Why IE6update is wrong

IE6update is a script you can add to your web site that will detect if the user is running IE6 and recommend that they upgrade.

The intent is clear: get people off IE6 (a flawed and outdated browser) and onto a more modern browser. Their web experience will improve and the lives of developers will be made easier.

I understand the intent, but the shameful way it’s been executed is so wrong it almost beggars belief.

Who will benefit from upgrading?

There are mainly two types of user still running IE6: Staff in large companies where upgrades are managed centrally by the IT department, and home users who are using older computers with earlier versions of Windows, and who think that the big blue ‘E’ on their desktop actually is the internet.

You can’t influence anybody in group one using a script like this, and if anything, you’re causing more problems. Users seeing the upgrade message will either try the upgrade themselves (which won’t work) or they will put in a call to IT support. It’s going to be no fun for IT departments to tell hundreds of staff to ignore it, and they will curse you for it.

Group two are likely to be home users who aren’t web savvy and who don’t care about upgrades. They don’t know that they’re missing out on anything and if your site works for them (and it should), why do they need to? If they see the IE6update warning and read it, the heavy handed language is likely to scare them off, rather than get to them upgrade.

The problems with IE6update

Regardless of who you think you are ‘helping’ with this script, the way it’s been designed is deeply flawed:

  1. It’s dishonest and claims authority where there is none
  2. It’s misleading
  3. It’s alarmist
  4. It’s designed to help developers, not users

It’s dishonest and claims authority where there is none

Internet Explorer uses an information bar at the top of the browser to inform the user of things like a possible security risk, or information about installing a plugin:

IE6 Screenshot showing a genuine Information Bar

The fake information bar generated by IE6update looks like this. Spot the difference!

IE6 Screenshot showing the fake IE6update Bar

The IE6update bar has been deliberately made to look like an official Microsoft feature. That’s not only dishonest, it suggests an authority that it can’t possibly claim. Furthermore, in this security conscious age where everyone is worried about phishing, malware and the like, faking an operating system prompt is disturbingly misguided.

The guys responsible for the IE6update claim that since Microsoft is “evil”, they feel justified in being “evil” too. That’s not a justification; did you not learn that two wrongs don’t make a right?

It’s misleading

The text on the fake Information Bar reads

“Internet Explorer is missing updates required to view this site. Click here to update…”

This is patently false and is using underhand language to ask the user to make a decision based on a lie. The user is not required to install an update to view the site (unless you’re using other underhand and selfish techniques to block IE6 entirely.) Any well built site will still work in IE6, even if it looks or behaves differently than in a modern browser.

It’s alarmist

The IE Information Bar is often used to draw attention to suspected security issues with nefarious websites. Users are becoming familiar with it and often associate the info bar with something “bad.” Using IE6update could be causing alarm to users, instead of actually helping them, and we all know that scaring your users is never a good thing.

It’s designed to help developers, not users

My previous post looked at why developers should still support IE6. The intent was to show how developers must stop trying to make their own lives easier and instead focus on their users.

IE6update pays lip service to helping users, but it’s really only designed to ease the ‘burden’ on developers of catering for IE6. Following the Twitter search for #ie6update reveals many alarming comments (names removed to protect the guilty!)

#ie6update is a great solution to the IE6 problem. Please every web developer use this!

#ie6update is another attempt to kill the oldfashioned way to view websites. i hope it will work

The only things that would make #ie6update better would be if (a) it offered users no choice and (b) smacked their IT managers in the face.

Highly reccomended to all web developers who hate IE6 users

Phrases like “hate IE6 users” frankly make me ashamed to be seen in the same light as these developers. At least there are a few people with opposing views:

IDK if you are doing something good or something bad. It is never a good idea to fool users into thinking you are their OS like

so does #ie6update ignore windows 2000 users who can’t upgrade to IE7? Horrible nagware don’t do it…

whereas i agree with the sentiment of #ie6update i do think spoofing a browser plugin dialogue is both unethical & potentially actionable

The people who think #ie6update is a good idea have obviously never worked in IT support.

Use your power wisely

As a developer, you’re in a position of power. That power should be used wisely: Don’t run roughshod over your users, however strongly you feel that you might be helping them.

The web isn’t your digital playground, it’s a place where everyone should be able to participate and enjoy it on an equal footing. If you take the elitist view that IE6 users are somehow beneath you, that they are to be hated, and that their mere presence is ruining your cushy developer life, then I think you need to re-examine why you are developing for the web in the first place.

