Internet Explorer 6 is the bane of a web developer’s existence. Released in 2001 (decades ago in internet time) it still composes somewhere between 20% and 30% of the browser market. While there are several other, more capable browsers out there for users to choose from, including Microsoft’s own IE7, and its successor in beta IE8, people still use IE6 at an alarming rate. Over the years Microsoft released updates and patches for IE6, yet it is still stands as one of the worst browsers to have ever existed, so why are people still using it?
“I’m used to it, so why should I change?” is just one of a variety of reasons people give for continuing to beat this dead horse. Other popular reasons IE6 users give for not updating to IE7 are because they’re prohibited from changing their system (i.e. a work pc combined with corporate sloth or ignorance), they visit a web site that (supposedly) works best in IE6, or they just don’t know any better. As designers it’s our jobs to design beautiful, accessible web sites, not worry about why our margins look weird in IE6. For years we’ve devoted countless hours of work finagling our designs and code to accommodate this scourge of a browser.
What to Do?
As a designer it’s time to stop catering to sloth and ignorance and take a stand. For years we’ve bent over backwards to try and compensate for IE6’s massive shortcoming with hacks and tricks like conditional CSS comments and browser detection so that we can deliver IE6-specific workarounds. We’ve used GIFs and JPGs instead of PNGs or used hacks to get IE6 to render them properly. This needs to stop now. By continuing along this path, we’re simply enabling people to continue to use IE6 and give them no compelling reason to upgrade or switch browsers. IE6 is Swiss cheese in terms of security, doesn’t adhere to modern CSS standards, or support PNG images just to name some of its bigger problems. From now on, don’t waste time worrying whether or not to use PNG files – use them. Don’t bother checking browser versions and providing alternate, IE6-specific code. Design once.
But what about for testing purposes?
Nope, not even for testing purposes. What are you hoping to accomplish by testing a site in IE6? If you discover a problem, why bother fixing it? Pages need only adhere to W3C standards and pass the usual array of validators. If IE6 can’t render them properly, then that’s IE6’s problem.
The Good News
The good news is that the number of people using IE6 is steadily dwindling. Firefox, Chrome, Opera, IE7 & 8 are all better browsers and are gaining market share while IE6 loses it. While it’s just a matter of time before IE6 disappears, let’s help accelerate that demise by taking a stand and turning our backs on it. Stop Supporting IE6. Now.