Upgrade yer auld Browser!

(If you have no interest in reading lot’s of web design stuff, you could just jump straight to the why upgrade? bit.)

I’ve noticed a growing campaign among web folk to stop supporting Internet Explore 6 lately:

And that’s just from the handful of web design blogs that I regularly read. If you do a search, you can see there are many more.

Like every other web designer / developer, it would make my life much easier to stop supporting ie6. For the benefit of non web site makers: We have to put in all kinds of hacks and cheats to make web sites behave in Internet explorer 6. I don’t think it’s a realistic or constructive approach to stop supporting it. This goes for my own site and a lot of other sites I work on or manage.

The biggest mistake you can make when you own a web site, or for a company getting a web site built for them – is thinking that anyone else cares as much about your site as you do. People don’t want to invest a seconds more time on your site than they need to. A good few years ago, obviously completely ignorant of this fact, you would see a lot of disclaimers such as: “This site is best viewed on Internet Explore 6, screen size: 800 x 600, Flash version: 6, sitting 1 foot away from your computer, wearing a beige cravat and sipping a tall latte.”

Of course no one bothered changing a single thing to look at those sites. If something doesn’t work they hit the back button, and click a different link. So long sunshine. It’s up to you, not the user, to make your site work for everyone. There’s been a mass shift towards building sites that are accessible to all. Actually it’s a basic standard for any professional these days. Well here’s the thing; you can code to the best standards, and use the most semantic of markup but if you dismiss a widely used browser (regardless of how badly it renders your code), you do not make accessible web sites. I think that factor might be easy to forget. Of course the big difference is that if we’re just talking about web design related sites, most of your readers are going to have the latest browsers – so the question on whether to support or not should be a statistical choice. Like Cloudsteph recently pondered. And this blog there are more IE6 readers than anyone else. Same goes for a lot of much bigger sites I work on.

I think a much more practical campaign is to let the uninitiated know just why they should upgrade their browsers. So I’ll practice what I preach with three main points.

1. It’s easy

Upgrading to a new version of your browser or installing a new browser is very easy. They’re clever people you know, they think of everything. As part of the upgrade/install they will give you the option to import all your settings and your favourites/bookmarks. So you don’t lose anything and it’s as simple as ABC.

2. There is no learning curve

A lot of people hate upgrades and the drastic changes they can sometimes bring. But there are no major user interface difference with browsers. You’ve got your address bar, your back and forward buttons. Then you’ve got favourites or bookmarks. You’d barely noticed the switch. Maybe your home button is in a different place but there’s really nothing new to learn at all.

3. Why upgrade then?

There are many reasons why you would upgrade. You get a lot of added functionality. Websites will look and function as they should. Page load will most likely be smoother/faster. Probably most important is security. Using old browsers is not very secure. Especially in the ‘always on’ broadband era. You’re making your computer very vulnerable to all kinds of malware/viruses.

So if you’re using Internet Explorer Version 6, you should upgrade to version 7 or install Firefox. To see what browser version you have (and this is the same throughout most software) go to your Help menu and select “About Internet Explorer”. You can see which Browser version you have then. You have two options no: (1)upgrade or (2)Download and install. To upgrade Internet Explorer, go to Tools > Windows Update. This will bring you to a Microsoft Update site, which will tell you what updates you need to bring your computer up-to-date, including the latest Browser updates. Or you could just download Internet Explorer 7 and install it: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/ie/getitnow.mspx. And you’ll also notice that ie8 is on the way!

I’d recommend that you get Firefox. It is faster, more secure, more independent from Windows, and has a lot more functionality. It’s very easy to customise or install plug-ins. For example one plug-in I find very useful is sxipper which remembers all my logins/passwords for various sites. And I recently installed a script that blocks all applications on Facebook, so I no longer receive requests from anyone asking me to poke a zombie in the eye with a virtual pet. Also if you’re a bit unsure about all this but want to give it a go, you can install Firefox without effecting Internet Explorer at all, so you can go back if you need to or use both of them.

So, don’t upgrade for me, upgrade for you!