For all the indispensible digital producers, developers, architects and everyone else who make the web happen.

For the late nights and the early mornings.

For the team players and arse-kickers. For the creatives, for the techies, for the bring-it-all-togethers.

For the go-live, for the can-do.

For the heroes.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The good, the IE6 and the IE6

So, as a mammoth project is fast approaching the money shot.

Soft launch a few weeks back, hard launch next week with military and government bigwigs set to attend the event. What is there to be depressed about?

Well, since we soft-launched, Google Analytics has been the bearer of some fairly distressing news.

Internet Explorer 6.0 46.54%.


See, our site is primarily aimed at a military audience, and the MOD's internal systems, unbelievably still use IE6.

I'll do everything I can to try and persuade them to change their ways.

Meanwhile, here's an article I penned for A List Apart last year. They didn't publish it, but I got an enouraging rejection letter at least.

And the fact that almost 50% of people accessing my site (compared to about 1% of total web users) are still using this 12 year old browser means that, amazingly, it's still relevant.

Five killer arguments for doing things the right way

You don’t need to be told why IE6 sucks.

Whether you’ve been in the industry for years and saw it all before with Netscape 4, or you’re a fresh-faced youngster to whom modern web standards are second nature, you just know that IE6 sucks and are probably counting down the days  until it disappears forever.

It sucks. A truth universally acknowledged within the web development community for years.

Of course, the web development community != the customers, stakeholders and business owners upon whom we ultimately depend for our livelihood.

Whether you work independently, for a digital agency, or as part of an in-house team for a big organisation, you’ll probably find yourself in ‘Us and Them’ situations from time to time.

Until late 2011, IE6 was still the default desktop browser for most staff at the organisation where I work, and getting anything else installed required a special process and sign-off by line-management.

Fortunately we’ve won the battle and everybody is now using a better browser, but it’s been a tough fight bridging the chasm between what makes sense to us, and what makes sense to ‘Them’.

Because they do need to be told why IE6 sucks.

Arguments about W3C standards, box model implementations and the efficiency of CSS3 gradients compared to images simply won’t make sense to ‘Them’ in their world.

But by focussing on a more psychological approach, there are a few persuasive arguments that frequently work.

Here are five I’ve tried and tested:

  1. The ‘technology over 10 years old’ argument.

2001 sure seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Can you remember the TV you owned back then?

Yep, one of those huge, bulky things I’ll bet. Remember how fuzzy the picture was? Who’d want to go back to that?

What about your phone? Yep, didn’t even have a camera in those days. Probably just had a very simple monochrome display. The only app, if you could even call it an ‘app’, was ‘Snake’.

Today we have huge, ultra-flat HD TVs and smartphones. Would you expect the latest high definition programmes or smartphone apps to work exactly the same on the technology you had in 2001? That’s right - you’re a smart person, you understand this.

By the way, IE6 was released in 2001 – the technology is now over ten years old. Is it really reasonable for users of ten year old technology to expect the best possible experience online?

  1. The ‘time is money’ argument

I heard we were looking to cut costs, and thought you might like to know that it takes a long time to write all the specialist code to make things work in IE6.

As a smart person, you’ll know that if we stopped supporting it, we’d be able to complete projects more quickly and to a higher standard, or operate with a smaller headcount.

That’s right, we could do things far more quickly and cost-effectively if we concentrated on standards-compliant code.

  1. The ‘Microsoft doesn’t like IE6 either’ argument

Microsoft accepts that while IE6 may have been relatively advanced when it was launched, things have moved on significantly since then.  They even employ people with the specific remit of moving users away from IE6.

They have a guy who gives presentations at conferences playing this self-deprecating video and explaining that his bonus is dependent on the IE6 market share falling. Martin Beeby, his name is. Follow him on Twitter. He knows his stuff.

You wouldn’t want to be supporting a product that has lost the confidence of its own creator, would you?

  1. The ‘Check this out!’ argument

Hey, come and look at these cool sites. Yep, pretty slick aren’t they? You like the animation and the rounded boxes? That’s right, no Flash required and 100% accessible.

Could we do something similar? Hmm, well I suppose we could. We’d have to start optimising for standards-compliant browsers though a ‘progessive enhancement’ approach, but that’s not a problem. People with older browsers will still be able to see the content.

  1. The ‘Free positive publicity from Developer community’ argument

If we develop this high-profile site using the latest technologies, it’ll get noticed outside our industry and could lead to some really good free publicity.

Geeks like to tweet about sites that use HTML5 and CSS3 in engaging, elegant ways.

Yeah, we could carry on using a bunch of old CSS hacks to optimise the site for IE6, but that wouldn’t capture the attention of the wider web community and at worse would give us a reputation for being behind the times. We don’t want that, do we? No, sir.

Not all the arguments will work on all the people all of the time, but knowing how to approach browser support discussions with your paymasters from one of these angles should give you a significant edge.

There is a bit of subtle, psychological manipulation involved and a few weasel words here and there, but don’t feel guilty about using them. Getting people away from IE6 is a very good thing.

About the author

When he’s not playing bass or blogging about food and drink, Benjamin Nunn lives and works in London, England, leading the web production team at the UK’s Money Advice Service. He has been editing, designing and building web sites since the late 1990s but still hasn’t figured exactly how the <cite> tag is supposed to be used. He sports a small beard.

February 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment