Ditching Internet Explorer 6, One Month Later

no_ie6s

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.

This is both true and retrosexually untrue. It’s true that not having to worry about Internet Explorer 6 saves you hours, possibly days of extra work. That fact alone should—if not entirely dispell—then at least muddy the “lazy” argument a bit. More importantly, however, some things are just not possible in IE6. Things such as transparency, very complex and/or crowded layouts and even some JavaScript features are lacking. It’s no coincidence that both Google, Apple and even Microsoft themselves are phasing out support for Internet Explorer 6.

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.

12 thoughts on “Ditching Internet Explorer 6, One Month Later”

  1. I stopped supporting IE (all versions) on my site when I did Invader about a year and a half ago or so, and it was the best thing I did for my own health with that site since I started it. But then, my site is entirely a hobby project, since I don’t do any freelancing, so I obviously don’t have to consider the same things that you do. But in the ‘blogosphere’ community it’s still something of a hot-button topic I think; at least I got several mails from people on the subject. But I never once regretted having done it.

    It sounds so hauty-tauty, but I don’t even consider IE when I do design these days; even the stuff I do for Habari. I’m of course fortunate that I’m on OS X, and thus simply don’t have access to the damned thing. But even if I did, I wouldn’t spend more than an hour or two adjusting for it, simply in the name of being progressive about the web.

    IE7 is better, but it still isn’t good, and in a perfect world I honestly think Microsoft should be punished for their ass-backwards attitude to the web by having all web designers dumping support for all their browers by tomorrow, until they shape up their game.

    Amazingly, my new design works 95% in IE7, which means I won’t be ditching it just now. But the moment it causes me any frustration, I’ll cut off its hand faster than you can say: “Is the CSS 3 spec ever going to be finished?”

    Thank Science that Mozilla and Apple are implementing stuff like rounded corners on their own so we don’t have to be stuck in 2002.

  2. As a webdesigner, I believe you made a very good choice. First and foremost, Internet Explorer 6 is an old beast that, unfortunately, still rears its ugly head. Educating users to update this archaic piece of software or switch to a better browser altogether is very important.

    Besides, people who are genuinely interested in your website and the topics you write about probably aren’t typical IE6 users.

  3. Dave Child says:

    It is really difficult to get the balance right. If everyone worked hard to ensure everything worked in IE6, nobody would ever move on. But on the other hand, people are perfectly entitled to use IE6 if they want, however bad it is. I’m leaning towards stripping css for IE6 on my site soon too, but that’ll probably now wait until the next round of design.

    Like the nice big logo though. No leaving any room for ambiguity :). Planning to turn it into a poster too?

  4. Joen says:

    Michael,

    I remember you ditching IE6 in favor of transparent backgrounds a while ago. I think subconsciusly that must’ve influenced me. Nonetheless I share your joy in not worrying bout IE6.

    Alexander,

    Besides, people who are genuinely interested in your website and the topics you write about probably aren

  5. Thom says:

    Good decision. My feeling is that blocking anyone’s access to a website is a bad idea. I think it sends the wrong message – too similar to sites that used to stop you from viewing them in anything but IE or all of the crummy Flash-based sites nowadays that have no alternative viewing mode.

    Oddly, I’m commenting in IE7. I switched over from Firefox to see what it looked like before realizing that I don’t have access to a single computer with IE6…

  6. duan says:

    You expressed what i felt about internet explorer!

    I fell in love with firefox the moment my sister introduced it to me

    I like the layout and the tab browsing with over 10 tabs and it doesn’t lag at all.

    Best part about firefox is the NoScript firefox extension which block all unknown script which means that it is safe from spywares and adwares

    Well download it and im sure you’ll love it

  7. Bramick says:

    I was impressed by the bold move back when you enacted the no IE6 policy.

    Maybe you should start a club 🙂

  8. Joen says:

    Maybe you should start a club 🙂

    This guy already did 😉

  9. Nice one Joen. I must admit that I haven’t tested my websites in IE6 for some time. In fact, I very rarely test in even the latest version(s) of IE. I try to make my websites as standards-compliant as possible, I style with CSS and I endeavour to avoid fancy tricks where possible. If my sites render badly in IE (but they’re okay in Safari, Opera, Firefox, etc.) then I couldn’t care less, regardless of IE’s market share – I’ve done my bit, the rest is down to the browser developers.

  10. joel says:

    While I understand entirely your view on not testing in IE6 I think it is a bit lazy; pretty much everything you can do in Firefox you can do in IE6 with a bit of extra effort through extra css and javascript hacks for transparency. Having a website display in it’s pixel perfect form across all the currently used browsers is what all clients want for their websites and is what they pay money for and I think people would be put out if they thought that someone wouldn’t bother making a site look correct in IE6 just because it was more difficult.

  11. Joen says:

    Joel,

    pretty much everything you can do in Firefox you can do in IE6 with a bit of extra effort through extra css and javascript hacks for transparency.

    “pretty much” and “extra effort” are the key words here.

    Yes, pretty much (but certainly not everything) can be made to work in IE6, if we account for 99% of all the webpages out there.

    But what about fancy CSS2 and CSS3 features? Most of those allow for super advanced features that IE6 comes nowhere near.

    Also, extra effort — depending on the web project — can translate to considerable extra effort. Not only that, but sometimes the very weight of having to make things work in IE6 means developers have to sacrifice features.

    So I totally disagree with you on that point.

    having a website display in it

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