Support for IE6: It’s all About Accessibility

Internet Explorer 6 Logo

With the release of IE8, there’s excitement in the air about ending support for IE6. Will 2009 be the year in which everyone can drop IE6 support for good?

You’ve probably seen the anti-IE6 campaigns (Stop IE6, Bring Down IE6, End 6); some are well-intentioned like Browser Upgrade Information, while others have all the subtlety of a witch hunt, like the Shockingly Big IE6 Warning plugin for WordPress. Before we all decide to burn IE6 users at the stake, I think we need to gain some perspective about who’s still using IE6 and why. Here’s an anecdote I can offer that will hopefully convince you that IE6 users are not an amorphous cloud of faceless evil.

In a previous job I worked for an architectural company, developing their intranet and web site. With regards to IT policy this company is far from conservative, often researching new technology with a view to improving their core product: excellent design. A few years ago, just before IE7 was released, the company made the decision to purchase a feature-filled, web-based project management and accounting system. It would considerably improve project management across the company — but was only compatible with IE6.

Compatibility with IE7 was promised, but only delivered at the end of 2008. The IT manager has avoided upgrading the company to IE7, opting to wait for IE8. Luckily — thanks to some clear-headed thinking on Microsoft’s part — IE8 can behave as IE7, so they’ll be able to upgrade to IE8 and use the IE7 mode for their intranet. They have over 200 employees and only a small number of IT staff to manage the upgrade. It will probably happen this year, 2009.

You may be wondering why they’ve chosen to stay with Internet Explorer, rather than installing another browser for their everyday web browsing. The company uses Windows roaming profiles; this allows the architects to use any workstation in the company as they move between project teams — sometimes between offices in different states. Windows group policy features are also used to manage employee credentials, permissions, and software settings more efficiently. Internet Explorer supports both of these tools very well, unlike other browsers. Why install a second browser that would only increase the workload of the small but efficient IT support team?

The architects at this company would be unable to act if presented with a message that their browser software should be upgraded. Such a message would be little more that an annoyance, or worse if their access to a site was restricted. It’s an accessibility issue.

IE6 is still averaging around 20% of web traffic, so preventing IE6 users from accessing your web site is the wrong approach to take. I’m doubtful whether messages encouraging them to update their browser is going to help either. It’s also inadvisable to simply stop testing in IE6. A rational approach is needed, one that considers what percentage of your sites’ visitors use IE6, and what experience you should provide for them.

Conditional Comments: Workarounds for IE6

Conditional comments are the best way to control the experience of your IE6 users. At the very least, IE6 users should be able to view your content. Using the confusingly named "downlevel-revealed" conditional comments you can hide all CSS from IE6 (and earlier versions), revealing only unstyled content:

<!--[if gte IE 7]><!-->
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" 
      href="style.css"/>
<!--<![endif]-->

This is a similar approach to using @import to hide CSS from Netscape Navigator 4. CSS support in NN4 was broken and could crash the browser, which justified that drastic approach; IE6 is far more capable than NN4. The second option is to make a separate, simple but usable layout for IE6. For example, if your site’s layout has multiple columns, make a single column layout for IE6. IE6 is served a special style sheet, while all other browsers are served the standard style sheet:

<!--[if gte IE 7]><!-->
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" 
      href="style.css"/>
<!--<![endif]-->
<!--[if lt IE 7]>
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" 
      href="ie6-layout-style.css"/>
<![endif]-->

The third option is to serve up the standard layout to IE6, but add a few fixes here and there, so that there may be some differences in the IE6 version. All browsers except IE6 are served the standard style sheet, while IE6 is served the standard style sheet plus the special IE6 style sheet. Using the cascade the special style sheet overrides some of the standard style rules to fix IE6 problems:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" 
    href="style.css"/>
<!--[if lt IE 7]>
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" 
      href="ie6-fixes-style.css"/>
<![endif]-->

An alternative approach, if the above is unsuited to your method of managing styles, is to use conditional comments to modify the body tag, like so:

<!--[if gte IE 7]><!-->
  <body>
<!--<![endif]-->
<!--[if lt IE 7]>
  <body class="ie6">
<![endif]-->

By doing the above, you simply preface a style rule selector with the class selector ".ie6" to make an IE6-only rule.

Whatever you choose to do, it has to make sense for your site. Research how many IE6 users visit your site and try to find out who they are. Some excellent articles have been written recently about how to deal with IE6:

So how will you deal with IE6?

