SitePoint Podcast #6: What to do about Internet Explorer 6

Episode 6 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week your hosts are Brad Williams, Patrick O’Keefe, Stephan Segraves, and Kevin Yank.

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Episode Summary

Here are the topics covered in this episode:

Blogging Community JournalSpace Wiped Out

AOL Hometown, Other Free Services Going Dark

Twitter Under Attack

Kevin Rose Disappointed by User Complaints

Main Show Topic: Internet Explorer 6

Thanks for listening! Feel free to let us know how we’re doing, or to continue the discussion, using the comments field below.

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  • meeh

    podcast #6 says what to do about ie6. why are they talking about backups?? 13minutes and counting, and i haven’t heard anything about ie yet. wrong title?

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    meeh,

    The title is correct. As outlined in the episode summary above, and explained at the start of the episode, we run through a number of news stories before we get to the main discussion topic for the show.

  • lisaLJL

    well, when you have to compensate for the basic box-model differences right off the bat, and margin/border/padding doubling on a floated object, you just KNOW you’re in for some fun…!! (i use the term loosely).

    i find it easiest to co-test with IE6 after almost every step of the layout. it is much easier to detect the cause of something that doesn’t look right in an incremental testing manner, than to design the whole page, and THEN test against IE6 (did that once, and only once). it sounds like more work, but you end up with a more stable (visual) base design in the long run.

  • Dave

    While I agree with you lisaLJL, it’s still about time that professional designers/devs change their policy on IE6. I have a few sites running (for specific target groups) where I simply deny people access if they visit with said browser, reminding them that the damn thing is almost 9 years old and providing them with a list of direct links to proper browsers.

    The majority of the users on IE6 just use it because it’s WinXP’s default browser, and they don’t realise there are updates/alternatives available. Eventually another default will come, and hopefully by that time it’s developers will have had a revelation about web standards. One can dream.

    Until that time we’ll continue to at least give users information on why they should switch if they use IE6, and in some cases just deny site access. It will save time for us, and it will only be beneficial for the user in the end.

  • lisaLJL

    Dave, you are absolutely correct. After I posted, I realized the discussion point was “What to do about it”, not “How to Cope With It” (my post was a “coping-strategy”!)

    For a corporate site, intranets, someone in a niche market, or (as with yourself) a specific focus or target group, it is definitely worth-while to take a stand and say “THIS SITE DOES NOT OFFICIALLY SUPPORT IE6″ (and do what you are doing… provide info and links).

    But (in my opinion) if someone is NOT going to read the info, and switch from IE6, they are the same users who will continue to browse the site ANYWAY, and it’s YOUR fault it looks like garbage or doesn’t provide intended functionality.

    (sly smile) … perhaps all web-developers should unite – WDU : Web Designers United (which, ironically, also stands for Windows Desktop Update) and go on strike! I can see the picket-posts already…
    “UPGRADE TODAY – make IE6 go away”
    “1-2-3-4- IE6 is out the door; 5-6-7-8 switch your browser -you’ll feel great!”

  • Dave

    That’s the problem, if you’re working for the average client he’s going to expect that everyone can see his site the way it’s intended. Making mention of the fact that certain users might get a warning to change software before they can visit, or have discrepancies in the layout, makes all fingers point towards you like you said. “For the greater good” won’t be a valid discussion argument there.

    Maybe we ought to stop bashing Vista and pretend it’s like the second coming. At least everyone will start using IE7 then. ^^

  • http://www.sitepoint.com ShayneTilley

    Brad you REAllY don’t like IE6 do you. Every time you let fly I had a good chuckle. Keep up the good work with the cast guys, look forward to the next ep.

  • Genjutsushi

    Dave, you hit the nail on the head:

    “The majority of the users on IE6 just use it because it’s Win XPs default browser, and they don’t realise there are updates/alternatives available.”

    Now whether it’s laziness, ignorance or what I’m not sure, but as a default browser for what is still Microsoft’s most widely used OS I can’t see the end of IE6 in sight. What will it take?! Users to switch OS (hurry up Windows 7) or for developers to just stop supporting it. Surely the latter would be a good incentive for the IE6 users?

