UltraMega Blog
22Oct/090

The ‘War’ on IE6

Recently I've been noticing a trend among Web developers to "take action" against MS Internet Explorer 6. From putting badges on their Twitter avatars to designing websites to detect and block IE6, many designers and developers are coming up with their own ideas to help end the browser's reign of terror. My question is, are some of these methods appropriate or even in their best interests?

The Problem

I understand that the browser is old, outdated and full of bugs and bizarre behavior. I can safely say no one will miss it if everyone stopped using it; that day will be an awesome day for us. The problem is that IE6 is still in use by a significant portion of internet users (see some browser stats), so the browser is unfortunately still very relevant.

Access Denied

So this is where I question people who outright block this browser from rendering their website. When is it ever a good idea to actively deny access to legitimate users? Unless, of course, your website's core function relies on some special features that absolutely won't work on IE6, it's never a good idea.

The only real justification I've heard on the topic is that it will motivate users to upgrade, but there are a few problems with this. First of all, if someone is still using IE6 after all these years, do you really think they will upgrade now because some random website said so? They will much more likely forget about your site and go back to the search page they came from. Second, there's the large possibility that the user is in a situation that leaves them no choice, such as a school or corporate office.

Unless an overwhelming portion of popular websites take the same approach, this justification just doesn't cut it. I think the real reason is developer time constraints, unwillingness to compromise or just plain lazyness.

My Solution

While I don't have a real "solution" to the "problem," I do have a preferred approach to living with the problem. Ideally, you want at least basic functionality across all browsers currently in use. This can be accomplished by adopting a strategy of progressive enhancement. This should be a rule that all Web developers follow anyway.

Now everything may not work perfectly on every browser, so it may be a good idea to include a notice suggesting users to upgrade for best user experience. This way, you have your motivation to upgrade without breaking your website. This also hopefully takes some of the user's blame away from you if something goes wrong, and shifts it to their old browser.

It's win-win!

Conclusion

  • End discrimination against IE6ers - don't actively deny access
  • Progressively enhance - start simple and build up
  • Make a friendly suggestion to the user about upgrading
  • Remember that some users are stuck with IE6 for reasons out of their control

This was more of a rant than anything, but hopefully I've made some valid points. Do you have an opinion on the subject? Disagree or agree? Please comment with your thoughts!

Posted by Steve

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