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  • SoreGums

    I’m inclined to go the route of no “fancy” stuff (pretty drop downs, ajax forms, etc) and make sure the site is functional/simple, content is king.

  • AspenDew

    I agree that it’s all about accessibility – but accessibility to content or accessibility to design? I wrote about this a few weeks ago and suggested a two-phase approach based on content/accessibility and enhancement/design. http://www.aspendew.com/?p=192

  • fproof

    I think the case of the architectural company is pretty exceptional. Besides, this scenario would probably only occur in a corporate environment. So, like in my case, if your site is mainly visited by youngsters, I don’t think they’re still using IE6 because of company restrictions. For that site (with over 7000 UV’s/day) the web traffic generated by IE6 also dropped to only 10% last month.
    We’re redesigning the whole site now, and we’re using a lot of png24 images without a ‘hack’ to make them transparent in IE6. We might provide an extra page where we explain why the site looks slightly different in IE6 and why they should consider to upgrade.

    In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with showing a subtle upgrade message, as long as it does not prevent your visitors from browsing the site with IE6. An upgrade would be better for both the user, the developer and the web in general. A little education can never be bad.

    Over here we have the possibility to fill in our taxes online since a couple of years. Doing that is beneficial: you get more time to submit it, and much of the data is prefilled. Of course you can still fill out the paper forms and post it by mail as well, but in 10 years they will probably drop that possibility to save costs and run the financial department more efficient. At that point it’s a matter of offering a solution to those people that still won’t have internet access.
    Same story with digital TV. In 2 years the analog signal will be removed from the cable. Bad luck for those that still haven’t installed a decoder, but I’m pretty sure that when the moment is there, it will take no longer than a couple of days before all of them will have upgraded their TV set. Cable companies offer it for free, so what’s the catch.
    So what I’m trying to say is that at some point you need to drop old systems even though a minority is still using it, on the condition that you offer a democratic solution to those that are still using the old system. This allows to move on to a next level.

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

    fproof, you are right that the majority of users of IE6 are probably in a corporate environment. But that’s still a lot of customers who may well use their work computers to do their shopping and/or browsing. Hell, I’m typing this from my day job.

    For young people, I wonder how many use school computers that are still running IE6? In schools this may be a due to lack of funds to upgrade machines or lack of sufficient IT support to install other browsers.

    To me, 10% of users seems like a significant percentage. If it dropped to 5%, that’s when I think that personally I would stop worrying about the way it looked in IE6.

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    I’ve been using conditional comments on the body tag a bit recently but I’m still offering the same experience to IE6 users as everyone else.

  • Stevie D

    I get almost as many visitors to my site who use IE6 as who use Firefox (all versions). I get more visitors using IE6 than using Safari, Opera, Chrome, mobile/PDA and other browsers combined. To me, it’s a complete no-brainer that IE6 must be supported – even though some aspects of the user experience won’t be quite as good.

    I also have to put up with a corporate network that is stuck with IE6 – we have well over 1000 employees, possibly more, and despite a significant number of staff repeatedly pestering the IT department asking for the option to run Firefox or Opera, it looks like we will have nothing but IE6 for the foreseeable future. It isn’t as uncommon as you would think.

  • ckb

    Thanks for the rational, reasoned, businesslike viewpoint, Andrew. It’s refreshing.

    I’ve seen — and been aghast by — so, so many opinions about “dropping support for XYZ dysfunctional, obsolete browser, the heck with the remaining [10 | 15 | 20] percent of site visitors.” These arguments have gone on since Netscape Navigator 4 was still in the picture, or perhaps even before.

    What reasonable business deliberately insults, substantially reduces services for or excludes 20% of its potential customers, or 20% of it’s customer’s customers?

    Let’s face it; coding for IE6 is (somewhat of) a pain, but it’s not about those of us who code HTML/CSS/JavaScript. It’s about the _visitors / customers_ to the Web site. They are the ones who get to decide. Not us.

    Thanks again Andrew.

  • mrhoo

    Good article. If a user cannot view and use the site, you lose more than he does.

  • fproof

    Really? Is it always up to the customers to decide?

    My mom was still using Windows 98 when Microsoft decided to drop support. My father still hasn’t a TV decoder because he is comfortable with his old remote control, still the analog signal will be dropped. Gmail stopped supporting IE6 at the time I was still using that browser. Or try finding some new spare parts for your 5-year-old PC. And so on and so on…

    People don’t like changes, and some people will just never change their habits unless (gently) pushed to. If you want to hold on to endless backwards compatibility, you’ll end up like Microsoft (compared to Apple f.i.) and see your innovation speed slow down.
    And there is a difference between insulting and educating/informing people Andrew.

