It’s no secret that those of us who do professional web design/development despise Internet Explorer 6. With IE 7 out for a while and IE 8 on the horizon, more and more leading companies and web folk are pressing ahead and dropping / degrading support for the ancient browser.
With Firefox share steadily rising and standards-champions Opera and Safari readily available, is it time for us as modern web designers/developers to press the issue and speed up adoption of modern browsers by no longer supporting Internet Explorer 6?
Joen Asmussen launched his new redesign and is not just dropping support for IE 6, he’s taking a bold stand by refusing to develop for it on any project:
That means users of said browser aren’t welcome here any more. That includes potential clients for my webdesign business; yep, I’m that serious. I won’t build your crap anymore!
And he’s not kidding. IE 6 visitors get a straight-up Get a Modern Browser or Get the Hell Out message. No conditional comments, no alternate styles.
So, Is Joen Right?
Yea, that’s a hell of a statement. It’s one thing to drop support on personal projects or for Apple, who’s audience clearly won’t be using IE 6. But to flat-out refuse to build supported sites for clients? That’s career suicide! Right?
I don’t think so. While I strongly disagree with delivering no content to IE 6 users, I think this is exactly what we need.
OK, so I am absolutely not advocating that we all start ignoring our display issues in IE 6 and telling 25% of the internet to go to hell. Delivering no content to users based solely on their user-agent (browser), device, or hair color flies directly in the face of everything we’ve been preaching about Web Standards.
We separate presentation from content for exactly this reason.
IT Department at work has the company locked-in to IE 6? You can still read this site.
At your grandma’s on her ancient PC running Netscape 4.75 and for some reason want to read this site? You can (well, I think :D Probably have to manually turn off stylesheets).
But you can still read this site.
The beauty of developing with standards, the entire point of graceful degradation is
- Any browser must be able to view the content of the site.
- Any browser must be able to navigate the site.
It’s this understanding that separates the pros from the hacks — We as web designers don’t have control over the end product. You can either plan for it as best you can and build a site that scales to work at some level for everyone, or you can build it in Flash (joke!).
By telling IE 6 users to effectively Fuck Off you are disrespecting and ignoring your users. Which may well be your biggest fan stuck on a public workstation somewhere with no choice of browser just trying to pass the time on her favorite site.
Wait, you said this is what we need…
Yes, absolutely. While I disagree with how Joen implemented it, I completely agree with the reasoning behind it. The more industry leaders forcing the issue and pushing for standards support in web browsers, the more people will follow and the faster advancement will happen. Allan Jardine has already made this point better than I can on his Design bookmarklet suite of web design and development tools:
No IE6 support? Nope. Design and it’s components are designed and developed for you as web-developers and designers, not your clients (who of course still required IE6 support), so I see no need to support it in this case (feel free to disagree!). If we at the front of the field don’t move on, how can we expect the larger community to do so?
Just Be Sure to Do Your Homework
So you’re cooking with Standards, it’s time to ignore IE 6 and rock the hell out of alpha-transparent PNGs and crazy positioning and CSS 2.1 with total disregard for outdated browsers right?
Consider your audience
Are you catering to mainly Mac users (who couldn’t run IE 6 if they wanted to) or the savvy web design crowd? Absolutely time to scale back support or ditch entirely. Targetting a general non-techie niche? You probably still need to support the majority of browsers.
Take a hard look at your web stats.
Visitors on modern browsers gaining and older browsers dropping compared to last year? It might be time to start thinking about working in some alternate styles via conditional comments or drop stylesheets entirely and just serve up raw HTML. Barely an IE 6 user to be seen (like say, less than 10%)? Definitely time to ditch.
At a point in your career…
where you can choose only the projects you most want to work on and/or dictate the terms of your work? Then please, stand up next to Joen and help lead the charge.
Because I’m really sick of wasting my time on ridiculous bugs.