In the run-up to GOV.UK's release, the organisation wrote about the rationale behind its browser-support decisions. Testing had to occur on browsers with two per cent usage or higher, and information access was the primary concern, not pixel-perfect layout precision. The organisation noted it side-stepped elephant in the room IE6, largely through that browser's web traffic crashing in 2011, placing it underneath the two per cent cut-off.
Figures released today showcase GOV.UK made the right call there: IE6 is now used by a tiny fraction over one per cent of the site's users. However, the figures also show plenty of useful data, potentially providing warnings to developers.
First, trends in recent global figures have pointed to Chrome taking the lead from IE, and mobile strategist Peter-Paul Koch told .net: "The percentages themselves will likely be off, but I trust the trends. IE and more recently Firefox are going down, while Chrome is going up. That is really happening, even though IE may still be the largest browser." GOV.UK's figure for the most recent two releases of IE is significantly higher than Chrome's—38.19 per cent versus 20.09 per cent; this is a useful reminder that while global trends are important, designers and developers must also be mindful of local statistics (IE usage is higher than average in the UK) and also site-specific statistics.
The second interesting slice of data concerns Apple's Safari browser. According to GOV.UK, a sizeable 11.03 per cent of visits arrive from Safari versions 6 and 5 on iOS, far ahead of the 4.23 per cent using the most recent two versions of Apple's desktop browser. This alone doesn't point towards the need for mobile-first on a global scale, but at least suggests Apple's mobile browser is now of more importance than its desktop cousin.