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Syed Saadullah Shah
Syed Saadullah Shah

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Is IE6 Dead Yet?

Floating around forums I've noticed this question still being asked a lot: "Do I still have to support IE6?" and often the the answer you see is that it represents such and such percent of web users, and that's too many to ignore. The truth is, the number of IE6 users varies greatly from site to site.

Some of my sites still have as much as 20% IE6 users, and others less than 1%. So, on some I ignore IE6 altogether, and others I try to accommodate it as much as possible without going to extreme lengths, while with a few I'm fully shackled to it. Unfortunately there's no getting around the fact that IE6 still exists.

Most of the time it's easy to support IE6. The questions I ask myself when deciding to what extent I'll support IE6 include (in no particular order):

Can I afford to alienate this group of users?

In other words, is this a large proportion of my user base?

If my users are not particularly computer savvy or perhaps they don't upgrade their computers very often, or wouldn't know how to update their system software, chances are they're running an old version of Windows and have no idea what they're missing.

Can I risk losing this group?

Do I need to build my site in a way that will be costly or difficult to maintain for IE6? Sometimes it all comes down to cost. I've worked for companies that have drawn the browser support line above where the web design community's consensus sat. Sometimes this was due to user statistics, sometimes the complexity of having to maintain this compatibility. Facebook displays a warning to IE6 users that the site might not work properly for them and offers some links to help them upgrade/switch.

I've seen the same on other sites. I think this is the right approach: it doesn't turn the users away, but doesn't bend too much to accommodate them, choosing instead to help them move toward an overall better experience.

Should my profession lead, or follow?

At what point does the cost, both monetary and in terms of progress, outweigh the benefit of supporting a technology? To draw what I think are valid comparisons: should we still drill for oil when the day comes that only a handful of internal combustion die-hards are buying gas? Should your neighbourhood shop still give out plastic bags when you're one of the few who can't get used to carrying around a reusable one?

Should we resist change because a minority of the population can't or won't? I personally feel that when a web browser starts to stand in the way of the progress of our medium, we ought to help it fade away peacefully.

Was the browser developed at the beginning of the Bush Era? Internet Explorer 6 was released on August 27, 2001. As of this writing that was almost 8 years ago. Let's see.. in mid-2001 Google was a private company, Yahoo looked like this, 9/11 hadn't happened yet, macromedia still existed, Flash was in version 5, and Barack Obama wasn't even a US Senator. A lot has happened since then, including Internet Explorer 7 & 8, Safari, Firefox, and 4 major versions of Opera. The Internet is a different place, and it needs to be seen as it's meant to be seen today, not through the lens of 2001 web browser technology.

Will not supporting this browser hurt my client's business?

This is the most important one I think, because at the end of the day our task is to help our clients express their message, and interact with their own clients and customers. If it's mission critical to them that a certain browser be supported, then it is our job to make sure it is. Sometimes this requires a higher budget and some explanation of why that fancy feature they want is a no-go.

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