Monday, December 8th, 2008

The IE 6 Equation. Finally some math to mask the pain

Category: Browsers, IE

That is the equation that Jeremy Keith shares with us on his article for this years 24ways. He is discussing IE6, which he sets to the variable of $web_designer_nemesis (variable used to equal NN4).

He looks at the sliding scale of support for the browser:

  • Block IE6 users from your site.
  • Develop with web standards and don’t spend any development time testing in IE6.
  • Use the Dean Edwards IE7 script to bootstrap CSS support in IE6.
  • Write an IE6 stylesheet to address layout issues.
  • Make your site look exactly the same in IE6 as in any other browser.

And, gives some weight behind what you may or may not want to do. We all keep running into the highs and lows of Web development. As we look to the amazing features that current gen browsers give us we think about apps we could build. Then we come back to reality as we think about getting these apps working on browsers that people use.

A smart man just told me:

The Ajax applications that we rave about now are running on 1997 technology. Take a look at what current browsers can do, and then you will get a glimpse of where we are going.

I want to see as many forces as possible trying their best to get IE 6 users to upgrade (again: to IE.latest is fine!). One way is to develop applications that have amazing functionality that they can’t use unless they upgrade.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 1:59 am

3.5 rating from 32 votes


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There is an alternative in the “middle” of your list which is to tell users how #¤%&/ their browser is if they come in with IE6.
Kind of like I’m doing here;
Though I don’t feel any reasons why we shouldn’t warn against IE in general and I do ALL IE browser versions equally ;)
Hint; try visiting the above link with IE, then try with “anything else”…

Comment by ThomasHansen — December 8, 2008

A lot of posts here assume users are free to upgrade.

Users of applications I help develop are often employees of a corporation whose IT department locks down all the machines in their network and controls the software that is installed.

In many of these environments, it is the IT department that refuses to upgrade to later versions of IE (or any software, for that matter).

We need to focus on ways to encourage the executive-levels within these organizations to see the benefits of upgrading as outweighing the risks or challenges to doing so. In some cases, upgrading could render some of their existing mission-critical applications unusable.
[I know I have worked on more than one application that was specifically targeted to work ONLY in MSIE (ugh, karma!) back in the days when cross-browser development was more difficult, circa 1998.]

So, crippling our sites or admonishing our users is not going to fix that problem. We need a true public-service campaign!

Comment by weusedtocallitdhtml — December 8, 2008

What about the option to start out by having your app serve basic HTML, and progressively enhancing for more modern browsers? If you build this way your stuff will be slick in the latest Webkit, Gecko, etc, yet will still be usable in IE3.

Comment by WillPeavy — December 8, 2008

Unfortunately, big corporations (40K+ employees – I work for one of them) are at the root of IE6’s staying power. IE6 is the standard browser in my company (for intranet usage), and if you have the rights to install IE7/8 or Firefox on your work PC, you’ll get an email from the software police telling you that you’ve installed non-standard software and it will be removed. So blame big corporations for not adopting newer browsers.

Comment by mmastro — December 8, 2008

What about the option to start out by having your app serve basic HTML, and progressively enhancing for more modern browsers?

This really depends on the purpose and audience of your application. If you’re developing a desktop-like application, and its UI is its biggest strength (or to be more blunt, where the UI is the application), then having a degraded version for older browsers isn’t particularly useful.
Web developers are being pulled in opposite directions, and eventually something has to give. Are we developing world-class applications that compete with native GUIs and provide additional value by virtue of being network-oriented while retaining the usability of a real GUI-like behavior… or are we slaves to the Open Web Ideal that requires providing everything to everyone at the detriment of our applications? Here’s a hint: [most] desktop applications aren’t designed to degrade down to text-only, stdin/stdout only, behavior-less functionality, much less to still work in that state.

Comment by eyelidlessness — December 8, 2008

@weusedtocallitdhtml and mmastro
You are right, but I also think you’re wrong. The “average” IE6 user I believe is “average Joe” which bought a computer to “surfe” and “check email”. And these guys we CAN do something about…
Check out (in IE) for an example…
I know for a *fact* that several buddies of mine which are “non-techies” upgraded after visiting any of my sites…
(they *all* give “IE is broken” warnings… ;)
Sure the “huge LLC” guys are also a pain the ass, but the main source for IE6 users are probably “Average Joe”…

Comment by ThomasHansen — December 8, 2008

Thomas is on the right track, but I would be less intrusive about the warning if I could work around the problem. If its guaranteed to break functionality (IE4 and XML technology for example) I would blast a big message up front as well. Perhaps if we focused on the Security side instead of the Richness side we may be able to convince more users/organizations to upgrade.
(You are currently using a browser with a significant security flaw which is preventing this site from working safely, please upgrade your browser)

Comment by TNO — December 8, 2008

TNO, Thomas, there’s always and although the first one now just links to the IE download page.

Comment by lovejs — December 8, 2008

@mmaestro agreed.

Microsoft should REALLY push corporate environments to upgrade-it’s not like m$ needs any incentives! Upgrading all that clientele should result in a boost for them.

Unfortunately for the company I work for we’re looking at 30-40% estimate of IE6 usage in corp users.

