Ok, it’s not all good for us web designers, but things are getting better. Ireland may still lag far behind its counterparts in terms of broadband usage, but we’re actually expanding reasonably quickly. This, coupled with a few other notable changes, can only mean good news for web design in Ireland.
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) released broadband statistics in June 2007 which covers their membership (currently standing at 30 countries).
Ireland is not doing very well. Looking at broadband penetration, Ireland is sitting in 22nd place1 which does not sound good for a country that is meant to be the 4th most ‘globalised’ nation.
However what is a good sign is that things are improving rapidly and Ireland ranks top in broadband subscriber growth out of the 30 countries in OECD, with us gaining 6.6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants in the past year. Overall that gives us 15.4% broadband penetration (or 13.1% of all Irish households). Obviously things need to improve a lot, especially on the household percentage front, but if growth continues at the current rate we should see another 300,000 broadband subscribers in 2007-2008 which could put us at 1 million Irish broadband users.
For web designers this means a little more freedom to use higher quality imagery and more developed coding methods, although this doesn’t mean we should ever discount the dial up user, and let us not forget the increased numbers of GPRS and 3G users who may not benefit from 3mb download speeds.
Users with Better Technology
What is even better for the state of web design in Ireland is that the average user’s computer specifications are improving drastically.
We decided to look at real stats from one of our past clients whose user base is entirely Irish and covers a good cross section of the market both in age and economic considerations. We’ve taken a look at some of the statistics from the past 6 months compared with the 6 months prior to that.
Irish Computer Users
|Statistic||Past 6 Months||Previous 6 Months|
|Users with 800 x 600 screen res||5.96%||8.33%|
|Firefox, Safari and Opera users||21.26%||18.52%|
|Internet Explorer 7 Penetration||39.51%||27.08%|
|Flash 8 or higher||91.6%||84.14%|
As you can see from the above table, there are quite a few things to be excited about from a web design perspective.
Firstly, and most importantly people’s browsers are improving! The number of Internet Explorer users has dropped, and even more importantly, the number of Internet Explorer 6 users has dropped dramatically, with IE7 users up 12% to nearly 40% of all IE users. This is amazing news to a web designer as ensuring backward compatibility for Microsoft’s ageing Internet Explorer 6 is a huge drain on time and tends to add a lot of extra work to every project. Overall, counting the increased users of Firefox and other browsers, less than 50% of Irish internet users now use IE6 or less.
With any luck within a year or two we can consider that support for IE6’s strange way of interpreting code will be nearly redundant. The sooner this happens, the better for users, clients, designers, coders, and pretty much anyone involved in business on the internet.
The second most important aspect from a web design perspective, is that users with extremely low resolution screens are on the decline. Less than six percent of Irish web users are using an 800 by 600 pixel screen resolution, and this number has been on a steady decline as people upgrade their computers. Windows XP, the most used operating system in Ireland at the moment, has a default screen resolution of 1024 by 768, and anyone with an LCD monitor should probably have their resolution set at a minimum of 1280 by 1024.
Why is this good for web designers? It gives us more room to work with! While our designs should be usable at all times by users with all manners of screen resolutions, it is still nice to know that the average user is at a certain level to which we can optimise our designs.
Well, it all boils down to encouraging Irish computer users to keep their systems up-to-date, and by this I don’t mean throw out something that works, I mean, consider making sure all of your software is up to date. This is good not just for your own security, but also for your overall computer experience.
For the most part, software makers are improving their products regularly, and in general these updates are free. If you’re using Windows, make sure to check out Windows Update every once in a while. If you’re using Internet Explorer 6 or less, consider switching to Firefox, the quick, safe and free open-source browser, or at least update to Internet Explorer 7.
If you’re already doing this, then don’t just sit there feeling smug, but why not make sure to upgrade your friends and relatives systems every once in a while. They probably won’t notice much, but secretly their web experience will be improved.