  • TheBuzzSaw

    I was just about to mention something similar to fproof’s comment. No one showed me much sympathy when I was upset that games started requiring Windows 2000 and not Windows 98 even though my hardware was plenty capable. I am mystified as to why the world suddenly takes a 180 when it comes to Internet browsers. Suddenly, it is socially acceptable to run an ancient program, and it is the developer’s job to enforce compatibility?I have read this story at least a dozen times: “IE6 is still around because big companies still run on data management systems that do not work in any other browser.” Today’s story simply expands that to add “and it is too difficult for the IT team to manage a second, more modern browser.” Really? This is whom our sites are marketed to? People still at work? Stupid! Those browsers should not be part of the overall Internet’s browser statistics! Those are workstations, not browsers!Also, I don’t buy IT’s excuse of “it’s hard to manage group policies for another browser” or whatever. If it’s too hard for them, they have to deal with a broken Internet. It’s not the world’s job to cater to this incredibly stubborn/ignorant group. Regardless, these users can just go home and use a better browser there. I honestly hope they’re not bound by some crazy group policy there.Death to IE6. I charge clients a considerable fee for supporting IE6 because it requires a significant amount of extra work to match standards-based quality. I still have yet to hear any valid arguments for supporting IE6 (aside from the client willfully paying to support it). I refuse to spend hours of work fixing issues that the user can fix in 10 minutes or less.

  • TheBuzzSaw

    OK, my comment didn’t match my preview. Thanks a lot, Sitepoint. >_>

    I lost all my linebreaks.

  • arts-multimedia

    I wanted to stop supporting IE6 myself until I discovered that loads of people in the social sector are still using it. Especially governmental organizations have to deal with old computers, so for me, it will be a while before I can drop support, otherwise, I will get loads of complaints from clients and that is bad for business.
    That said, I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here that life goes on and that we can’t keep supporting old stuff.

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    Great article Andrew…
    I’m not a fan of IE6 but conditional comments and MS Virtual PC (or VirtualBox) are my friends and there’s no need to dumb down the site just for IE… Once in a blue moon I’ll pull something off with display:none if it’s too much hastle but that only occurred once.
    I would love to drop IE6 support for good but I have heard many stories that match the scenario you describe. JQuery seems to work well in IE6 too so supporting IE6 for a while longer is really nothing to get our panties in a knot over. Eventually it will fade into oblivion.

  • http://smithsrus.com douglsmith

    I regularly check my analytics to see what percentage of site income comes from IE6 users. As long as that is significant, I’ll cater to them in at least a limited way. For some sites the time to drop IE6 has already past, but for others it will have to wait a while.

  • jylyn

    I don’t understand how the use of conditional comments to add a class to the body tag works.
    Wouldn’t you still have to have a body tag outside the conditional comments, leaving IE6 users with two body tags? If my understanding is correct, browsers other than IE disregard the conditional comments, which means that in the example you’ve shown, they would not have an opening body tag at all?

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/articlelist/487/ Andrew Tetlaw

    @jylyn, It’s probably not clear, but the first one is a downlevel-revealed conditional comment, which means IE6 (and earlier) will ignore it.

  • jylyn

    Yes, but won’t Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc ignore it too? Leaving them with no body tag?

  • nightwatchman

    The last web-site I did was for a guy who chose to ignore IE6 because he was sitting next to me during most of the design and build procedure, he previously built and hosted 400 sites back in the pre-IE4 days and hadn’t touched a web-site since.

    After taking much more time to work-around the first IE6 issue than it took to conceive and build, next time we got a new feature up and I suggested we run it through IE6 for a look he said “No, why waste our time?”

    I explained browser usage figures, and the inability of many corporate users to upgrade and he laughed. He scoffed that “It’s no wonder they can’t upgrade, if we keep filling IE6 up with content and they can access it, they can’t justify an upgrade to their finance department! He said “F^*k’em! Any moron can download and instal a browser, they won’t instal Firefox or Safari, why should we pander to them.” “But they need to know, they need to understand, they have no idea how much effort is required to support their whim, WE need to educate them”.