    Anyway, another great Podcast guys, thanks.

  • http://lukemorton.co.uk Luke Morton

    First SitePoint Podcast I have listened to, I am going to listen to the rest now :D

    Oh and I hate IE6 but it is a necessary evil which has to be battled with in order to make those paying clients happy unless they have no idea, then I mention it quietly and hope they do not cotton on… does that make me bad? :evil:

  • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

    Genjutsushi,

    Good point too., 6 is default for anyone who had it in a corporate environment or any business for that matter. Though they use the Internet more and more, millions in traditional business and even digital are in the “too uncomfortable to switch” mode. It will not go away soon.

    Always,
    Phil

  • http://bradw.illiams.com Thing

    My IE6 hatred had reached a boiling point after spending countless hours on this new site we just launched tweaking for IE6. It was nice to vent a little :)

    -Brad

  • http://www.olsenportfolio.com/ nrg_alpha

    I for one refuse to support IE6 anymore. Visitors using that browser are automatically redirected to a page basically nudging them to either upgrade or embrace some other browser. The web community should not be punished for Microsoft sitting on their rear ends during the stagnation of IE 6. There are other free choices out there. Just image if the vast majority of sites out there started shutting out IE 6. Yes, it would cause some problems initially, but it would also force the browsing community to move forward and put this ugly browser behind us all.

  • http://blog.afterlight.net.au AussieJohn

    As a web developer for an agency, I still have to support IE6 – fortunately management also sees that there is significant amounts of development time needed for a site to function 100% in IE6.
    After putting forward some recommendations to our compatibility tables only offer “Class 2″ support for IE6. This means that it only has to have “Acceptable functionality or acceptable design”

    This gives us the power to say that if minor things are different, then it conforms with the browser compatibility table the client signed off on.

    We do tend to tailor this for some of our clients though, especially where we deliver to clients with a high corporate audience.

    I’m hoping that later this year we will be able to move to the next level and put IE6 in a “class 3″, where we provide “Reasonable functionality and design” for it only.

  • renars

    I read Sitepoint sometimes, but now i’m just gonna love it. Podcast is great and i just can’t wait for other episodes coming out. Really great job, guys.

    I’m also in that side, which supports upgrading strategy. I agree with those people, who say that not upgrading is a sypmtom of lazyness and also i can add the symptom of “I do not want to think” too. And of course, i certainly agree with POV, which are said by people, who think that people who do not upgrade, don’t even notice the broken places, as we Web developers do see.

    I’m also Web developer and i use to read books about Ie6 hacks and the right way designing Web sites. I found it very useful and interesting, but i do want one Web standard and that’s all. It could turn many people lives much easier.

    *Not about Topic*: I’m a Web developer from Latvia (small country in Baltic States, North Europe border with Russia, Belorussia, Estonia and Lithuania). And only today, i found out, that Sitepoint HQ is in Australia, not in UK, not in USA. I wanted to say that i will go there someday, for work or for holiday, I don’t really know, but i’m sure that i want to go there. I have hosted people from Australia, actually one guy, he told us about your country, i am inspired so much, that you can wish me to get there sooner. :)

    Have a nice day there in Sitepoint! I know that you have evening or very early morning now, difference is 7 or 8 hours.

  • Stevie D

    I for one refuse to support IE6 anymore. Visitors using that browser are automatically redirected to a page basically nudging them to either upgrade or embrace some other browser.

    That’s an appalling way to behave. Locking people out of your site for no other reason than you don’t like their choice of browser is completely unacceptable. By all means offer a design that is sub-optimal, if the essence of it works, but NEVER arbitrarily lock people out.

  • Sojan80

    I just use a conditional comment and feed IE6 the print only stylesheet. They can still read it and see it but they get zero fir user experience.