At the risk of repeating myself, it’s not about what’s best for you, it’s about what’s best for your users.

Further reading

IE6 Update
Announcing IE6 Update – Help kill Internet Explorer 6
Paul Boag Audio Boo Response
The BarCamp presentation that delighted and angered so many
Progression or elitism?

47 thoughts on “Why IE6update is wrong

  1. Using IE6 is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ thing. It’s a flaw, and flaws need to be corrected. I don’t think this particular action is right, but its cause certainly is.

    It’s not like there are no alternatives to IE6/7 that will work just fine on older systems. Try Firefox, or Opera.

    Still, if people really must be able to use the latest web technologies, maybe they shouldn’t be doing so from old fossils and ancient relics anyway.

    Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I’ve had a bad day turning a well-designed website into a hacked-up mess just so it will work correctly in F***ing IE6.

  2. I agree with some of what you said, and disagree with some. First, the foundation of the argument is whether IE 6 should continue to be supported, and I believe as long as we make web sites that support it, we guarantee it stays around for a good long time.

    Second, I don’t agree that IT folks getting calls from their users asking why they are being forced to use 8 year old technology is a bad thing. People should be calling, should be bothering IT, and IT better have a very good reason.

    Third, I do not have a problem with using a design technique that is well established with users to indicate there is something important that needs their attention. Upgrading is important, and IE 6 is a security risk for their pc.

    But, I do agree with you that the language being used in the notice is not a good choice of words. It should read: “This web site is designed for a newer version of Internet Explorer. Click here to update…”

    In the end, it does come down to what is best for the users as you correctly said. But, it is most certainly better for the users to upgrade their browsers. It will provide them with a better web experience, and, it will lower development costs which in turn will lower costs passed on to the users.

    I hope IE6update changes their verbiage, and I hope it becomes mainstream enough that it makes a difference and ultimately results in far less users continuing to use a browser that is not in their best interests.

  3. The first part of the post was good. Users that still use IE6 probably will use it for the rest of their life. On the other hand, I strongly disagree with “unless you’re using other underhand and selfish techniques to block IE6 entirely” and “Any well built site will still work in IE6, even if it looks or behaves differently than in a modern browser”.

    The internet is part of technologies, and technologies keep changing every hour. You can’t expect everyone to stick to the basic web possibilities, new things like AJAX calls and taking advantage of new DOM functions are becoming to be a new standard. Every internet browser not supporting these new features should be considered old and it would be a waste of time if you still support it (also, it should be the browser supporting the website, not otherwise).

    So I guess it would be a good thing not testing websites / web applications in IE6 anymore. If people don’t upgrade, they’ll probably never use new web services either. The fact that they don’t upgrade their browser is their choice and you can’t expect people to spend time supporting it.

    Also, by helping yourself as a developer, you eventually helping users too.

  4. I absolutely agree with Brian Burridge’s comment.

    Internet Explorer 7 was pushed out by Microsoft as a high priority security update in late 2006. We’re heading for mid 2009, so I think it’s safe to say, that using Internet Explorer 6 is a definite security risk!

    I think the wording should change for the IE6Update, exactly as Brian Burridge said also.

    We should be catering to IE6 still in our web developments, simply because of the size of the market share it still has. But I believe this merely constitutes a functional website, not necessarily pixel-perfectly the same as the website will render in more modern browsers though. And IE6Update also provides a good mechanism to communicate to users WHY the site looks different (i.e. a user who views the site at home in FF and at work in IE6).

    As I commented on Aaron Russell’s AudioBoo about this, I won’t repeat myself further here, so here’s a link if you’re interested: http://audioboo.fm/boos/7546-a-few-rational-thoughts-on-ie6update-com

  5. Thanks for the comments guys.

    @Patrick, @Brian @Tijn & @Japh: Regarding comments about “support”, we first need to agree on what we mean by support. I discussed that in my previous post which you can view here:

    http://www.friskdesign.com/2009/04/20/why-i-support-ie6/

    You need to work out what level of support to offer. No one’s saying that things need to be perfect in IE6, but that you should at least ensure the site is still usable.

    The argument isn’t really about getting people to upgrade, it’s about accepting that there are people you will not convince to upgrade no matter how hard you try, whether that’s through education, fake information bars, hate campaigns or any other tactic.