Comment by ilazarte — December 8, 2008

When will people wake the fuck up and understand that the internet is a place for _everyone_? Your content should be equally accessible and attractive for all modern browsers, visual disabilities, etc. Your site should work for IE6. IE7. Opera. Konqueror. Safari. Firefox. Links. Mobile browsers (if of reasonable granularity). Jaws (screen readers for the blind).

Get my point? User’s don’t give a rat’s ass that it takes you a while to get IE6 to work. They care that you spent the time to ensure a good user experience on _their_ platform.

With the internet, we have the opportunity to deliver high-quality content to a greater extent of users than ever before. Take advantage of it. Stop being so self-important already. It baffles my mind how few web developers truly understand the true importance and power of this medium.

Comment by tmallen — December 8, 2008

Built any great sites for Lynx lately…? (pun *intended*)
Sorry buddy, our Ajax library works OK in IE6. At our *websites* though I couldn’t care *fucking* (your words) less about IE in *general* in fact, and I’m even past the point where I care to spend energy on IE in regards to websites at ALL…!
If you’re using IE you can use our Ajax library, but our *website* will probably look horrible, and I am *fucking proud* of that fact!!!!
I support standards religiously, this means that we get practically *everything* for *free*. Including Screen Readers, Accessibility, Opera (Mini), iPhone Safari and “your cousin’s ‘fridge’ and ‘toaster'”. Unfortunately it also means IE is OUT…
If I we’re to support IE I would probably loose *several* of the other platforms we support in our websites, and I am *not* interested in sponsoring Microsoft’s “Silverlight launching campaign” (which their lack of interest in regards to following standards probably is at the moment) even though it means I need to annoy 99% of the web users with really intrusive and annoying banners about “your browser is broken” with links to Chrome and FireFox…
…I’d *STILL* do it…
A great man once said (Bob Marley) that;
“You shouldn’t give people what they want, you should give them what they need!” – and in regards to IE a really fucking HUGE banner telling them to either *stop-browsing-the-web* or go get a *real* browser is the *only* sane thing to do…!
Every single pun intended…!
Wake up punk!

Comment by ThomasHansen — December 8, 2008

What you fail to understand is that your users will not grasp the browser issue very often. By and large, they’ll come to your site to be informed of something, or to participate. If the site is broken in certain ways, they’ll walk away rather than download a new browser. And you say that your stuff works in IE6, so you’re not the intended audience of my criticism. Rather, I have a problem with developers who would actively exclude/hinder the user experience for nearly a quarter of web users for the sake of pontificating standards. And while I can be the worst of the standardistas on a bad day, I try not to forget that we’re still just trying to provide a good user experience.

Comment by tmallen — December 9, 2008

OK, I can agree with that…
Standards RULES…!!! :)
(Or maybe “rules” is a bad word, but they’re the only thing we have which separates us from chaos and pain, so therefore they should be obeyed ;)

Comment by ThomasHansen — December 9, 2008

The flame-out aside… the issues faced by my development team are that we could provide a better product for our customers if our customers would simply use another product in conjunction with it. And the *other* product is an absolutely free thing!
That is, simply put, our own users are their own worst enemy when it comes to all of the following categories: performance, richness, and usability. Almost 50% of our users are STUCK with that browser. The other 50% of our users are held back by the LCD.
Until the corporations who benefit from our products understand the issue and find some benefit greater than their pain, they will NEVER upgrade. MS could come out with IE 12 and these corporations would be asking: “why upgrade; the devil I know is better than the devil I don’t know”
It can also be costly for an organization that had custom applications developed in the late 90’s to upgrade, because those applications may not work on other browsers. They may use proprietary IE features, such as xml data islands, html element data binding, htc behaviours, etc. Unfortunately, there really was a time when IE was a better browser to develop for or where cross-browser issues were too great to justify the cost to an organization that had “standardized” on MSIE.
So… how do we as a community help? Do we offer to rewrite the applications that will break? Do we encourage multi-browser environments and education? How can we get users to experience our new applications the way we intend?
I don’t want to hear pontification and idealist banter here. I want to hear the same creative people who can write a JS abstraction layer come up with a creative solution to this real-world problem.
Annoying our users who can’t upgrade won’t help.

Comment by weusedtocallitdhtml — December 9, 2008

@weusedtocallitdhtml – I completely agree. At the same time, we already have workarounds: All non-IE browsers can coexist alongside IE6. IE6 can continue to exist in corporate environments with no new work to update legacy software tailored for it, but IE6 can be rebranded for intranet software use only (possibly blocked from internet browsing?), and FF (or Safari or Opera) can be used for the Web. This will require a change in IT policy for most companies, but little extra cost. The only problem is, what’s the convincing argument that companies should even take the time to re-evaluate their IT policy. Also, it seems apparent that many companies don’t even like to admit to themselves that many workers are surfing the net on company time and don’t want to take steps to encourage it, even though a cost-effective solution exists to this problem. So what’s the argument here? How do you persuade companies to even permit two browsers on company computers?

Comment by karst — December 10, 2008

“Ajaxian Trying to generate more hype than Rails” by rewriting other peoples post and putting it on your own page. i see, quite a sport nowadays …

Comment by randomrandom — December 12, 2008

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