8.9%, Where are you?

According to W3Schools’ latest March update, 8.9% of internet users are still using the old and oft-neglected grandson of Microsoft’s intrepid series of web browsers, Internet Explorer version 6. Times are changing people, and you’re falling behind. It’s amazing to me that a web browser that is now two major versions outdated, that is no longer supported by its developer, and that was released almost ten years ago is still in circulation today. Nearly one in ten internet users are browsing the internet like it’s 2001. That’s simply not acceptable. You are missing out; there is so much more to see! As a web designer, my charge is to make websites look good. This is my plea: please, update your browser, and never look back.

I just can’t do it. I can’t make websites look good in “the six.” It’s not worth the effort. It’s slow, ugly, and full of inconsistencies you’ve probably never noticed. As designers, we must realize that our sites will never be pixel-perfect on all systems. We design to a standard, and hope that our sites will display consistently across all browsers. There is certainly always testing and tweaking to be done before a site is launched, but the overall process remains the same for all browsers. Some designers may balk at the notion that a site can look slightly different from one client’s machine to the next. The truth is, users visit your site for the content and information you provide, and that should always remain priority number one. If you can increase performance for nine out of ten users by making that tenth user see sharp corners instead of round corners, everyone benefits. The tenth user, who is using a browser that doesn’t support some of the great new standards that have surfaced in recent years, is still able to view your site and consume its content, albeit with a slightly degraded visual experience. Designer veteran and industry leader Dan Cederholm sums it up in his very poignant website, DoWebsitesNeedToLookTheSameInEveryBrowser.com (the answer is a resounding “NO”).

Designers generally agree; people browsing the internet with older browsers will have a degraded experience, as is expected, but is an end in sight? Internet behemoth Google is leading the pack in its attempt to put older browsers to rest. In a late February press release, Google Apps Senior Product Manager Rajen Sheth reveals that the Google Apps team will “begin phasing out our support” for Internet Explorer 6.0 starting in March of 2010. Designers everywhere have rejoiced. The employees of Denver-based Aten Design Group were so elated by Google’s announcement that they quickly erected a commemorative new website called IE6Funeral.com. History shows that Google has ample weight in the internet trend-setting atmosphere, but the IE6 monster has proven a difficult beast to quell. With the release of Internet Explorer version 8 in January of last year, hopes were high that IE6 would start its rapid and steady decline. In the year since its release, however, IE6 usage has fallen by less than ten percent. Designers everywhere will be watching their statistics closely in coming months to see if our latest push to once and for all destroy the lingering persistence of these older browsers has any effect. If you’re among the few and the proud, the remaining 8.9%, perhaps the time has (finally) come. It’s time for an upgrade. We are the web, and this is our plea.

Thanks for reading! This is a newsletter article I recently wrote for SusQtech — your one-stop-shop for all things SharePoint.