    The current discussions suggest that developers see this is a battle against ignorant web users; that it’s a call to arms and that we should be waging war on IE6 and its users. I think that’s absurd, since it’s clearly a ‘war’ that cannot be won.

    @Tijn: “The fact that they don’t upgrade their browser is their choice and you can’t expect people to spend time supporting it.” Sometimes it isn’t their choice, and we shouldn’t be penalising them for something they have no control over.

    I don’t disagree that IE6 is a crap browser. Of course it is and I’d love to see it die too. But I also see the bigger picture and while IE6 still has anywhere from 17% to 33% market share, it’s simply arrogant to ignore it or force people to upgrade.

    @Japh: I listened to Aaron’s Audio Boo and agree with him. For more context you should read my previous post on why I feel we should still support IE6 — and define what we mean by “support”.

  6. @Japh: I think the mechanism of IE6update has its merits, but its current execution is simply wrong.

    It would be better to simply feed a an extra link to the user saying something like “Improve your Web Experience”. The fakery it’s currently using is pretty shameful.

  7. As long as you understand Matt, that because you support it, and if others follow your opinion and support it, it will never disappear. Why would it? Where is the incentive to upgrade?

  8. Hi Brian. Yep, I understand that, and I’m not naive enough to assume that I’ll stop everyone from using IE6update.

    I think what’s important is that we have to remember that developers occupy a tiny, tiny percentage of the web audience. We’re used to up-to-date kit, big screens, modern browsers and whizz-bang everything. Average users don’t use the web like we do and they don’t have the attitude to upgrading that we do (even if we would like them to.)

    We can offer as many incentives as we like to get people to upgrade, but at some point you have no further influence over people, and you have to accept that they won’t (or can’t) upgrade.

    Shutting them out or ignoring them at that point seems to be advocated by many developers and I simply don’t agree with that.

  9. @Matt Hill

    What I mean by supporting a browser, is that you check if everything works perfectly, and if necessary, change some parts to make it work in the browser. Although simple things will work in IE6 and older browsers anyway, more advanced functions don’t. Obviously there are many websites that think they need new shiny features that don’t really do anything. But still, when using much CSS, IE6 (and 7 too) can’t render the layout so well. I just don’t think you should spend much time to use workarrounds for IE6 users or just drop the whole layout of your website.
    If you want to go somewhere far, you’ll need a car, and you can’t expect everything to be just a few steps away from your house.

  10. I agree. This IE6 update nonsense reminds me of those god awful popup adverts that try to emulate a typical Windows window – it’s unacceptable to play tricks like this on the user.

    While I understand the intent I think this is the wrong way to go about fixing it. Most web developers, when complaining about IE6, will hide behind a wall of altruism, promising that the users will benefit when in fact, they’re only looking after themselves.

  11. “The argument isn’t really about getting people to upgrade, it’s about accepting that there are people you will not convince to upgrade no matter how hard you try, whether that’s through education, fake information bars, hate campaigns or any other tactic.”

    I think just the opposite. Enough education, and inconvenience is the only thing that will ever drive users of outdated software to upgrade. When companies finally decide they should update their internal software, it will be because administration (not the “users”, but the people in charge of deciding to implement new software) have either realized the downfalls of their old software (an acknowledgment existing because they’ve been educated), or because they realize technology has “moved on” and no longer supports their software (an acknowledgment existing because of an inconvenience).

  12. Perhaps it’s not a good way to trick a user this way, but I don’t like to see custom popups or anything like a popup either.

    Another option is not to inform the visitor about their outdated browser. But then he/she could think the site is ‘broken’… Not a good option imo.

  13. Thanks for your ongoing comments everyone.

    @James: I appreciate your supportive comments.

    @Travis: . So you think it’s acceptable to create “inconvenience” for a user purely to “sell” them an upgrade that they might not be able to apply, or even need?

  14. I think this is a good idea, but I also don’t agree on the wording of the update.

    I feel that Microsoft should support its customers better and release versions of software that can work backwards (i.e. win2000) and not leave it up to developers. It astounds me that Microsoft can be so arrogant about something as important as this.

    The ‘idea’ behind this is good.. make users aware that there is infact a newer better browser, if they can at least achieve this, then we are better off, rather than sitting here critisizing how negative it is.

