So, this is blogging. This is our place to rant and rave and inform on the business of design. One of the main goals of our blog is to write informational posts regarding the web and designing for it. We are planning to comment on new trends, new technologies, and new standards in the industry.
As our first blog post, I have chosen to comment on what I view as the #1 evil in this industry. This evil is, of course, Internet Explorer 6. IE6 was released in 2001 and was the most widely used web browser until September 2007 when Firefox became the browser of choice. Even today, IE6 users still outweigh the amount of users on IE7, which has been around since January of 06. Our goal as web designers and developers is to explain why users should upgrade and help make IE6 become a thing of the past. It’s like listening to a cassette tape in a world of CD’s.
We understand that in this day and age, everyone is afraid of viruses, spam, spyware, etc. This holds people back from downloading things they are unsure about, and a new browser might be one of those things. It might also be because they don’t feel it is necessary. They use the Internet to surf the web, send emails, etc. and since it has always worked fine, they have no real reason to upgrade. Very soon, people will get fed up with catering to IE6 and websites will look less attarctive IE6 in order to force people upgrade. A lot of web developers have already begun to stop building for IE6 because they are trying to encourage upgrading. One developer has even started a website called Kill Internet Explorer 6 (www.killie6.com) in which he offers a script that you can include into your site which shows a message at the top of your website telling IE6 users to upgrade. This is becoming increasingly common these days.
There are many reasons we are trying to remove IE6 and encourage the use of standards-compliant browsers such as Firefox, Safari or even IE7. Here are a few of those reasons:
This is a new time for the web. New technologies are being developed and IE6 is just too old and will not be able to accommodate these new changes. With CSS3 on the rise, we will be able to do some really great things on the web, and unfortunately IE6 will not be able to support most of this, which holds back the advancement of the web. IE6 is not a standards compliant browser; it is not a part of the present or future of web development.
IE6 does not support PNG images. With high-speed Internet connections today, web designers/developers are no longer concerned with the size of images and the need to make them as optimized as humanly possible. PNG’s are high quality web images that allow for transparency, much like a high-quality GIF image. Even on www.mouthmedia.com we take advantage of PNG images in our headings. They are fantastic, especially when we include more detailed backgrounds or gradients. In order to make these PNG images show properly in IE6, we have to include “hacks” and an extra stylesheet that is not standards compliant. In order to make these standards compliant, we have to include conditional statements. This means IE6 has to load a lot more information when loading pages, slowing down the website in this particular browser and increasing our workload.
We build sites almost daily, testing them originally in Firefox and Safari. When they look perfect, we test in IE7. IE7 has some issues, but it’s not nearly as bad as IE6. Usually after testing in IE7, we take a few moments to fix some IE7 bugs and then we begin to shake. We boot up our IE6 testing PC, and open the browser. We load up the website we need to test and stare. This is the moment when we hear violins playing and the tears start sliding down our cheeks. The website is a complete mess. For some reason, IE6 believes that it should double the padding in some places, add extra break spaces where it was never told to add them, and load images in the exact opposite side of the page.
As of now, we’ve managed to tame most of the more common issues, so we know what we have to do even before we test, but there’s always something new to fix with IE6. On just about every website we work on, we end up making a second stylesheet catering to only IE6, but why? Why are we catering to a browser that is 7 years old and already has a successor; IE7. Why don’t people upgrade? Why doesn’t Microsoft issue an auto-update? With IE8 coming out soon, why is IE6 still in use? If there is an upgrade for my Firefox, it will tell me right when I open the browser, it loads up big, bold and gives me an easy access to that download. It asks, I press OK, and it downloads. I don’t have to waste my time finding a website to download it. C’mon Microsoft, let your customers know that they are using a terrible product and you have a much better browser available for download and let us developers spend more time on design and less time on band aid solutions for IE6?