What is a Browser?

On July 22, 2009 at 11:03 am, in: Design & Experience


Google recently conducted a survey of random passerby’s in New York City with the question “What is a browser?” in order to understand their users better.

Turns out that more than 90% of people surveyed had no idea what a browser is. Most would relate it to search engines, answering with “It’s Google” or internet-related terms such as “broadband”. Very few people actually got it right, only about 8% in fact. (watch the video here)

As people who work with the web everyday, we sometimes take it for granted about how much our users know about the web. We would generalize “Oh sure they know how to look for that button” or “I’m sure our users know to click on that tab to look for their account settings” while maybe in fact, they don’t. And I think this is why the web can feel so disconnected with the rest of the world; and it’s the designer’s job to bridge the gap.


  1. DaiLaughing says:

    on July 22, 2009 @ 11:22 am

    It’s an interesting bit of research. I have a tutorial site for wannabee Web creators and before I read this I had already included a page explaining what a Web browser was! Seems I was right to.

    I also had feedback from a user who didn’t know what a script was the first time I mentioned one so I added that in. You would think someone wanting to create Web pages would know the basic concepts.

    Assume nothing.

  2. hm says:

    on July 23, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    Thanks for commenting!

    I absolutely agree: assume nothing. Around the IT department here we throw around common terms, and sometime they make it all the way live! It’s even worse with error messages (the very few we show); makes perfect sense to us but it might as well be Greek to the users.

  3. Better Browser? | Mrs. Peery's Technology Blog says:

    on September 17, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

    […] to this blog post, over 90% of the people surveyed do not  know what a web browser is. The Wikipedia definition is: […]