    I’m just happy someone has finally addressed this problem with a viable solution rather than just sitting around ‘waiting for users to upgrade’

  15. I agree with you that ie6update is deceiving, and for that reason obviously for the profit of developers, but I also don’t think it does the user any harm. From the point of view of the user… what’s the worst case scenario?

    I’m simply an advocate of supporting the movement and progression of the web by embracing new technology, and that means supporting older browsers less. I don’t mean blocking IE6 users or making the site not usable.

    Sure, I will admit ie6u is primarily for the benefit of developers, but the advancement of the internet as a whole is most certainly a good thing for all users (especially the 80% who are using a modern browser).

    I would be curious to see statistics that show who makes up the 17% of IE6 users. I think ie6update targets users who don’t realize their browser is almost 10 years old… People who are only using IE6 because they don’t know any better. This may be the minority of IE6 users…. I really don’t know without some credible statistical info.

  16. I agree with Brian. What I don’t agree with, is all the people running their mouths about this like it’s the greatest sin to plague mankind since the death of Jesus himself.

    It’s an update bar… get over it. Next week we’ll be happily bitching about spec work again or the next great trendy bandwagon to be presented by Paul Boag for everyone else to jump on.

  17. How does my comment suggest anything to do with my users? (I’ll give you a clue: it doesn’t, it’s talking about people jumping on preachy bandwagons)

  18. You agree with the concept of the IE6 update bar, which uses a dishonest ploy to fool users into doing something that WE want them to. That suggests a certain lack of respect shown towards users (I’m not levelling this at you personally, I mean anyone who thinks this way. I apologise for my previous turn of phrase.)

    How can you condone lying to users, even you if think it’s in their best interests? It’s not your place to do that. I think it’s arrogant to tell users what’s “good for them”. They are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what is and is not important. Should I also tell them to upgrade the old car they have in their driveway? What if I did so by pretending to be an “official government inspector” who was telling people they MUST buy a new car, even though there is no such edict and their old car still gets them from A to B perfectly well?

    It’s really very simple: Users don’t want to be told they “have to” install a new piece of software just to access a website. An average user seeing an apparently legitimate system prompt telling them that they must upgrade is more likely to leave your site, than do the upgrade. It’s basic web usability.

    The IE6update bar, and indeed all other “Kill IE6″ tactics that have the “users interests at heart” really don’t. They are primarily designed for the self interest of lazy developers.

    As for being a preachy bandwagon, far from it. I’ve had this view of the web since I started developing in 1997, as did everyone else I worked with. We didn’t shout about it because we didn’t need to, we just did what was right: made websites for EVERYONE. It’s only now that I put my money where my mouth is, as the bandwagon that rolled into town (“Kill IE6″) is one that should be rolled right back out again.

    It’s clear in this discussion that there are two kinds of developers. Those who always have the user in mind support IE6 because people use it. Developers who don’t support IE6 or who nag people to upgrade are doing it for their own reasons and not the reasons of their clients or their client’s users.

    To tell users on what terms they can use the web is to completely miss the point of what the web is all about. If you don’t recognise that, then you probably shouldn’t be building websites.

  19. The only issue I take with this discussion is the notion that respect is not a two-way street.

    The reality is that MOST users of IE6 are not forced to use it by way of OS limitations or IT departments. They use it because they aren’t particularly web savvy and simply don’t know any better, or don’t care enough to change. And frankly, that’s completely fine – they shouldn’t be forced to update.

    HOWEVER, by the same token, these same users are often the first to send “this is broken” or “your site sucks” messages when the reality is they are trying to use modern technology with via outdated tools. If you try to drive a long distance in an old car, it will probably break down. The same holds true on the web. If you want to enjoy the benefits of new technologies and slick web experience (Ajax, etc), you need to use a tool that’s capable of supporting that experience… IE6 simply is not.

    So sure, this is a tad misleading, and sure it’s sad it has come to this. But the idea that developers MUST bend over backwards to support people that refuse to meet them half way in order to ensure a reasonably good experience is just nonsense. Technology consistently marches forward and part of that process is updating, upgrading, and keeping up with the times.

    Your 2001 iPod can’t play video – those people don’t call Apple and demand they make black and white low-res video work on their iPod. They update, or they remain happy with what they have and understand that other portions of their experience will be lacking if they don’t update. The web is no different, and I’m tired of hearing people try and condemn developers for wanting to give their users the best possible experience rather than penalizing the majority in order to support the minority.