  • Vivid

    I completely agree with Stevie D. I despise ie6 as much as the next designer/developer, but what makes the Web so great is it’s ability to be accessed from a number of devices, platforms, and applications. While we may like to think of ie6 users as just being ‘lazy’ or ‘ignorant’, the fact remains that some users may not have the ability to upgrade their browsers for various reasons (no admin access at the office, etc.).

    If we follow the principles of progressive enhancement and develop sites from the content-out, we can ensure that the important content is viewable, even though they may not be able to see all the bells and whistles of more compliant browsers.

    Just my two cents. :)

  • Anonymous

    Hi really enjoyed listening to your discussion/podcast. When it comes to people’s reluctance to adopt IE7 – isn’t the major security flaw present in the browser that made UK national news a valid reason to avoid it?
    I have always struggled to get a design looking right in IE, when it looks fine in others but I’m just still learning!

  • http://www.f6design.com/ jnicol

    The 20% IE6 market share quoted is certainly encouraging, but is it accurate? Stats at thecounter.com (http://www.thecounter.com/stats/2008/December/browser.php) indicate that IE6′s market share is much higher: 35%. Whose stats do we choose to trust?

  • http://blog.afterlight.net.au AussieJohn

    @jnicol:
    Never trust statistics. As the saying goes: “If you can’t lie, use statistics”.

    That aside, if you really want to go by statistics for IE6 usage, you can only reliably use stats obtained from the target website or audience. Websites like The Counter and Hitslink (http://marketshare.hitslink.com) will report a higher IE6 usage than other websites such as W3Schools and Sitepoint.com, I always find the stats from W3Schools to be very misleading because their audience consist of a high number of web developers, the kind of people who would use alternative browsers to IE6.

    So, in conclusion, don’t trust statistics, just lie (or the other way around…)

  • bobdobbs12

    Folks. here is an opinion from a disinterested end-user. I find no reason to change browsers. I was an amateur designer, I use internet to shop, pay bills, bank and for research. In other words, it’s a tool. It is very useful, but I refuse to change the way I’ve been doing this for the past (eek!) decade to satisfy anybody elses needs. I must admit, when thinking about what web pages looked like in the mid-nineties, I get a good chuckle and i’m glad that the functionality has been greatly improved, i will have to have a very compelling reason to change. I have unwillingly become a target demographic, so i figure you’re going to have to offer up some incentive. Oh yeah, and I have one of the millions of blackberries that my work issued me that also won’t see a lot of sites. who loses when i’m on the road trying to find the site that isn’t supported?…and you kids better stay off my lawn!
    cheers

  • quba

    The site I work on is an information provider mainly to the corporate world. At the end of last year IE6 was still the most popular browser @ 45%+ of our visits.

    So in order to provide a professional service we need to support IE6, it’s not an option.

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    We have this ‘whether or not to support IE6′ argument on a weekly basis on sitepoint, it seems. But the truth is, a large number of businesses will stick with IE6 because they have systems that require it. I never use IE for normal web browsing, but if I want to use certain purchasing systems at work, I have no choice, because nothing else will work.

    Replacing those systems would be expensive and there’s little motivation to do it. So all of the thousands of computers here have IE6 installed as default. Very few people bother to download an alternative, even if they do have the privileges to do so, which most users don’t.

    Now, it’s perfectly valid to run a site that says ‘screw you’ to all those corporate/institutional visitors, but if you want to sell them something, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

  • http://www.keystonecapitalchorus.org DaveMaxwell

    I’ve worked with government agencies which are still using IE6 because they’ve got thousands of pages of content plus web applications which would need to be retooled to work with the more current browsers. Did it suck Abso-freakin-lutely. But when the agency has more than 5000 machines to maintain, it would be a reliability nightmare to attempt to change browsers.

    So a lot comes down to how much of your business are you willing to lose? 1%? 5%? 30%? And that number don’t seem high until you figure that if your talking 10,000 hits a week, 5% of that would be 500 hits a week. That’s a lot of potential sales to be avoiding.

    Personally, a site I maintain has users that are still running windows 95 and dialup. They aren’t heavy users, and what they have still works for them, so they’ve never bothered to upgrade.

