The State of the Web 2008

Welcome to this detailed report from our first “State of the Web” survey of professional web designers and developers. It includes details and analysis of all the responses to over 50 questions covering technologies, techniques, philosophies and practices that today’s web professionals employ.

You can read all the questions, download the complete (anonymized) set of responses, see tabular results to all the questions, the questions asked, or dive into our detailed analysis.

You might also be interested in our “State of the Web” session at Web Directions North in Denver in the first week of February, where representatives of major browser developers, and the W3C, will discuss the state and future of the web.

Table of Contents

About the survey

Keeping track of current web design and development practice is far from straightforward. We can surmise what the general consensus about best practice is from articles published at recognized sites and forums devoted to web development. But just what developers are actually doing when they develop for the web is much harder to determine. Objective projects like Opera Software’s MAMA can give us a sense of the use of particular technologies, but it’s more difficult to determine when particular sites were developed (and so to determine how practices change over time), and it’s also difficult to conclude from these objective data the underlying practices, philosophies and approaches adopted by developers (for example, how important is it to them that pages look as nearly the same as possible across all browsers).

The goal of this “state of the web” survey is to try and get behind the statistics, and get a sense of the philosophies and techniques as well as the technologies, that web designers and developers are using today. Over time, hopefully we’ll be able to track changes in how web professionals design and develop for the web.

As mentioned, it is a subjective survey, and those who took it are self selecting. So, it certainly won’t be representative of all web designers and developers. It’s definitely skewed toward early adopters and self educators, people who keep abreast of developments in these fields by attending conferences, reading popular blogs and sites focussed on these issues and so on.

A sneak peek at some results

In short, what did the survey find? Some quite surprising results include

  • just how few of the respondents use any form of Internet Explorer for their day to day web use (with only 3 out of over 1200 respondents using IE8), and similarly how few use Google Chrome as their primary browser, despite the splash the launch of that browser recently
  • nearly half of respondents use Mac OS X as their primary operating system, and only 10% use windows Vista
  • less than a third of respondents test their web sites with Internet Explorer 8 (while Mobile Safari comes in at 20%, and Chrome at 40%)

There’s also a great deal of interest in terms of the nitty gritty of web design philosophy and practice, from the high percentage of respondents who use JavaScript (around 95%), to the very small uptake of Silverlight (around 2% of all respondents) to the very high percentage of database driven sites (96%), overwhelmingly run on open source databases (over 80%).

When we first put together the survey, we really weren’t certain that the results would be of any great interest or value. But the number of responses (over 1200 from all over the world), and the results themselves definitely provide both food for thought, and in many cases which we’ll discuss below, cause for optimism that web development best practices are becoming more widely adopted over time.

We’ve also made available all the results from the survey in CSV format. There’s all kinds of correlations that readers might be interested in investigating. For example it might be interesting to compare use of HTML in government versus large corporations, or in the United States as opposed to Europe. If you are interested, please grab the files and explore them, and let us know anything interesting you might find.

Now, sit back and read on for a sense of the state of the web in late 2008.