Posts filed under Technology

IE6 Is Dead. Long Live IE6!

By , Monday, May 24th, 2010

Skull tattooed with ie6 logo

R.I.P. IE6

Those of us who build websites for a living have been waiting to see the door hit Internet Explorer 6 on its way out for a very long time now. It could be that the day long awaited is right around the corner.  And it may be that that is a very big corner, and that there are traffic cops making us walk really, really slow.

My wish to see the end of this seriously out-dated browser is not purely selfish, though there is definitely a good amount of frustration I’ll be happy to do away with. Every time I have to create a separate stylesheet to control IE6′s idiotic treatment of width+margins+padding (the box model, for those in the know) I sigh and dream of a day when all browsers display identical HTML in identical ways. I want to use the more sophisticated transparency properties of 24-bit PNG graphics without having to add buggy JavaScript so that IE6 will display the transparency instead of an ugly grey box. I’d love to be able to use more sophisticated CSS3 (2 even!) to style elements without having to add all kinds of classes and ids to them. Cleaner HTML: faster to load, faster to code, easier to maintain. All kinds of better!

So that’s the selfish part. There is another part of me that knows many hours spent on a website design project goes toward simply fixing things that “break” in IE6. It’s not uncommon that, at the end of a typical site build, clients have paid a few thousand dollars just to get IE6 to show the site exactly the same as newer versions of IE or Firefox do.

For all of us, life without IE6 would be an improvement. So why are people still using it? There are a few reasons, really. First, some people are using computers they’ve had for years and have just never felt the need (or known how) to upgrade their browser. Maybe they are on dial-up modems and tying up the line for an hour or so while the new browser downloads is just not worth it.

Second, there are users who are prevented from upgrading by their IT departments. It may be that their organization relies on applications developed years ago using short-sighted programming techniques targeted specifically for what was then the best browser on the market. Allowing users of systems like these to upgrade may require a substantial investment to re-engineer those applications.

Third, there are those who just don’t care.

As someone who is concerned with the usability of the web and who wants websites we build to be usable for everyone, I have to be concerned about all three of those types of IE6 users. Ok, more the first two groups than the last ;)  Here is where things get tricky. I’m no longer talking about “looks exactly like” I’m talking about “is usable.” I want all users of the sites we build to be able to find what they are looking for, engage with the organization in all the ways that they want, and to feel that they are getting the same, complete experience out of a website that any other user of that website does.

It’s not just me either. Microsoft Australia has a campaign in which you can send sour milk to your friends who are still using IE6 to equate using nine-year-old browser to the risks of drinking milk the same age. The information on the site claims that IE8 detects malware and phishing 85% and 83% of the time, respectively, making it one of the most secure browsers available today. While its comparisons to other new browsers from Firefox to Opera may be disputed by makers of those browsers, that it is safer to browse the internet using IE8 than IE6 is beyond dispute.

As websites continue to get more sophisticated and we ask more and more of designers and developers, the need to be able to use current technologies and solutions is becoming more and more important.  HTML5 is on its way (sloooowly), and CSS3 is pretty much here.  All indications are that IE9 will support the new standards in a way that it never seemed Microsoft was terribly interested in before.  It will have to…the others are forging ahead daily and Opera, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox will likely get there first.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Filed Under: Technology, Web, Web Design