IE6, DIE DIE DIE!!!
One day I’ll post something useful on this blog, maybe I should write an eBook instead on web development technique in 2009. I really should do something with all the knowledge I’ve gained rather than wasting it on hobby sites.
Why hasn’t somebody killed IE6 though? Please. Just do it for me. It seems I spend as long debugging my designs for IE6 than I do creating them for everything else. I design and test against Firefox and when it comes to compatibility testing I then open up Opera, Safari and IE8 which generally work perfectly or require very little modification. I don’t use any Firefox specific bits of CSS so I”m usually cross-browser ready out of the box. I then use BrowserShots, test on IE6 and bang! — there goes my weekend.
I just finished a small design that makes extensive use of transparent PNGs so I knew I was in trouble from the start. I tried three different PNG Fix solutions but they all failed to make it work in IE6 … or IE7. In the end, I just took all of the backgrond PNGs out for IE6 and IE7 as I was getting frustrated.
Should I have even cared about IE6? Unfortunately, it seems that around 16% of the world still uses it. Another 16% uses IE7 and I know most of these people are corporate people. It takes large companies months, if not years, to upgrade software. I know plenty of large enterprises are still using Windows XP, Office 2000/2002 and are stuck with IE6. Vista was an enterprise disaster and Windows 7 is only just emerging. Office 2007 was a big change too and all this change is very expensive for a large company. Not only are there licensing costs for the upgrades but there are hardware changes, training costs and the incompatibility questions. Therefore, unless you throw lots of people and money at the problem, it’s easier to skip a version … or two and only swallow the barb-wired pill when you need to.
Most enterprises also have their website and Intranet and I bet 95% of them have tied their coding to a particular version of IE. I still have to use IE for banking and there are plenty of other business sites that don’t work in Firefox. Internally, it’s far worse as web designers working inside an enterprise typically have very limited knowledge. It seems those that can develop web sites don’t get jobs inside companies doing it. I guess they just don’t pay enough. A “real web designer” also has to understand accessibility, search engine optimization, cross-browser compatibility and secure design (i.e. XSS and SQL injection). Internal web designers don’t so they cut these corners and create a custom site for a specific browser that fails when it comes to upgrades. I’m not blaming them per se, it’s just the world they live in and those in the corporate towers insist they turn content around quickly. They’re simply not interested in real world design.
So we now have a problem that IE6 and IE7 used by most companies is slowing down development of the Internet. For my projects I usually don’t care but if your web site audience is going to be that corporate space you better make sure it works properly. If you’re not bothered about large enterprises then forget IE6 and just use a big ‘go and update your browser’ banner.
For my testing I use VMware Workstation and I built two VMs; one for IE6 and another for IE7. I built one on a version of XP with SP3, easily found at your nearest Swedish jolly roger web site, cloned the VM and then upgraded the clone to IE7. I do have a real licence for Windows XP so I just used that to obtain the necessary patches, pass them to my VM and bypass the whole Windows Genuine Advantage hurdle. I’m sorry Microsoft but if you’re not going to give me the ability to work with IE6, IE7 and IE8 concurrently then I have to find my own solution. I looked at some of the hacks for getting IE6 and IE7 working together but I’d prefer not to damage my PC doing something that clearly wasn’t meant to be. VMware to the rescue.
So I added an IE6 stylesheet included by conditional comments and removed every one of my background PNGs, adjusted the few remaining padding and margin issues and voila! I also added a modified version of the IE6 Update script to remind people to get a new browser without being too in your face or simply preventing the site from being used.