Has IE6 Time For Abandonment Really Come?

Rich Brooks Posted by

Every Web designer and Web developer I know would answer either: * Yes! * Hell, yes! or * F***, yeah! to the previous question. For most of us, Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) is the bane of our existence. You can design the most beautiful site that works well in IE7, Firefox, Safari and across operating systems and then you go and look at it in IE6 and you just want to cry.

On average, it adds 4 to 5 hours of development time or more when it comes to building a Web site, so making sure that the site looks good on IE6 is an investment in time.

So, now that Microsoft has released IE8 can we drop support for IE6?

Traditionally, flyte’s guarantee has been that our sites look great on the two most recent versions of popular browsers across Mac & PC, and “degrade gracefully” on previous versions. After all, you can’t support every version of every browser; you’d go out of business before your first site was launched. And although it’s gotten better recently, Microsoft’s lack of compliance with industry standards has made the average developer’s life harder than it needs to be.

When I think about the hours of productivity lost because IE6 sucks so much it makes Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme pale by comparison.

OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but a few extra hours on every Web site built? It just shouldn’t be that way.

Unfortunately, dropping IE6 support may still be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. On flyte’s Web site about 9% of our visitors are still using IE6. For one of our clients, Alaska Fly Fishing Goods, they get 13% of their visitors on IE6. For another client, St. Mary’s Health Care, it’s a whopping 28%!

Although those numbers will decline as IE8 adoption goes up, it’s not going to change overnight. If 10% – 25% of a client’s traffic is going to be delivered using IE6 it’s impossible to ignore that business. You have to make sure the site “works” on IE6.

So, what can you do?

I would suggest to all Web designers and developers that we attack the problem on two fronts:

  1. Start charging more for IE6 compliance. If IE6 is adding 4 – 5 or more hours of production work for the developer, why aren’t you passing that time on to your clients? Although we haven’t made any decision yet, at some point we’re going to have to either stop supporting IE6 outright or giving our clients the option of buying a “premium” package that covers the additional time.
  2. Recommend upgrading to IE8 and promoting the link. As a Mac guy I’m not thrilled with the idea of pushing IE8, and of course I’d recommend Firefox, Safari and probably even Chrome over IE8, but better 8 than 6. Tell them it’s a security issue. Tell them if they stick with IE6 then the terrorists win. Tell them whatever you need to, but get people to upgrade.

If you have any suggestions, legal or otherwise, to make IE6 nothing more than a war story to tell our kids, please let me know.

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About the Author: Rich Brooks is president of flyte new media, a Web site design and Internet marketing company in Portland, Maine. Flyte works with small businesses to build professional Web sites that often include e-commerce, Flash and content management systems. They promote their clients' sites through search engine optimization, e-mail marketing, business blogs and social media. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/therichbrooks.