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We're looking at (finally) retiring IE6 support.

I've always been a big fan of graceful degradation but we're really pushing ahead and trying to embrace features that we're simply not going to want to put effort into getting working for IE6 anymore.

We need to decide how to inform the user of this. There seems to be two options:

1) Block them from using the site. Maybe refer them to a phone #.

2) Warn them that their browser is not a supported browser and therefor parts of the site may not work.

Any research or strong opinions on which route to go with? I'm leaning towards #1 as it seems to me that a site I can enter, but breaks in many places due to my browser is a lesser user experience and brand impression than if I was simply denied entry in the first place. #2 also seems to bring with it increased offline support costs.

That said, I'm also careful to single out IE6 by itself. Denying access any other browser these days would be silly. So IE6 is definitely being treated as the outlier.

Thoughts?

UPDATE: In addition to the great Facebook example below, anyone have any good examples of how other sites are handling informing users that they need to go with a newer browser? YouTube has a fairly abrupt warning. I noticed that Microsoft.com let's you use IE6 but it degrades fairly severely (try clicking on the top menu bar).

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sunglasshut.com has a large red banner about IE6 badness across the top. –  JBRWilkinson Jul 1 '10 at 12:27
    
That would kill off my school! No! A lot of schools XP computers come with IE6. Please just warn them that it might not display correctly! –  Cole Johnson May 16 '12 at 14:11
    
There was an online shop in the news recently having an extra 'tax' for IE7 users: lifehacker.com.au/2012/06/… –  greenforest Jun 25 '12 at 8:59
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12 Answers 12

up vote 37 down vote accepted

Warn them, and show a link to download Firefox, etc... here's why

IMHO, the visitors who come to your website or web application with an IE6 browser, fall into two general parties:

  1. Members of a locked down major corporation that can't afford the time or money to update their entire organization's security settings after allowing everyone to move to IE7,8, 9, Firefox, Safari, etc... Therefore, blocking them from even being able to access your site will essentially lose you any potential customers within the entire company...

  2. The less-technically inclined (please understand I'm not trying to stereotype here...) or those who spend so little time with their computers that they simply don't have up-to-date hardware or software. Therefore, the majority of them are not going to understand what's really going on if they come to your site, and it says: "You've been blocked because you're using IE6." It's perfectly conceivable that they'll call Microsoft or McAfee because they think their anti-virus software is messing up the "interweb".

So in the end, I would say that the browser warning will still allow you as many customers as possible, and hopefully even have the positive side-effect of teaching the un-educated that IE6 is horrible, horrific, etc, and that they should join the 21st century.

(Here's a good example, by Facebook:)

enter image description here

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Ironically, we're one of those corporations still using IE6 on most office desktops. ;) –  DA01 Jun 29 '10 at 18:14
    
Oh, man... I feel your pain! I used to work for a software company that would roll out INDIVIDUAL builds for those clients who were still living under an IT mandate of IE6 only... wow –  jffgrdnr Jun 29 '10 at 18:58
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I agree, but the enterprise thing is more than security settings. Enterprises may have a whole host of home-grown internal-facing applications built for and tested with IE6. Upgrading to a newer IE probably won't break them, but big companies tend to avoid risk. –  Jeff Harrison Jun 29 '10 at 20:27
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We're still on IE6 too...that's over 4000 employees, let alone the hundreds of thousands of website users each month. IE6 is a PITA! –  Nick Fine Jun 30 '10 at 9:19
    
I, too, have seen restrictions on browsers at work. And restrictions on Facebook, Twitter, and even Google's image-search feature. –  JeromeR Jul 6 '10 at 4:50
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At my company, we neither display a warning nor a blocking message. We make the site usable in IE6, and that's enough. There's no need to wave your hands in the air and say "sorry, we don't have the time to make our site look pretty in your browser". IE6 users probably don't care about poorly rendered pages anyway since they are used to it - every other page they land on will look bad compared to how a modern browser would render the page.

