A month ago, I blocked access to visitors viewing these words through the archaic goggles of Internet Explorer 6 (hereafter referred to as IE6). Sporting a tailor made message to said visitors, this block effectively cut off (theoretically) 25% of all visitors.
Reactions were mixed. One commenter suggested that blocking access was drastic and recommended instead that I serve a CSS-style free website instead (it would look like this). Another commenter, Brendan Cullen on his weblog, found the block drastic but welcomed the stand. In both cases, I promised I’d reevaluate the decision in a month.
That means now.
To put it shortly: not having to worry about dealing with Internet Explorer 6 and its bugs and limitations has been one of the best things I’ve done with this website in a while. It’s been a proverbial rock lifted off my chest. I can do things I couldn’t before, I can do them faster, and I can do them without worrying.
There’s been tradeoffs, of course, and counterarguments.
Building websites that do not work in IE6 is just lazy.
Aren’t you “sawing your own branch” and alienating potential clients?
Sure, possibly. I’m also educating them. Potentially that’s the more weighty argument.
In all honesty, most of my clients I haven’t gotten via this website. Clients have found me through recommendations by friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. Clients have phoned me up with their problem and we’ve discussed solutions. What I’ve found is that when I explain to them what’s possible when disregarding IE6, they understand. Perhaps I’ve been lucky.
As such, and this thrills me, I sense that things are in motion to move the web forwards. More and more clients prioritize simplicity, search engine friendliness and modernness in their websites. Either they’ve been burnt enough times by useless Flash websites, or they’re simply starting to understand how the web really works. The bottom line is, I’ve had little or no negative client feedback by blocking a seven year old piece of software.
Blocking access is drastic, compared to alternatives such as not serving CSS.
This is possibly the best argument I’ve heard so far and more than any other argument, one that got me thinking and re-evaluating. Serving a style-free website is so easy, still much less drastic than actually blocking access. On the other hand, the message sent is more vague and less urgent. So, to truly decide whether to change the course, I’ve weighed the various reasons.
- The sense of urgency is somehow lost when access isn’t blocked.
- By not blocking, are we really doing visitors a favor?
- By serving a style-free site, we will be sending a message but possibly we won’t be alienating visitors.
- A blocked visitor might be spiteful and cling to IE6 instead of upgrading.
- A visitor viewing a style-free site might think “this is it” and not get the message.
As much as I want to force people to move on, I’m now leaning towards an unblock. My goal is two-fold: 1) having people upgrade and 2) not having to worry about an old browser. Serving the website without style will accomplish goal #2. If I combine that with a pretty clean message explaining why they’re served a less than ideal view, I might even accomplish goal #1.
Therefore, I’ll now be serving all counterproductive visitors a style-free view of this website, sporting a huge No IE6s badge.