    This guy is not a complete moron, he is the local deputy mayor, and recently saw over a million dollars of ratepayers money spent by council staff ensuring that users could access the Shire web-site from IE6. The entire site cost about 1.3 million. He said “These lazy people, greedy corporations and Windows pirates just cost our community a swimming pool, a kindergarten or several upgrades to public facilities”.

  • Justen

    The basic point you’re making here is that IE6 is used by a few companies because their intranets do not work in other browsers. I accept that, this is not new information. The question here is a question of cost/benefit. My development time is increased substantially – sometimes 30-40% – to support IE6 even with a reduced featureset compared to a modern browser. Often IE6’s performance is too poor to really make it an option at all. So I have two options.

    I can develop for IE6 as the primary platform, as we’ve been doing for the past decade. This means that I drop anything that does not work well in IE6, reducing features and aesthetics accordingly – no transparent PNG background-images, no demanding javascript, no CSS features that don’t work well in IE.

    Option two, I can develop for modern browsers. If something doesn’t work I can let it gracefully degrade in IE or provide the user with a warning that I cannot support this feature in IE6.

    The answer is pretty much … “DUH!” I can reduce features and aesthetics for 80% of the audience or I can make sure that the 20% gets an identical experience to the 80%. No contest, no question. I develop for the 80% and do as little as possible for the other 20%.

    The next question is, how much is the product I’m working on targeted toward people who are viewing it from work on a corporate network that requires IE6, anyway? Do I want or need to support people who are screwing around on the net against company policy? Am I going to see income from these people anywhere in proportion to the added effort it takes to support them completely? Probably not.

    Last but not least, suppose I’m an IT technician instead of a web developer for a bit (and I used to be). What is the cost of running IE6 vs. the cost of upgrading? IE6 is full of security holes, exploits, and general dysfunction that generates a large amount of work for me. Maintaining IE6 often means forgoing system updates that depend on IE7 being installed. How many months or years before the man-hours spent directly because of IE6 issues exceeds the cost of hiring a developer to apply the relatively simple CSS tweaks and bug fixes that it will take to get my intranet running in IE7, IE8, or on a better browser platform? I haven’t done the math personally, but I’m willing to bet it does not work out in IE6’s favor.

    What if the web development world made a concentrated effort to push IE7/8 upgrades the way the rest of the software development world pushes operating system and hardware upgrades? Can you imagine if every program written had to run in Windows 3.1 on up, or if every game had to run on a Pentium 1/Voodoo 3/64mb ram? How much would be lost compared to the gain of supporting people who don’t feel like upgrading? That is the situation we face right now in web development, and it’s baffling that there is any argument about the merits of continuing on this path.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/articlelist/487/ Andrew Tetlaw

    @jylyn, it’s hard to see with all that messy code, but if you look carefully you’ll notice that the normal body tag is actually a piece of HTML sitting between two standard HTML comments. Non-IE browsers will completely ignore all those comments and just see a standard body tag.

  • nightwatchman

    The whole IE6 support situation seems to me like sycophantic grovelling along the lines of “The customer is always right!”

  • jylyn

    OK, I think I see what you’re getting at. That’s very clever!

  • Wink0r

    The webmaster at http://www.chevrontexacobusinesscard.com/ should read this. This is a site that is oriented to business users. They were IE only (and still are), but recently they have restricted this to IE-7. I am a FF user, but I could access the site with IETab previously. IE-7 replaced my icons for websites in folders with the IE page icon. I use the icons for visual navigation. I removed IE-7 from my computer and told Microsoft not to push it on me through Update. To check on my business account with Chevron I must now go to another computer on which IE-7 is installed.

  • http://www.yellowshoe.com.au/ markbrown4

    Can’t say I agree that conditional comments are the best way to fix IE6.

    An occasional hasLayout filter is all that I really need.

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    We’ve also taken a hard line at IE6 recently. You get a warning screen and some text explaining that you will be experiencing a degraded site due to the browser’s outdated capabilities.

    And that’s it. If they wish to keep viewing, no matter how crap it will look, that’s their problem.

    When Blizzard said “World of Warcraft will require X Y Z hardware”, did they pander to the users who refused to upgrade? Nope. Upgrade or don’t play.

    WoW makes a LOT of money every month. Obviously the hard stance they took has not affected them in any way.

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    I don’t think the video game example works with websites… With a popular video game, the consumer knows very well what they are looking for and are willing to do an upgrade to get it. With a website in most cases, they don’t know what they are looking for and it’s our job to present it to them. If you don’t want to cater to IE6, that’s fine but it’s not difficult to do so why not?

