Webmasters can be obsessive about Web browser statistics, such as what browser people are using, what version number, etc.
Another statistic that can be an important "tell" is what operating system people are using, because it telegraphs a lot of information about your visitors' computers and capabilities.
For example, someone using Windows 98 is going to have an old, very underpowered PC, whereas someone using Windows Vista will tend to have a more modern, capable computer.
That information is important to me because it tells me how far I can go with delivering leading-edge features. If only 5% of the people visiting the site is capable of using a feature, I won't waste my time on it. But if 60% of visitors can use something, I give it more attention. If 90% of the visitors can use something, most of my effort goes there.
So one of the stats I watch closely is the ratio of Windows XP users to Windows Vista users, because the more Vista users there are, the more leading-edge features I feel comfortable spending the time creating.
For a long time, the number of Vista users remained pretty steady at only about 25% of the number of XP users. So if there were 1,000 Windows XP users visiting Lottery Post at a certain point, I could pretty accurately predict that at that moment there were also about 250 Windows Vista users on the site. The statistics continued bearing out that ratio for a long time.
But recently, I have noticed a sharp uptick in the number of Vista users on the site — a very encouraging statistic.
That ratio of XP-to-Vista users is now up to about 50%. At this moment (at this time I'm writing this) there are 1,113 Windows XP visitors and 582 Windows Vista visitors — which equates to 52%. That's nice to see!
I'm not sure as to the timing of why that is happening now. Maybe it's the upcoming release of Windows 7, or computer companies having big sales, or something else. But I do know that it helps bring me closer to getting my hands unshackled as far as being able to build much more slick, friendly features.
On the other hand, one statistic that is still too high, and I'd like it to drop like a stone, is the number of IE6 users. IE6 continues to be the bane of my existence. It is so full of security holes and is so incredibly buggy that I am constantly holding back on delivering exciting things because there are still too many IE6 users to completely drop support for it.
In fact, there are more IE6 users on the site at any one time than Firefox users. That's a real mind-bender! (Right now there are 303 IE6 visitors and 231 visitors using any version of Firefox.)
Every single IE6 user has a PC that is capable of running Firefox. Their entire web browsing experience would be 20-thousand times better using Firefox than it is with IE6, and it doesn't cost a penny to upgrade. I wish there was a way I could reach across the Internet and click download for them.
Anyway, I mentioned Windows 7 earlier, and I'll be doing a write-up on it sometime in the future. Suffice to say in the meantime that it is just plain awesome. In fact, I'm using the latest build of Windows 7 (build 7057) right now as I write this. Everything is just so refined and ... logical. And it's fast too — faster than both Vista and XP in all the tests I've seen. That's been my experience as well.
More on that another time!