  • Anonymous
  • Michel Merlin

    People KNOW from their or others’ tests that IE7 does NOT fill THEIR needs as well as IE6

    Plenty people, on this page as everywhere on the web, are confidently repeating what some self-appointed gurus have ordered them, like (e.g. above in message http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/01/09/sitepoint-podcast-6-what-to-do-about-internet-explorer-6/#comment-859542 posted Sat 10 Jan 2009 at 4:06 GMT): « The majority of the users on IE6 just use it because it’s WinXP’s default browser, and they don’t realise there are updates/alternatives ».

    Such “compliment” to customers (the ones who should be kings) is easy to endorse since by making customer an idiot, it makes you feel superior.

    As is well known in more mature markets, the reality is the opposite: when you go shopping for a new car, or your wife for curtains, the sales person will immediately know that you or your wife are probably far more instructed and educated than themselves, hence they probably won’t try to teach you what life is.

    In the IT market, new and swift, but immature so far, it’s the opposite: the salesperson is very often too low educated and instructed to guess or discover or understand how far his customers are ABOVE them in life in general, and in understanding the real problems; that young short-equipped person will often feel superior just because they know JS or C# or CMS or whatever bits-and-chips-level technique.

    Now let’s come back to browsers: IE6 is the result of an evolution where MS, sure too slowly, finally understood users’ needs and implemented many badly needed fixes and improvements .

    Unfortunately IE7, whatever its qualities at the bits-and-chips level, is a disaster – from the important POV that is, the one from the CUSTOMERS. Sure IE7 is good for little experienced people (numerous in webmasters, gamers); but for people who like check everything before posting, they need to have at hand a couple dozens web pages open, some with encyclopedic contents, others with ongoing discussion to check or research something. For this, IE6 was OK; IE7 with its uncustomizable interface, its buttons too large and unmovable or unhidable, is an insufferable back step; tab browsing is not a workable option in such context (and won’t be until tab systems get an upgrade). I personally intensively tried IE7 twice (in 2006 and 2007) and came back twice to IE6.

    So please, it’s OK for webmasters to be interested mostly in opening just one window at a time on their screen, OK for them to do everything in the instant hence use no human or machine memory or intelligence; but for regular people, being forced to act like this is just unbearable. And if most people are sticking with IE6 and don’t “upgrade” to IE7, it may be they just are *MORE* educated and instructed than webmasters.

    Versailles, Sat 17 Jan 2009 01:49:20 +0100

  • http://blog.afterlight.net.au AussieJohn

    @Michel:

    As professionals in our industry, we don’t just want people to upgrade to the latest products because we think they should because it makes our lives easier, we also understand that – in comparison with IE6 – browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer 7 give a far better user experience and *far* better security.
    To claim that people sticking with IE6 are more educated and instructed than webmasters could be described as nothing more than a very limited and personal view.

    Your example of a user that needs multiple windows open to perform their web browsing, that is a personal choice for the consumer, they do not need to use the tabs, they can simply open a new window to do their browsing. I have a colleague at work who has upgraded to IE7, but she still prefers to use multiple windows rather than tabs, so she does just that – open new windows for new pages.

    The quote you tried to debunk, “The majority of the users on IE6 just use it because it’s WinXP’s default browser, and they don’t realise there are updates/alternatives”, it is a sad reality, this and the large number of corporate users who cannot upgrade because of corporate requirements and/or policies account for a large number of IE6 users. People use IE6 because it’s the default browser and they don’t know/realise that there are better things out there.

    I’m sorry if this sounds like I’m having a go at you, I’m not – I just can’t bring myself to agree to any of the points you made in your post.

  • Michel Merlin

    Thanks AussieJohn for replying.

    About tab browsing, I was just replying in advance to eventual questioning me why I didn’t use or mention it: I just meant that tab browsing in its current state does not fill the need I had explained (to allow fast and easy comparing pages and DnD-ing between them, with still showing large enough screen spaces for each page). BTW I do use tab browsing in FF3.0.5 and Safari 3.2.1 – for what it does, and with regretting what it doesn’t.