  • Tor

    In Norway every major site have joined a campaign where we give the IE6 user a message to upgrade. It works. The minister in charge of public IT (among others) supports our campaign. Major companies have started to upgrade. Every week we can see significant decrease in IE6 percentage. See ie6.forteller.net

  • Anonymous

    Let IE6 die, doesn’t mean that People can’t look at your site. It only doesn’t look good in IE6. It’s not my problem when the IT stays with old software. But it cost me a lot of time to fix this old browser. And in the end it only belongs to sites that the customer surfs to when he is at work.

  • Stevie D

    Same story with digital TV. In 2 years the analog signal will be removed from the cable. Bad luck for those that still haven’t installed a decoder, but I’m pretty sure that when the moment is there, it will take no longer than a couple of days before all of them will have upgraded their TV set. Cable companies offer it for free, so what’s the catch.

    There is a big difference here. Digital TV requires completely separate broadcasting networks to analogue, and I think the two are mutually incompatible, so to broadcast analogue and digital in the same area would be extremely expensive.

    People using IE6 don’t need to go to a completely separate website, they just need the ordinary website to be set up in such a way that they – and people using all sorts of assistive technology that won’t be able to cope with the high-flying site – can access. Making a website accessible to IE6 is not rocket science, it is not difficult, time-consuming or expensive if your website is built properly in the first place.

  • Jeff

    Build to web standards. Use progressive enhancement.

    It is simply a mistake and a waste of time to pander to non-compliant browsers. When those browsers die (and they will), all the time you spent learning these hacks will be for naught.

  • http://www.qiboo.com artemis

    I worked for one of the largest fashion chains in the UK with a few thousand staff until recently. The company had only 1 computer with IE7 everyone else had to use IE6 because the operating system in use was win2000. This was due to many reasons, prioritisation over IT projects that actually bring in money, a number of old retail software and hardware systems that didn’t support newer operating systems, compatibility across the whole company etc etc etc.

    I would like to see IE6 support dropped tomorrow but it is not possible for everyone in this world to keep up.

    Also not mentioned so far are those in developing countries with old computer equipment.

  • Anonymous

    I’d love to move from IE6 – if IE8 actually worked. On my machine (Dell D630), it has some bizarre interaction with Excel. After using Excel for a while, everything that requires HTML rendering (Help, Outlook, Messenger, IE) stops displaying images, and eventually locks-up completely. Eventually Excel locks up too. Killing EXCEL.EXE brings everything else back to life.

    I have un-installed and re-installed IE8; WinXP; Office, and eventually reformatted and started again – all to no avail. IE6 never fails, I can 100% guarantee to make IE8 fail. I really don’t have time for this sort of garbage. I no longer care about IE8 – I’m using Firefox instead.

  • MrBaseball34

    What I don’t get is why some companies REQUIRE Internet Explorer for certain applications regardless of version. If I don’t want to use IE for my browser, they shouldn’t lock me out of their app.

    Take, for instance, my electrical service provider. Their online billpay is IE only but I use only Firefox, I must keep IE around to use their billpay feature and my cries have fallen on deaf ears.

  • arts-multimedia

    Placing a message to upgrade is a good idea, as long as it doesn’t pop up every time because that becomes annoying for users who have no control over their working environment. So, I would use cookies to detect is a visitors with IE6 comes up for the 3rd time and then stop showing it.

    If your client has IE6, you better do not pull a stunt like that, though. Telling them to upgr

  • Shaymein

    20% of web traffic?… what is that based on or where do you come up with that number?… curious.

    Good article though.

  • fproof

    @Stevie D
    Right now both the digital and analogue signal are available through the same cable, so I don’t think they are incompatible.

    Besides, I never said that websites should be inaccessable for IE6. I’m just saying that they might see a site that renders slightly different and might lack some extra functionality. That’s all.

    And I’ve seen many designs that easily take 30% more time to convert into html/css (just think of flexible shadow borders on different backgrounds without over-using png fixes and you’ll know what I mean). In those cases most of the time we asked the designer to change the design a bit so that we’re not forced to use hacks. Changing the design takes time too.
    So I don’t think you can say that building a IE6-compatible site is not time-consuming. For some sites it doesn’t make much difference indeed, but for other sites it really really does.

