No matter how much we all hate IE6, we never seem to agree on what’s the best way to finally get rid of it. Web designers and developers alike have realized that investing too much time and effort in fixing its quirks is not viable from a business perspective, but they still want to reach that audience.
This ambivalence is what still drives people, like myself, to keep writing about the infamous browser.
The first premise we have to take into account is best summarized by this little website. There’s only two scenarios in which you can go to great lengths to make your website look (almost) exactly the same on IE6 and the rest:
Mistake 1: make your site look like crap on IE6
The Universal Internet Explorer 6 CSS is the first big mistake I want to talk about. The idea here is that instead of wasting time on IE6 hacks, you just use a premade stylesheet, instead of disabling styling altogether. This is what A List Apart would look like if it was implemented.
This approach is flawed for a wide range of reasons:
- The idea behind this universal stylesheet is that disabling style would make your website look broken. However, your sites will look broken.
- If you use a logo with a dark background, it’ll definitely not fit the white background the stylesheet imposes. The same goes for menus and any other graphical item that might not be ready for a white contrast.
- If a prior version of your website or brand did work on IE6, and after a redesign you implement this, again, people will think something is really off.
- It shouldn’t be black and white, there’s gray. At this time, most IE6 quirks have been perfectly documented. Most have very easy solutions: it’s almost a second-nature for me to add
zoom: 1to clear floats. Of course, making border-radius work on IE6 can be painful, but that’s exactly what you should be doing. Don’t go for all the small details: shadows, rounded corners, transparency. Or do it if the budget and time allows it. The key here is that you can still deliver your brand identity to IE6 without major efforts.
Developers strive to deliver an identity to all possible mediums. If they design custom iPhone versions, why can’t they streamline their stylesheet to make it look fairly good on IE? As an example, my website worked almost perfectly on IE6 with little work. However, when I triggered the rain in my clouds, it just crashed. As a result, I just disabled that particular effect.
Mistake 2: not explaining the user why IE6 is bad
As I was reading the comments on Jeffrey Zeldman’s post, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how condescending developers can be towards their users. The key here is that people will switch if they understand why.
Let’s look at some of the proposed solutions to make users switch.
- IE 6 Blocker overlay. Blocks content, doesn’t explain why the switch is encouraged
- Push up the web. Doesn’t block content, but doesn’t explain why the switch is encouraged and to top it off, it presents itself as sort of a deceiving “operating system important notice”.
- IE6Update takes the cake. Not only does it completely imitate a Microsoft warning in a deceptive way, but chances a very high that the user itself closed a similar message box a long time ago! Remember that Microsoft itself pushed the upgrade to IE7, even through the system automated updates. To top it off, this message doesn’t remotely explain how your website is better in a modern browser, so it’s an “easy close” for your average IE6 visitor.
The correct approach
- Deliver the content
- Make your website look OK on IE6, and somewhat similar.