99% of the time, IE6 has problems with visuals, not functionality. We use the Prototype Javascript Framework to fix all the cross-browser functional incompatibilities. There doesn't exist an analogous CSS framework to fix all the visual incompatabilities, so we often find IE6 displaying something differently. A button may be 5 pixels shorter or a corner isn't rounded, for example. Our philosophy is to let these visual differences slide because websites are made for people to complete tasks, not gawk at pretty interface design. All the usability experts will attest that ugly design does not hamper usability.

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+1 completely agree, having a site's basic functionality fail in IE6 is just sloppy and disrespectful imo. It only needs to be usable, not look cool. Obviously, if the site is a cool game campaign using technology not possible in IE6 - that's a different story. –  Oskar Duveborn May 7 '12 at 10:24
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Petition Yahoo! to take IE6 off its A Grade browser list. Then those of us who have corporate or government web standards in place that require compliance with the Yahoo! list can also stop testing everything in IE6.

At most you should only warn users that because IE6 is so munted, your site might not look as pretty compared to what they would see if they used a different browser.

You could browser sniff using conditional CSS and basically render a plain text site, fully functional but with not visual design at all.

Anyone, like me, who works on a tax payer funded website (ie government) shouldn't even consider blocking IE6. Legally, politically and operationally that creates a world of pain.

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In this spot on some contracts, where IE6 has to be supported because of a gov policy, compounded with stats that show IE6 in use. IE6 use on one of the NP sites I do (Alzheimer's) has risen a little in the last 2 months (up to 5.8%). You can urge them to upgrade, you can tell them flat out the experience won't be as good (like in a first time users message - if possible), but if you're one of these sites, you can't lock them out. –  Susan R Jun 29 '10 at 20:58
    
"Munted" is a new one, for me. And apparently also for Google: google.ca/… –  JeromeR Jul 6 '10 at 4:51
    
Hehehe that's Aussie slang for "broken" and various other derivatives. see urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=munted you can use it in polite company instead of the "f" word :) –  Nathan-W Jul 6 '10 at 7:55
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Option 2

2) Warn them that their browser is not a supported browser and therefor parts of the site may not work.

Always leave the user in control.

If they want to use an outdated browser on your site - well that's their choice.

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True, but if we're not guaranteeing fully functionality, would that frustrate users at some point more so than if they were just told not to enter in the first place? For instance, I noticed BestBuy.com simply doesn't work in IE6. Their primary navigation just dies. –  DA01 Jun 30 '10 at 13:35
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Unless you want to really upset your customer base, #2 is the only way to go. And when you do it, I would advise that you explain exactly what won't work when using their current browser.

I would also advise that you don't explicitly single out their browser by name on your page - it can be very insulting. It also can cause problems for you if you later need to exclude another browser for incompatibility as well. Rather than saying "You can't use IE 6 on this site", you can just say "Here is the list of preferred browser versions" with each browser and the minimum version number that you support. You may even want to include platforms here because you are likely to have situations where you can't support the user using a mobile browser because it doesn't support one of your core technologies properly.

Also, it is important to note that one of the biggest reasons that many corporations still use IE 6 is not the "pain of upgrading X computers". Most corporations where that would be a pain are going to have decent rollout options that make this pretty simple actually. The problem is more often that these companies decided to use IE6 as their OS for their internally developed applications, using custom Active X controls that only work in IE 6. So it isn't just a matter of upgrading a browser, they first have to rewrite all of these applications that are used often on a daily basis. That is a MUCH bigger undertaking and something that rarely is given a spot in the budget because "it still works".

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Any normal IT department can roll out virtualized/sandboxed/siloed IE6 containers for their IE6-only apps in a week or less... I don't buy that explanation at all, unless it's due to incompetence ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn May 7 '12 at 10:12
    
There are cases where those ActiveX controls are third-party and directly access hardware. Those often don't play well with virtualization and have no upgrade path. - Although, they can (and often do) end up just making those PCs single-use. –  Don Nickel Jul 11 '13 at 14:24
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I recently visited a site that told me:

"You can't use Internet Explorer to view this site. Please download a browser that is cool."

