Steve Fenton

When to avoid using percentages

Percentages can be absolutely brilliant. They can remove a ton of distractions and questions and give you a strong indication of some numbers. For example, it is handy to know that 30% of your visitors are browsing using Internet Explorer and 4% are using Opera. This is probably easier to grasp as a percentage rather than being presented with a series of big numbers against each browser.

Sometimes, though, you need to be careful with the percentage. It can make huge numbers sound insignificant.

For example, only 2% of web users in the US have JavaScript disabled or unavailable. With a number as low as 2% you’d be tempted to say “screw you non-JavaScript users!”. The problem is, you are sticking your fingers up at 2,161,936 potential visitors / customers. How do you feel about making a website that can’t be viewed by well over two-million people from one country?

Sometimes you need to get back to the real numbers to really understand a problem.

Note on Numbers

This is 2% of the estimated 108,096,800 people in the US with Internet access.

Written by Steve Fenton on