  20. Hi Clint, thanks for your comment.

    Likening the web to a product is problematic for your argument. The web isn’t a product, it’s an information space, a place for people to come together and share ideas, communicate, and interact. They didn’t buy it and it’s not governed by the same level of expectation that you might have for an iPod, a car or a computer. In these arguments, I have been trying to make it clear that the Web is not just about the technology that drives it.

    Having said that, I think your argument increases in merit as the percentage of IE6 users decreases. There does indeed come a point where a tiny number of users can’t dictate the needs of everyone. But IE6 is way off that yet. Current estimates put it at having between 17% to 33% market share.

    An estimate of the total number of global web users puts it at around approx 1.5 billion. Lets’ be cautious and assume that IE6 really does have 33% share of that figure: nearly 500 million users!

    Now, if those 500M users choose to remain with an outdated browser, or can’t upgrade for reasons beyond their control, do you still think it’s OK to ignore them?

    I recognise that the point of IE6update is to try and bring that % market share down. I get it, really I do. But what IE6update fails to do is recognise that most of those users can’t or won’t upgrade, due to the arguments outlined in my blog post. You highlighted them too. So given that the users who might most benefit from IE6update actually won’t, what possible justification is there for shoving it in their face? Especially in an underhand way? Better to put the effort into giving them a usable web experience than simply trying to make the problem go away.

    You also said:

    But the idea that developers MUST bend over backwards to support people that refuse to meet them half way in order to ensure a reasonably good experience is just nonsense

    This is nonsense too. It’s not rocket science to get a site to work in IE6 and if it’s taking you days or weeks to do so, you’re probably doing it wrong. And it’s not about the majority being “penalized” by having to support the minority. If you think that, you might be unaware of the ideas of graded browser support and elegant degradation.

    I really do think that developers whining about IE6 are looking for an easy way out. You make it sound like IE6 killed your family pet or something. Do the work: Make your site work for IE6 users (it doesn’t have to be perfectly the same as the experience presented to modern browsers) and start feeling good that you supported 33% of the web that otherwise would have been locked out of your site.

  21. No, I haven’t.

    If there’s a relevant point you’d like to make that refers to something written in .net, then please could you summarise and share? Your comment is meaningless otherwise and does not further the discussion.

  22. No no, that’s quite alright – I just assumed that with your big crusade you’d at least be well versed in current leading industry publications.

  23. @John, I’d argue that all of the “current leading industry publications” are online. The “.net” magazine leaves a lot to be desired as far as content goes.

  24. Actually I have three copies sitting right here on my desk. I have a 12 month subscription (it was a gift; not my choice). In fact, I found the latest featured article (“Exploding the myths of web design”) somewhat misleading.

  25. John, I don’t need to read a print based magazine to stay abreast of the industry.

    If you’ve a point to make about an article in .net that’s relevant to this discussion, then please share it, otherwise I’d appreciate you refrain from childish sniping. I’m beginning to not take you seriously.

  26. Great article Matt, you’ve pretty much summed up why this approach is so wrong. I especially like how you emphasize that users should not be bullied and segregated just for using an outdated browser.

    It’s pretty selfish for us developers to negate our users such a fundamental thing as the power to choose how they use the Web. Using IE6 is NOT a user problem, it’s a problem developers need to address. Imagine going into a car mechanic only to be told they won’t fix your car because a newer, safer and better model is out. Users would just go to the mechanic next door who will fix their car.

    Having said that, IE6 is definitely a bad browser, but there have to be better ways to get users to try out a different browser. Tricking your users will never work.

  27. Hi Bruno, thanks for your comment. A great little analogy you used there. Now if we could just get that message out to all the devs who think IE6update is a good thing, we might be on to something!

  28. I don’t think the IE6Update project is inherently bad at all. Yes, the wording could be a little better (there’s an option to change it though), but other than that, all it’s doing is notifying users that their browser is out of date.

    What the users then do with that information is completely up to them! They may choose to do nothing, which is fine.

    IE6Update’s purpose, in my opinion, is to encourage users to update their old, insecure browser, but if they don’t, to at least explain why the website they’re viewing may not look as nice as it did on their other computer.

