Designing for different browsers and devices

Your service must be universally accessible. This means building it to work on every browser or device that your users access it on.

Test for compatibility

Technology is always changing, so users’ experience of your service will vary according to the technical capabilities of their browsers and devices.

Not all browsers will render web pages in the same way. There are often visible differences in the ways that different browsers handle technologies like CSS, HTML and JavaScript.

Services do not have to look perfect in every browser but users must be able to access and use all the information and features they need, regardless of which browser they use.

Use progressive enhancement to give your service the best possible chance of working for the majority of your users.

Browsers to test in (from June 2022)

You should test your service in these browsers:

Operating system Browser Support
Windows Edge (latest versions) compliant
  Google Chrome (latest versions) compliant
  Mozilla Firefox (latest versions) compliant
macOS Safari 12 and later compliant
  Google Chrome (latest versions) compliant
  Mozilla Firefox (latest versions) compliant
iOS Safari for iOS 12.1 and later compliant
  Google Chrome (latest versions) compliant
Android Google Chrome (latest versions) compliant
  Samsung Internet (latest versions) compliant

The table shows the minimum browser requirements you should be testing with. You will still need to support Internet Explorer 11 if your analytics data shows at least 2% of your users arriving at the service’s start page are using it.

Consider the impact on users. For example, they may be required to use a particular browser. Consider doing some user research to learn more.

Understanding the table

‘Compliant’ means your service must look as good as it does in other modern browsers.

Users must be able to access the information they need or be able to complete their task without layout issues causing any problems (for example vital information or form fields becoming less visible, or inconsistencies causing them to lose confidence).

‘Latest versions’ refers to the latest stable version and the version immediately before that.

This list in the table is based on usage statistics for GOV.UK and represents approximately 95% of the most popular browsers. It’s updated in January and June every year.

Testing for services that are for government use

If your service is aimed at internal users rather than the general public you should look at your analytics data and check which browsers your users are using. Then you can then make an informed decision about which browsers to test with.

Testing with assistive technologies

You’ll also need to make sure your service works with assistive technologies.

Design for your audience

When designing your service, you should analyse your users’ choice of:

  • operating systems
  • browsers
  • browser versions
  • screen size/resolutions
  • choice of mobile device

If evidence shows that your users have specific needs or extra support requirements, you can use this to make a case for not meeting these browser requirements.

For example, the trade tariff team chose not to tailor their tool to smaller screens as it’s largely used by office workers working during office hours. Equally, if your audience is likely to include those working in the public sector, there may be higher use of older, more limited browsers.

As your digital service develops, you should encourage more people to use it (this is called ‘channel shift’). You should also consider how this may affect future usage patterns. Channel shift means you must also consider your potential future audience.

Adapt to changing behaviour

Decisions about compatibility cannot be something you specify at the start of your project and then forget about. Digital services need to reflect and adapt to the changing digital behaviour of their users.

Do this by researching your users and checking statistics on a regular basis. You must also make sure there’s an obvious way for users to report problems so you can carry out additional testing and make adjustments to your service.

New products and platforms might not appear in any data, but it makes sense for you to test against them if they’re likely to be popular.

You also have to work out when to stop supporting a product or system if its popularity is declining.

You may also find these guides useful:

Last update:

Updated the list of browsers to support, removing Internet Explorer. Added some information on circumstances when it should still be supported.

  1. Reviewed list of browsers to make sure it's still current, based on recent usage figures for GOV.UK. No change from the January 2021 version of the list.

  2. Reviewed list of browsers to make sure it's still current, based on recent usage figures for GOV.UK. No change from the June 2020 version of the list.

  3. Reviewed list of browsers to make sure it's still current, based on recent usage figures for GOV.UK. No change from the January 2020 version of the list.

  4. Updated list of browsers to test in: earliest version of iOS Safari is now 12.1 rather than 10.3.

  5. Updated the requirement to test in Safari for iOS from 9.3 to 10.3 to reflect usage statistics.

  6. Removed requirement to test with Safari 11 and earlier versions, as they fall outside of the 95% most popular browsers.

  7. Removed Internet Explorer versions 8 to 10 from the list of browsers to test your service with.

  8. Removed requirement to test on Windows phone, as it falls outside of the 95% most common browser/device combinations.

  9. Added links to Microsoft virtual machines for testing services in IE 8 to 10.

  10. Samsung Internet added to list of browsers you must test with.

  11. Added guidance on how to test with different assistive technologies, including which software to test with.

  12. Updated browser requirements table based on usage statistics: * Internet Explorer 8 (functional) to Internet Explorer 8-10 (functional) * Internet Explorer 9+ (compliant) to Internet Explorer 11 (compliant) * Safari 9+ (compliant) to Safari 9.3+ (compliant)

  13. The list of browsers to test in has been updated.

  14. Updated the list of browsers to test in for public-facing and government-only services.

  15. Guidance first published