  • TC

    The argument used in this posting is specious, IMO. What it boils down to is that you have a company that has decided to save money by running an old software product that that was poorly implemented in the first place. The proposed solution? Everybody else should spend their money to get their modern software to meet some requirements that were questionable 5-8 years ago. Come on.

  • Griffith

    The company I worked for has simply decided to stop going out of it’s way to try to include functionality that modern browsers support in IE6.

    We will always ensure that dropdown menus and such work on the aging browser, but instead of trying to support transparencies and find alternatives for some CSS selectors we will simply let IE render the page the best it can, and not punish the IE6 user with big libraries that slow down the site and the browser.

    From our perspective, the main two reasons why people in our region still use IE6 are because of their ingenuity or because they have slow computers. We would rather give them a tuned down visual and good performance than nice visuals with a very bloated experience.

  • gilzow

    Our shop builds only 100% XHTML+CSS compliant sites. We recently have stopped fixing IE6 issues in our designs. We don’t display a warning message or anything about the user needing to upgrade. We simply don’t guarantee that the site will look the same in IE6 as it will in every other modern browser. Why? Because it was literally taking our designers/developers upwards of 30% more time to go back and hack up perfectly valid, standards compliant HTML to render/behave the same in IE6. IE6 users can still access the content of the site; the site just wont look as nice, nor perform as well.

    For those clients who really want their site to look the same in IE6, then we have to charge them appropriately. It’s simply a matter of economics: for most people, it’s not worth the money to fix a site for such a small percentage of people.

    IMO, the bigger issue is that IE6 is horribly insecure. Companies who cling to it because of some legacy application only put themselves, their company, and their network at greater risk.

  • henrikblunck

    Please let me state my point as honestly and kindly as I can, though it might be misunderstood if I forgot to add a smiley….. :-)

    I strongly feel there is a big difference between Intranet use and actual webdesign. Sitepoint has been excellent in publishing books on CSS (in fact I have one of them on my shelves), and it’s rather sad that Microsoft pushed this browser in the world of information technology at a time when everyone could see they had lacking support for even the simplest elements of webdesign. Both Mozilla and Opera did a much better job.

    In fact, I doubt you couldn’t get this intranet system to work under either FireFox or Opera, if only you had tried… There was a compatibility mode under Windows, but I can’t test it right now as I am sitting on my Mac, and my Windows machine is at work…

    Happy Easter everyone. :-)

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    @henrikblunck:
    “In fact, I doubt you couldn’t get this intranet system to work under either FireFox or Opera, if only you had tried… “

    I’m not apologizing for IE users but that isn’t possible in many cases because oftentimes MS powered intranets will allow the web browser to interact with the host and client more intimately than FF, Opera, etc… are capable of so that they may use their MS Office suite as if the server/client were all just one big desktop. That said… I’m sure IE8 would provide the same capabilities and with standards compliance :)

  • henrikblunck

    You are entitled to your opinion on the matter, of course.
    I do, however, still find it interesting that a company so well equipped as Sitepoint would ever find itself in a situation where you would support a browser you KNOW doesn’t work using CSS because of issues with one type of intranet software.

    Regardless, I have a 4,4% visitor ratio using IE6. 2,5% use Windows up to Windows 2K and the rest use Windows XP. I have noone using Vista. Taken from March 2009 figures. :-)

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    Well that must be nice for you. I’m still saddled with a herd of websites that are populated by anywhere from 10% to 15% IE6 users. Our company site sees just under 10% and I’m looking forward to the day when we see less.

  • mattcass

    Great post Andrew. It’s agreed, IE6 does totally suck. But as web developers, we absolutely must account for it in our sites. Usually the IE6 errors are really bad, like columns being stacked instead of shown next to each other, making a site pretty much unusable.

    For the longest time, at our site TourVista, we were in denial of IE6. In fact, we didn’t even test our new design on it because we didn’t have a computer in our office with IE6. It wasn’t until I was demo’ing the site with a client that I saw how terrible it looked in IE6. Most of the content was hidden behind divs and the layout looked horrendous! And here I was showing off our new design!

    Fortunately, there is a way to get IE6 on your Windows computer. It’s a simple download that will install all old versions of IE on your computer for easy testing. Here’s the link: http://tredosoft.com/Multiple_IE

    Once we had IE6 on our dev computers, it was easy to verify and fix our designs. And we immediately noticed an improvement in our analytics for users still on this browser, over 15% of our traffic.

