A week ago I signed up to StatCounter in order to get some statistics about my site’s visitors. The results are interesting, especially the mobile browsers count.
I signed up for a free account in order to test their mobile browser detect, but quickly extended that to a paid subscription for my entire site.
Believe it or not, but I’ve mostly done without statistics in the past ten years, except for a short period in 2008 or so when I used a bad tool that even managed to mess up its own table-based layout. Until last week I had no clue how many people visited my site and with which browsers, but now I’ve rediscovered it’s fun to know.
In the past few months I found myself returning to StatCounter time and again because it has the best (or rather, the least bad) mobile browser detect out there. So why not use it for my own site in addition to a general market overview?
At this point the following conversation invariably ensues:
Ad networks don’t count. They’re skewed towards the platforms they sell most ads on. (Besides, AdMob was the only one, and it has stopped publishing stats. That comes with being taken over by Google.)
Please avoid repeating this conversation in the comments. There’s just no source comparable to StatCounter.
I created separate stats for QuirksMode and QuirksBlog. I’m very glad I did, or I wouldn’t have noticed the mobile patterns.
QuirksMode.org, excluding this blog, draws about 22,000 unique visitors per day on a weekday; about 9,500 per day in the weekend. The vast majority of them, about 70%, open just one page that (apparently) contains the technical information they need, and then surf on.
On QuirksBlog that figure is 75%. The total visitor count is uncertain; I have to take my publication schedule into account here. On the whole, I’d say my ramblings and musings draw about 2,000 visitors per day on weekdays I don’t publish; and maybe about half that number in the weekends. Slightly less than 10% of the QuirksMode count, in other words.
However, my organising article proved rather popular, so I got exactly 4,200 unique visitors on Monday, when I published it.
The Sunday stats are skewed because Smashing Magazine tweeted my State of mobile web development, part 3, and it turns out such a mention on the worst day of the week is good for roughly 2,000 hits.
I’ll revisit my QuirksBlog stats in the future, when I have a better idea of the averages.
Which browsers do these visitors use? It will surprise nobody that IE use is well below average here, and use of other browsers above average. QuirksMode first:
Then QuirksBlog; and note the subtle differences in the desktop browsers and the large mobile difference:
Wow. Why these large differences?
Obviously, the lower IE share and higher Chrome and Safari share can be attributed to the fact that the average QuirksBlog visitor is more deeply steeped in the web than the average QuirksMode visitor.
In that light the lower Firefox share is also interesting. For a while now I’ve felt that Firefox has passed its peak and is going into decline (I suppose I’ll have to get back to this in a future article). Do these stats prove my visitors agree with me?
Time will tell; for the moment the sample is too small. But this is one more thing to monitor.
Let’s drill a bit deeper. I followed the mobile stats intensely from the very first hit, and I noticed something interesting. The following numbers exclude the iPad.
Here is QuirksMode:
Now QuirksBlog; in absolute numbers about the same amount of visits, so the relative number is about ten times as large as on QuirksMode:
Wow, what a difference. What happened here?
Smashing Magazine did.
As I said Smashing Magazine mentioned one of my articles on Twitter. From that moment on my mobile stats changed radically. First of all mobile as a whole grew tenfold from about 0.5% to 5%.
Secondly, where before the tweet Safari was only narrowly ahead of Opera and Android, after the tweet its traffic share grew to the current numbers. Android and BlackBerry kept up, while Opera and Nokia dwindled to nothing.
Apparently, this Twitter link triggered a disproportionate amount of mobile traffic, consisting especially of Safari and to a lesser extent of Android. The other mobile browsers didn’t play a role any more. In addition there was disproportionate iPad traffic.
I’m deliberately not going to draw more conclusions because the dataset is so tiny. All in all we’re talking about only 900 or so mobile hits on QuirksBlog, and 1,000 on QuirksMode.
Still, better analysis of mobile stats in relation to mentions on Twitter (or, I presume, other social media sites) could find some interesting differences in traffic market share.
My theory is that Safari and Android usage, as well as mobile usage as a whole, and possibly tablet usage, is significantly higher on sites that get lots of traffic from social media.
Let’s see if future analysis bears it out.
And let’s see if this pattern, if there is any, continues. After all, the masses of Nokias and BlackBerries will hit the web at one point.
In order to use StatCounter as a tool for such research, some things should change.
I’d welcome some kind of open API or even a simple form where I can paste a browser string and retrieve StatCounter’s identification. Update: this already exists.
In addition, the mobile browser detect should be changed.
StatCounter made some weird decisions when it comes to iOS devices. It splits them up in iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, and counts the first two as mobile devices, while the iPad is added to MacOS Safari.
iPhone and iPod Touch show up separately in their mobile stats, and that makes absolutely no sense since from a web development point of view they’re the same device. Worse, it confuses people (hell, it confuses me) because the mobile browser overview seems to show Opera well ahead of iPhone, while it’s only ahead by the narrowest of margins once we include iPod Touch. Similarly, BlackBerry appears to be the second-most-popular mobile browser, while it is in fact third.
As to the iPad, is it a mobile device or is it a ... well ... non-mobile device? My current answer is Yes.
From a UI perspective it’s hard to tell whether the iPad belongs on the mobile side or not. Both positions are defensible. The large display definitely argues for non-mobile, but the fact that it’s much easier to pull from your pocket and use than a laptop argues for mobile.
Technically there’s no doubt: the iPad runs Safari for iOS, and not Safari for MacOS. I want to know the total traffic share of Safari for iOS, so from a development point of view the iPad should be put in the “mobile devices“ category. Which only shows that that category may not make as much sense as people think.
And what about Opera? Annoyingly, StatCounter does not split up Opera traffic into Mini and Mobile. I think that Opera Mobile is about 5 to 10% of the Opera total and Mini the rest, but that’s really only guesswork.
StatCounter, please make the following changes:
If you do that you’ll become a truly valuable mobile browser analysis tool and I’ll happily pimp you.
I’m around at the following conferences:
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