This week, that grand old bane of a Web developer’s existence—IE6—turned 12 years old. Like any tween, it has been subjected to bullying over the years. A year an a half ago, Microsoft finally took the step toward beating it to death by forcing updates to IE8. And they were widely successful. I go months both here on my little slice of the ‘net and on larger sites maintained by my employer without seeing IE6 pop up in the logs.
So, we’ve turned our attention to bullying its younger sibling, IE7, which turns 7 in October. Again, those users should have been upgraded to IE9 as part of the Microsoft push, but a few computers still linger. We continue to bully. Some of us even go after four-year-old IE8 when it tantrums over our attempts to use CSS3 and HTML5 (or are we throwing those tantrums?).
Our favorite tactic seems to be telling users to update their browser with imposing messages (standard in templates like HTML5 Boilerplate directing them to browsehappy.com). Some people go farther to redirect to a special page entirely (*cough Jeff Starr*).
Why do we do this? Sure, it’s great to not have to do ugly things to our code to make those browsers display beautiful designs, particularly when our clients won’t listen to why websites don’t need to look the same in every browser.
It’s awesome to have fewer configurations to support for web applications.
We get to show off and go on a power trip, yelling “mwahaha, I refuse to bow to your ancient browser demands, I am all powerful, and I decide what you should use.”
But, what we don’t consider in these decisions is the user.
After more than half a decade, and after Microsoft has tried forcing upgrades, we have to ask why these users are still accessing our sites with browsers that should be a distant memory.
The reason is likely that they have to. For one reason or another (options too myriad to list here) they HAVE to use those browsers. It’s highly unlikely that a user on IE6 or IE7 doesn’t realize that they are using an outdated browser at this point in 2013.
So, why are we bullying our visitors? Why are we telling them that every time they visit our site that we think they don’t deserve to read our content because they have an old browser?
Other than attempting to alienate visitors, I can’t come up with an answer to that.
I’m not saying that we need to care if the design is broken (we don’t). I’m not even sure we need to care if interaction is half-broken. But we should care that our visitors have been reminded about using an old browser countless times yet they continue to do so, and that ultimately they just want to access our content.
So, why not let them access the information we’re providing without reminding them that they are second-class internet citizens? Really, what do you have to lose?
N.B. Yes, I know, pot, kettle, black. I have one of those notices on this very site. I’ve been running this design for over four years now, and a lot has changed in the landscape since then (I think those notices may have been valuable before Microsoft’s auto update move), but my lack of time to set up a redesign has not. Moving forward, though, I’ll be practicing what I post.