    We also added a note to IE6 users in our site header letting them know that they should upgrade their browser for security and usability issues. Something along the lines of:

    “You are using Internet Explorer version 6.0 or lower. Due to security issues and lack of support for web standards, it is highly recommended to take a few minutes and upgrade your web browser. Our favorite is Firefox but you can also upgrade Internet Explorer here.

  • http://www.evanbot.com ETbyrne

    As an IT Technician I know that there is no good reason for IE6 to be an integral part of any network. All this baloney about how we didn’t feel like upgrading to IE7 is total rubbish. What about security?!

    Lazy IT technicians are to blame for the IE6 mess!

  • ckb

    I weighed in early in this discussion, and found the full set of commentary to be interesting. A couple of points gave me pause for thought, especially those related to time cost to adjust for IE6. So… no rant, and smiley faces implied throughout… but some additional thoughts.

    I keep detailed time sheets for each project, and a casual review shows me that my time to deal with IE6 usually is no more than five percent or so of the HTML/CSS/JS time. I certainly don’t think of myself as a superman here — perhaps it’s just a function of experience — I think it’s about having learned “where the potholes are in the road” and remembering to drive ’round them the next trip.

    FYI: I code to validated XHTML 1.0 strict, never, ever use invalid CSS hacks, and only occasionally have to use conditional comments to pull in an IE < 7 style sheet (usually to deal with alpha-channel transparent .png). The graphic designer I most often work with very, very often throws me very challenging designs to implement, and with all of that IE6 still comes out looking like every one else. Again — not superman — just experience from going down the road.

    Then we get to why I’d invest in the process — yes it was extensive and frustrating — to learn how to deal with IE6. Part of it dates to how far back I go. I actually remember fighting the IE4 vs. Netscape 4 nightmare days, and dealing with ill-behaved IE6 when it came out was a delight compared to IE5.5 (PC) or IE5.02(Mac) [shudder]. BTW — I supported IE5.5 until 2 years ago.

    More pragmatically though, it’s this. It’s just a business decision. My various clients’ site stats are still showing that 15 – 20% of their visitors are using IE6. My clients want their visitors — customers — to learn something about them on their site, or buy something from them on their site. In other words, my customers want their visitors to give them money. That money is used by my clients to pay themselves and their employees. If my customer has a complete lock on the business of their customers — they have some form of unique, in-demand item, or have a monopoly — then they can be cavalier about saying, “hey — upgrade.”

    If they don’t have that lock on their customers, though, and If I advise my client to ignore those visitors, or tell them to do something that they probably can’t or won’t — i.e. upgrade — their customer will likely go somewhere else where they feel welcome. If that happens, my client is likely to lose business, risk the employment of their staff, and certainly will fire me. I, too, like to have my client give me money. So, while they’re not always right, they are the one that has the power, especially in these economic times. C’est la guerre.

    For the heck of it, let’s look at it another way. If a brick and mortar store stopped one in twenty people at the front door and said — for some reason — “sorry, you’re selected to have a reduced shopping experience, probably due to something that’s out of your personal control,” how long do you think that business would stay in business?

    So, anyway, do I like dealing with IE6? Heck no. Same thing goes for my taxes. Don’t like paying them, but I do. Guess I now need to think of IE6 as a “tax.” :-)

    Cheers

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/articlelist/487/ Andrew Tetlaw

    @TC, the position I advocate in the article is that you should not block IE6 users from your site, nor should you just stop testing in IE6. If you just stop testing, you risk breaking your site for IE6 users and I’ve tried to point out that is not a good situation or fair to IE6 users.

    Firstly you should attempt to find out how many of your visitors use IE6 and who they are. Then you should decide on the experience you should supply to your IE6 users, and you can easily with conditional comments. You can even create an unstyled-content-only version just for IE6.

    If you have designed you web site or web app so that all or nothing are the only two ways of getting to the content, then that’s not my problem and this article is likely to make you uppity.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/articlelist/487/ Andrew Tetlaw

    @Shaymein, Market Share has it at about 18.85, but of course it’d going to vary per site. The website of that architectural company I mentioned has it over 20%.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/articlelist/487/ Andrew Tetlaw

    @mattcass, excellent comment and a great example of the reality of IE6 support and of taking a rational approach.

  • henrikblunck

    It will NEVER be rational to spend time catering for outdated software. A great majority of effective tools in CSS (found in Sitepoint books on the subject) would never work with outdated versions of the Microsoft Internet Explorer. Version 7 is the first version that has improved in this area.