It included a list of IE's main competitor downlood sites. And, yes, I was using the latest version of IE. LOL!

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Ha. Ha A sort of website Darwin Award then. –  PhillipW Jul 6 '10 at 9:29
    
I suppose you're using IE9. The site probably used Javascript to check if your browser was IE and version 8. They used an equality rather than >= 8. This is poor programming. –  JoJo Apr 15 '11 at 22:44
    
I'm sure there's a script library called CheckForCoolBrowser.js that excludes anything with IE in it though, I never did understand why anyone would want to exclude a user based on the browser - it feels like forcing religion on people or something. Graceful fallbacks for the win. –  Oskar Duveborn May 7 '12 at 10:20
    
@JoJo - also could be a specific styling script that formats a <div> that covers the entire page - more here –  Wilf Feb 18 at 23:45
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The issue we had with IE6 at my last place of work is that they were running Windows Server 2000 on most of the machines. Although switching to IE7 would not have been too big an overhead it unfortunately cannot be installed over Windows Server 2000. Hence the legacy of IE6. They were waiting to rollout a different OS before changing the browser.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is a similar situation in a lot of corporate environments.

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...your client PCs were running Win Server? –  Ben Brocka May 7 '12 at 1:50
    
Terminal Servers perhaps, or end-users with a need for the server features... plenty of reasons. –  Oskar Duveborn May 7 '12 at 10:21
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We recently made the decision at my company to no longer support IE6 for new products, in part because of government legislation mandating ie7 (and ie8 com August) for all government / military computers (our predominant clients), as well as this supporting website: http://ie6countdown.com/ which is Microsoft's official site saying that Ie6 is outdated and should not be used.

I'm in favor of more user information than not. Because this is a specific IE6 issue, I think the user should be informed that their browser is quite simply out of date and that a different browser needs to be used to use the site. I know the site I'm working on for my company is nearly illegible in Ie6 and so we plan on implementing a similar strategy directing users to upgrade.

Another site's implementation: http://www.flucmedia.com/ie6notsupported.html

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As much as I hate all the hassle we had with IE6 on rhq-project.org I still vote for 2), as this still allows the user to access some parts of the site and probably to some basic things that may be enough for that user.

There is no need to (fully) support IE6, but completely blocking it is probably overkill.

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One option is to use a plain stylesheet and a notification at the top of the page.

I have a few methods to manage IE6 support: I use 8-bit PNGs (with alpha) wherever feasible (Adobe Fireworks can export them, as can a free app named ImageAlpha) since those degrade relatively nicely (to binary transparency), and I use feature detection in the Javascript I use.

Once I've done those main tasks I do a brief inspection of the site in IE6. If it's unreasonably bad I'll make simple reparations in an IE6 stylesheet, but more often than not it'll just be a matter of living with the compromises.

Microsoft themselves provide a banner to notify visitors that IE6 is no longer supported and there's no shortage of other third-party equivalents.

The other alternative is to use Google's Chrome Frame, which will load WebKit into IE to render the page in a more standards-compliant way. That may be a lower-friction way to get your site to be supported in IE and may even be supported by corporate users who have no authority to install alternative browsers.

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Of the 54% of desktop users who use IE, something less than 10% of that group still uses IE6. See details from Net Market Share study.

Check your analytics. You may have so few IE6 users that you can just end support for the antiquated browser.

But if you still have users coming in on IE6, it's probably best to give them a warning screen with links to download other, better browsers.

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It's an age old debate. gets pipe out I remember the days of netscape 4.64 and the hoops one had to dance through to get anything to render on it... reminds me of IE6...

anyway...

You need to figure out how many of your prospective users may be using IE6 and legislate accordingly. If you force a browser upgrade, you've lost the users, IMHO, but if you design an alternative IE6 friendly version you will also have to devote valuable resources, time, effort, engineering a solution that works well on IE6.

It's all about risk and reward, yin and yang, black and white, salt 'n' peppa... etc

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