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!

  • Reply Jennifer

    October 20, 2008, 4:22 pm

    Hi John. I’m going to hand this out to all my new clients! I HATE IE6 and I know hate is a strong word but I’ve just had that sick feeling too many times where I’ve nearly completed my lovely design and then go to the browser checks. Argggghhhhh.

  • Reply Brian Kenny

    October 21, 2008, 1:10 pm

    Completely agree, people who do not upgrade their browser should be banned from the internet and made go to a creche durning the day

  • Reply John Braine

    October 21, 2008, 5:37 pm

    Hi Jennifer / Brian. Yeah it’s a pain that so many people don’t upgrade but I a lot of sites trying to convicne people have really got the audience wrong I reckon. Most likely completely non techy. You won’t get them to upgrade with stuff like this…



  • Reply Ian

    October 24, 2008, 1:29 am

    Well you could go crazy and install google chrome. Thats what I have been using since It came out and would never look back lol


    Ive been looking at your blog for a while and was wondering if you would like to exchange links with my blog.


    Please leave a comment on my blog if you link me thanks.

  • Reply Quickroute

    October 26, 2008, 7:43 am

    I’ve been playing with Googles Chrome and it’s not bad

  • Reply John Braine

    October 26, 2008, 11:19 am

    Hi Ian and Quickroute. Yeah I have chrome installed too but I deliberately didn’t mention it. In this context I think it’s just that bit too different from ie6 for the kind of people who just don’t upgrade.


  • Reply John

    March 6, 2009, 8:41 pm

    Hey John!
    Thanks for the shout out. The big problem we have at work is that a lot of our clients come from the public sector, many of which still use windows 2000/98 etc… so the browsers they are using to access their website/intranet is of course IE6. The shift towards upgrading is slowly taking place amongst our clients, but it will be a good while before there is a real sea change in where they are all using the latest and greatest web browsers.
    I made the decision to not support IE6 on A Bulletproof idea primarily as 1% of users used IE6 to visit the site. I felt it would be a waste of time to write even more code to cater for the absolute minority and chose to go forwards rather than backwards. However, every site I author at work does include IE6 users for the very reasons I mentioned at the start of this reply.
    Talking of browsers, I am posting this using Safari 4 and quite impressed so far – fast, clean and I love Safari’s rendering engine – the way it displays fonts so clearly. Blog post on that coming up I think! 🙂

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