    For example, a user has been browsing a website at home (IE7 / IE8), and it looks quite nice and has a cool layered effect (PNGs etc.). They go to work, and open the same website (IE6), and the website still looks mostly like the same one, but some of the images aren’t showing. There’s also a little warning bar at the top explaining that the browser is out of date, and to get everything they need to update.

    If the user knows updating isn’t possible on the work computer, they at least understand why the website is different (not broken, just different). If they don’t know updating isn’t possible, so they try and it results in a phonecall to IT, where IT explain why, and the user accepts it, or maybe even challenges IT on why they’re using out of date software. This isn’t bad either, because it encourages the IT folks to hurry along with their upgrade plans, as they should be anyway at this point, due to Windows XP switching into extended support recently.

    Again, it’s not inherently, there are one or two small things about it they you might want to change though. I’ve released a WordPress plugin for it, which is in version 2.0 now, and you can change all the available options very easily from within your admin (I’ve changed the wording and colours on mine, and will be changing the icons shortly).

  29. Japh, there’s nothing wrong with trying to encourage people to upgrade. Education is obviously a good thing. But IE6 update is the wrong way to go about it, for all the reasons previously discussed. In summary:

    1) It spoofs a browser information feature

    2) Developers implementing it are largely doing so for their own benefit, not the benefit of their users

    3) Users who would most benefit from upgrading probably can’t, so the script is simply an annoyance to them.

    The only real solution for IE6 users is Graded Browser Support. That’s all there is to it. IE6update doesn’t solve any problems, it just creates new ones.

  30. Matt, I really think you have hit the nail on the head here. This is by far your best article. Thank you for an insightful read.

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  32. This is a very interesting debate!

    The IE6 update wording is wrong, absolutely. I don’t think anyone here is really arguing that.

    But would I use it on a professional site? No. Instead, I try to limit the technology (as I am mainly a corporate web designer) so it looks great when it can and through the use of one or two “plug-ins”, make it degrade gracefully. Why? Because the client is paying for me to make a website look good and communicate it’s message, not tell potential customers that they aren’t up to date while diluting the experience and potentially losing customers.

    BUT, in saying all that, I run a club website with a version of that message running on it. Wording is similar but more casual, certainly not alarmist. I use this message because it isn’t a corporate site, no-one paid for it and no-one will lose money by telling people that their browser sucks and should upgrade.

    I had a guy email me, demanding that I take down the message because “he tried updating once and it didn’t work” and that it bugged him. I simply replied (tactfully) that IE6 is old software, didn’t support some standards, had security flaws and he’d get so much more with a newer browser. I also told him (not so tactfully) that I wouldn’t be turning it off so he should try it again. He dutifully updated and thanked me profusely for pushing him to upgrade.

    So maybe the question is how can we tell users without putting our clients work in jeopardy?

  33. I didn’t read half the comments, but from experience working somewhere where we had no choice but to use IE (local government) I can see why so many people still do.

    Local government has a set pot of money. They also tend to end up with legacy systems (usually databases running core systems such as procurement, auditing, payroll etc) that partially interact with IE (partially, but it’s an important part) that don’t play well with new browsers including IE7 and upwards.

    There are potentially new updates to these legacy systems, but with a set pot of money that comes out of tax-payers pockets and often those updates not offering much more fnuctionality, it’s very clear why such organisations don’t jump to upgrade to the latest browser, and in a lot of cases have a 5+ year plan that they have to put in place before making a switch, and these database systems can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds – that’s your money going into something that may be slightly older than the latest web 2.0 doohickey built by a bedroom coder, sure, but it works fine for them and may not need to be upgraded for many years.

    Now imagine each local government in the UK has at least several hundred employees using such software. Now times that several hundred by the several hundred local government offices there are in the UK. Lots of money huh? Your money as well.

    Now you see the problem with this misleading form of upgrade message?

    On my own website I used a little bit of Javascript to display a customised message in the body of the homepage. It warns that they’re using an out of date browser and that there are potential security issues sure, but it doesn’t pretend to be an authority and clicks through to an info page telling them why they should consider upgrading and giving some info on the potential alternatives.

    If I had a website selling software to organisations such as local governments, I’d probably still have the message, but tone it down considerably to be friendly and more of a suggestion (like when you visit Google in IE6) so as not to panic hundreds of office workers who don’t know any better and can’t do anything about it on their locked-down PC’s anyway. I’d also personally be selling the upgrade message on the back of something like a free upgrade in my software that makes it compatible with IE7 and that’s easy to implement.

