In the world of web development there has been a recent push from all around the world to finally drop support for IE6. It’s understandable since IE8 is now released and IE6 is about 8 years old, an antique in computer years. However, there are still a measurable amount of users still launching IE6 as their primary browser, 17.4% of all users according to w3schools. So should we abandon the traditional model of graceful degradation and cross browser compatibility and stop supporting IE6? Some very substantial web developers have said yes.
37signals started phasing out support for ie6 starting in October 1, 2008. They’re not stopping ie6 users from logging in and using their software all at once. They’re taking the phase out approach of telling everyone that any new improvements or fixes may not be compatible with IE6.
Facebook has decided to provide an inferior experience and a large warning message to all their users in IE6.
Apple – Mobile Me.
One thing these websites have is that they’re not even websites, they’re web applications. They, like many desktop applications, are starting to require a system upgrade to use their software. Users tend to me more understanding when it comes to an application asking them to upgrade than it does a website. We do it all the time on the desktop and this helps these developers get away with such bold actions. The other thing that separates these sites from most is they’re actively developed large applications. So they have new features, design iterations, fixes, and enhancements constantly, and as the web moves forward and IE6 stays so far behind it’s becoming more expensive and time consuming to try to retrofit things to work in IE6. What was financially feasible 2 years ago is no longer today. It had to start sometime, why not now?
Well if web applications killing support for IE6, what are web sites to do? First off, they don’t have the advantage of users tolerating a required update like applications, and they don’t always have the constant development iterations that web applications have, forcing them to kill IE6 for financial reasons. This hasn’t stopped a few others from taking an anti IE6 approach.
One of the largest sites in Norway, Finn.no has dropped support for IE6 and initiated a campaign to get others to follow suit. In fact they saw results of less ie6 users immediately which they’ve interpreted as people upgrading.
45Royale is a respectable web agency that decided to offer a one IE6 page watered down version of their site to anyone using IE6. The site is very careful to let people know they’re only seeing 9% of their website and offers links to download a more modern browser.
So what does this mean for Billups Design? Currently we’ve worked hard to make the IE6 user experience of BillupsDesign.com as close to other modern browsers as possible. We use a respectable level of ajax effects, transparent png and advanced CSS layout techniques, all of which we’ve tried to degrade gracefully for IE6. Do we keep putting hours of labor into supporting this one browser when the gulf between it and “modern” grows wider each day?
We’ve decided to take on a little IE6 experiment of our own. Since relaunching our site we’ve been actively pursuing feedback. With feedback comes iterations, and with iterations comes the decision to support IE6 or not. Our Google Analytics stats show that we’re getting about 4.7% of our visits from IE6 users. Thats about 1/20 users with IE6. Its a small percentage, but still a decent size. So we’ve built a one-pager (a la 45Royale.com) to serve up to anyone visiting billupsdesign.com in IE6. We took a similar philosophy to mobile web design and filtered out all but the most important aspects of our site into the one page. You can check it out at billupsdesign.com/ie6/ .