be stuck to worrying about small resolutions but far smaller than 800x600 (e.g. cell phone, Palm Pilot, etc). I think this would be a good environment for vectors, but robust animation technology might be a ways away.

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