    The reason that this doesn’t happen in general is that database systems that interact with the web generally don’t have the web-facing aspects of their systems designed by a designer, but rather a programmer who may not know his web standards from his packed lunch. From past experience, those sorts of companies also don’t like to give out updates for free as that’s not how they make money.

    So in my local government scenario that almost certainly applies to a stack of other business types, so would you really want to be scaring workers poo-less and taking potentially hundreds of hours country-wide away from them doing their jobs, tying up support departments with requests that they can’t do anything about when it’s the tax payer who’s actually going to be paying for the panic or even the costly yet unneccessarily upgrade? Really?

    Before anyone mentions security, I’d like to mention that in the scenario above the web-facing aspect of the important bit of software is actually completely internal (intranet-accessible-only) and that there are plenty of other systems in place taking care of IE6′s security issues.

    Going back to a designer’s viewpoint, I recently updated a website that gets a few hundred thousand hits a month and in excess of 17,000 unique visitors. I decided initially not to cater for IE6 as Google Analytics was telling me that IE6 was only used by 5% of the visitors to this particular website. When I thought about it again after designing it without IE6 in mind, I had one of those real “D’OH” moments as I realised that 5% of 17,000 is still 850 unique individuals, some of whom may be regular visitors contributing on the forums and thus contributing valuable content to the site that then could not use my website.

    So what did I do? I left all the nice PNG transparencey images in, made sure they were all controlled by CSS and created an IE6 stylesheet that loads up a bunch of GIF images instead with no fancy effects. I double-checked all the Javascript worked with IE6 too (pretty much a given since they were all using jQuery and it’s very good at being backwards-compatible). I’m going to put an upgrade message on for IE6 users soon but I’m in no rush to do so as it now works just fine for them.

    Bottom line – for a 150+ page website, because I did everything with stylesheets, making it IE6 compatible only added a day onto the development of a project that took several months to complete – that’s nothing and certainly wasn’t a waste of my time. There’s advantages for IE6 users to upgrade (the site will look nicer and there are some other fnuctions that I want to add that will ony work on modern browsers, but they won’t render the main parts inoperable for IE6 users) and I will put in a suggestion for them to upgrade, but ONLY on the homepage so it doesn’t follow them around the site and turn them off visiting ever again. 850 unique visitors is too many to be turning away from any website for any reason if you can help it.

    So yeah, there’s some food for thought.

    Give it a few more years, and nobody will be using IE6. Just wait it out. It’s not like it’s hard to design with IE6 in mind or even adds that much extra time if you know what you’re doing. It also doesn’t impact on the nice stuff you can give to those on modern browsers unless you let it.

    One final word, if cost is an issue to you as a designer, just make sure you consider it in your quotations and timescales. Job’s a good’un.

  34. Stop pretending to be taking some moral high ground. IE6 is just wrong. It should have been buried a long time ago, and your chivalrous defense of it is just ridiculous.

    Group 1 and 2 need to get off the stick and upgrade.

  35. Thanks for you comment Mike.

    When you’ve rebuilt your site so that it’s accessible, table-less, validates and works if Flash is disabled, please come back and let me know so we can discuss your views in more detail.

  36. Well, Mike’s comment isn’t an argument. It’s simply “Do as I say”, which quite clearly is very different from “Do as I do.”

    At the very least, I would expect that web designers who choose not to support IE6 are at least building sites to modern web standards.

    You can’t really have a strong position on this debate if you’re not.

  37. Well, Matt’s comment isn’t an argument either. It’s simply the old smokescreen ploy: “Don’t look at my naked butt prancing around in the daffodils! Look at him! He’s got dirt behind his ears!”

    You got a little off target there, Matt. And I don’t disagree that my site needs rebuilding. Rather it is for that very reason that I detest IE6. Moving out of the dark ages (tables and flash dependency) shouldn’t be like moving right back into the dark ages (CSS nightmares due to IE6 noncompliance).

  38. You’re recommending a site that does an excellent job of showing what a half-baked pile of crap IE6 really is. Are you doing drugs, Matt? – because you’re not making any sense.

  39. No-one’s denying that IE6 has shortcomings. That’s not the point of my argument Mike. I’ve stated my position on supporting IE6 in this article and elsewhere, and PIE is a great resource for people who share my views and want to support IE6 users.