    Seasonal greetings to all. :-)

  • arts-multimedia

    Well said, ckb! It’s part of the job to pay tax for older browsers and there is no way around it as long as there are loads of folks using it. And indeed, it is not that much more work.

  • henrikblunck

    It was claimed: “it is not that much more work” to cater to the intricacies of MS-IE 6…

    I beg to differ. It greatly depends on how you’ve designed your site, and please let me remind everyone of the great fun that Sitepoint publishes material on CSS if defending a browser that simply CAN’T interpret CSS is the “normal business of the day”…

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but “it’s not that much more work” is a claim which at best is naîve – at worst just another sign that the person claiming this doesn’t know anything about the burdens of setting everything into tables and frames just because the IE6-browser can’t understand the setup of CSS etc.

    Don’t take MY word for it. Try it for yourself…. http://www.positioniseverything.net/explorer.html

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    ^ Actually I agree with ckb.

    Although “Everyone is entitled to their opinions” and maybe I am “at best naîve”, but I find supporting IE6 isn’t that big a deal and as long as more than one in ten visitors is using IE6, it’s part of the job at our studio. Most of the time as long as the site is created with a solid foundation, it’s just some minor left alignment, or 24bit png transparency that needs to be resolved.

  • arts-multimedia

    When it comes to web development, henrikblunck, I’m certainly not a novice as you seem to imply. Also, the fact that you fiddle around with tables and iframes as a workaround for IE6 says more about your lack of experience with CSS then my naïvity.

  • henrikblunck

    You can take it any way you like. I gave you a link to help you understand, but either way you apparently prefer to misunderstand so EOD on that. Making a point CAN take too long, as would also creating design solutions for an outdated browser.

  • Paul McKeown

    Henrik,

    I cannot agree with you at all. arts-multimedia is correct. I cannot see what worth your contribution is to this discussion if you have to resort to using table layouts to compensate for the shortcomings of the IE6 box model (frankly a hysterical, exaggerated workaround).

    Ludicrous. Even if someone has written some lamebrain dumbass book recommending such an approach and their publisher has been lauding it to the heavens.

    Use conditional comments, place IE6 css workarounds (or IE5 or IE 5.5 and even IE7 as necessary) in a separate css file called from the CC’s. Corrections include altered margin and padding to correct the box model, some compensation for collapsed floats if necessary, some gif references where png’s are not properly dealt with. You should be nearly there with that list as it is, although sometimes a little more will be needed. Hardly rocket science, nor slave labour either. Oh – and don’t forget to check for IE DOM in your javascript – although that should mostly be library material.

  • Chris Patterson

    If you’re running into selector support issues (especially if you use jQuery on your site) you might be interested in SuperSelectors – it goes through your site’s stylesheets, dynamically adding classes to elements so that even IE6 can bask in the glow of properly supporting CSS selectors like ul li:first-child li:nth-child(odd) a:hover

    http://skulljackpot.com/2009/04/19/super-css-selector-support-with-jquery/

  • henrikblunck

    Small or big workarounds for outdated software. Choose anything you like. I offered a link to information that showed some of the misunderstandings of the old browser, but I have nothing further. If http://www.positioniseverything.net/explorer.html wasn’t interesting, so be it.

    Anyway you like, it’s a pain in the backside, and most other IT-sources have discovered the hint that IE6 *is* outdated. Whether some feel obligated to cater for a minority is fine by me.

    I exemplified using tables to explain the mentality behind IE6 interpretation, but any “image” used will – by definition – have its own lacks. Do as you please. Apparently, this discussion is centered more around PC [Political Correctness] than facts. Fact is even Micro$oft dumped IE6 long ago, so why can’t everyone else?

    Best viewed in MS-IE seems to be the thought of the day for some, and I don’t plan on changing that for anyone stubborn enough to remain in a donkey-like attitude towards this subject.

    Bye.

  • Revans

    I am astonished of the existance of the following statement, directly next to advertisements for some of very good books that teach web-standards:

    “Internet Explorer supports both of these tools very well, unlike other browsers.”

    As if it is a weakness that the “other browsers” do not support non-standard proprietary Microsoft features.

  • henrikblunck

    Revans > I agree.

    Some boys in the classroom have bad memories. Sitepoint revealed the flaws way back in 2007, but apparently some don’t remember all that well. The discussion about IE-6 is one of religion, not computing…. See for yourself over at: http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2007/11/22/in-all-fairness-%E2%80%A6-internet-explorer-still-stinks/