Note: This is off-the-cuff. If know many will disagree with me. If you’re one, sound off in the comments. Of course, if you agree with me, I’d love to hear that too.
Internet Explorer 6 is a pain. Every Web professional knows this. Every one of us has cursed its name countless times. It mangles code and requires more effort to support than every other browser (including its siblings) combined.
It makes life hard. We know. Dear God we all know.
Nobody likes whiners.
If your site stats show a significant percentage of your users rely on that browser it’s your responsibility to support it. Stop complaining about it and just get the job done so you can move on to creating something cool.
Stop complaining and get back to creating.
So Alex, How Big is “Significant”?
Wow, that could come off a bit dirty… Anyway, the answer to that question depends on your (or your customers’) business and the users who access the sites and apps you build to contribute to it.
I recommend you make that decision before you look at your stats so you don’t skew the number in an unconscious attempt to wiggle out of support for the browser (we humans are great at justifying our way out of unpleasantness). If your “significant” number is above 15%, you better think hard about it as that is a large percentage. Double-check that decision if there is any form of commerce or conversion transactions on the site. The latter includes drives for newsletter subscriptions, contests and the like in addition to encouraging a user to contact the business for an estimate or more information.
Step Back and Think About the Numbers
Let go of your anger (that path leads to the dark side) and really think about how much time and effort you’re willing to trade for this number of users, the time they spend on-site, the revenue they bring in and their happiness level (which feeds into the site reputation).
If you work for someone else as an outside agency, contractor or employee, the business needs to decide how much money they are willing to spend (read: your time) to access that market, so it may not be your choice, but you do influence the decision.
Google’s Numbers Aren’t Good Enough
Just because [super giant site] drops support for a browser doesn’t mean you get to. You have your own numbers; no others will do. If you are building sites that are used by a lot of people who access it during the day from large corporations or government jobs, odds are good that you’ll be supporting IE6 for a while to come, even if Google drops support.
Hell, Microsoft wants everyone off of IE 6, but even they recognize that it isn’t feasible in one fell swoop. Think about that – Microsoft, who likely could force an upgrade past any computer that talks to their servers for updates and patches can’t make that switch even though they’d like to.
Encouraging Transition & Graceful Degradation
So, you’ve discovered much to your dismay that you do need to support the dreaded Internet Explorer 6
66. The site doesn’t have to work exactly the same on IE 6 as it does on the top tier browsers. There are a wealth of techniques that will let you present a subset of the overall experience for those users and you can gently (but firmly) encourage your users to upgrade to a browser that will better serve their needs.
If your IE6 numbers are low enough that you are confident that you can drop support (sweet!), don’t forget that you’ll have a few stragglers. A polite note presented to that select audience may help to nudge them into a better world of browsing bliss.
“Forcing” a User to Switch
You don’t have that power. No, really you don’t. It sounds mean, but it’s a fact of life. You aren’t big enough. I’m not either. That’s the reality of the market. Online petitions, grand campaigns with slick icons and banners won’t force a change.
This will be a gradual process that is much slower than any of us want. Don’t you think we’d all be better off if we took all of that effort and vitriolic energy and applied it to creating something?
Stop complaining. Start creating.