    About the statement I quoted, I do find it too authoritative and disregarding to customers, because it (IMO) implies from them an ignorance and lack of interest that is IMO inaccurate. I think most people are interested in, and saving their time for, tasks more important than diving into browser versions and techniques; if they feel the need, they will dive; if not, they won’t. In case of IE7, upgrading from IE6 is just what happens silently if you don’t bother controlling what http://www.update.microsoft.com does; hence the ones who DON’T “upgrade”, are actively refusing it, hence surely have good reasons; those reasons are often the ones you recall (corporate PCs), but even more often IMO that those people know, by self experience or by people they know and trust, that IE7 will NOT fill their needs as well as IE6 does. And of course most won’t waste time discussing it on forums (as you and I are doing), whence our possible perception that they were inexistent or ignorant or stupid – which IMO they are NOT.

    Versailles, Sat 17 Jan 2009 15:12:50 +0100

  • http://blog.afterlight.net.au AussieJohn

    Michel:

    Don’t you agree though, that if people are actively refusing to upgrade to a better product, it assumes they are informed about said product. This implies that they are a little more savvy than the “average” web user (forgive me for stereotyping here). By assuming that the consumer is informed and smart, I can only wonder why they do not upgrade to a better product.

    If you like, I’ll compare it to the car salesman. A user takes his old Skoda or Fiat to a car dealer to get an upgrade, the upgrade on offer is a Mercedes. Don’t forget, the upgrade is free.

    If someone would refuse this offer, they would be told for sure that they are an idiot, sure they would have to spend some time getting used to the new controls and the fact that the car handles slightly different, but they will have gotten a great deal by upgrading to a far superior product.

    I of course don’t believe users are stupid, but I will try to help to inform users where I can :-)

  • Michel Merlin

    AussieJohn, you are implying at the same time that the “upgrade” is costless, that it is “a better product“, that your customer is “informed and smart“, and that he is actively refusing the upgrade – a set of assumptions oddly inconsistent. And my previous posts contain replies to your new questions – and probably to the next.

    Versailles, Mon 19 Jan 2009 09:05:00 +0100 (Melbourne 19:05:00 +1100)

  • Dave

    I see where you’re coming from <i>Michel Merlin</i>, and yes ofcourse there are still clients that want their site to display flawlessly in IE6. Naturally in case of a commercial website today and in this age, or a site where a product gets promoted, you do not want to disappoint anyone and try to reach as many as you can. Disregarding IE6 is, however much I dislike it, a bad idea in this case. For now.

    It is not a bad idea however to inform your clients (and users, where you can) about the perks that come with sticking to IE6 for them in the first place, and secondly for us. I have asked dozens of them and most simply are not aware of improved browsers and the security threats IE6 poses to them. When I inform them about this most of them show surprise, and ask me what other options they have. Regardless of their user experience with the browser, security should always be one step above usability.

    You called it turning customers into idiots, in short. It’s not reprimanding them for being ignorant, but <i>informing</i> them, making them <i>aware</i> of why they ought to change. If I go to a garage to get my car fixed I can only hope to be treated as someone ignorant of car mechanics, because frankly that’s what I am. It’s not a question of superiority, this is just our line of work and I can only hope we’re better at it than the average Joe.

    We try so very hard not to be ‘yes men’ in what we do at the office here, but try to aid our clients. Not doing so would be doing them a disservice, in my eyes.

  • Mike Mella

    I am the Web Manager for a major Canadian charity. We have 1,300 employees across the country, and the only browser that the IT department (I work in Marketing) has installed on employees’ machines is IE6. No one has admin rights to install anything else of course. Being a Web guy, I find this infuriating.

    It poses a special challenge for me, having redesigned our website just a few months ago. Some companies can argue that IE6 is not relevant because of their user base, but when your entire organisation uses the website in IE6, it damn well better work in IE6.