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BACKGROUND


I am about to launch my website. It's an academic site with expected user base consisting mainly of academics. It looks good in Chrome, Safari, Firefox and IE10 and above.

I just sent a link to my colleague who opened it up and it looked like scrambled egg. I discovered his work PC (in a hospital) was running IE7! I am loathed to reconfigure my site (it's likely to take a while and be very tedious).


QUESTION


Do you think it's really necessary to still support these earlier browsers?

If not and the site detects an early version of IE, is a modal dialog urging the user to upgrade, acceptable?

closed as off-topic by DA01, Evil Closet Monkey, Graham Herrli, Matt Obee, Charles Wesley Sep 19 '14 at 15:08

  • This question does not appear to be about user experience within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    In fact, the question is about user experience. In this case, user experience for IE users – GhostRider Sep 11 '14 at 11:09
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    To make clear a point that's been hinted at in a few comments as well as answers - you need it to fail gracefully - it's perfectly possible to have adequate UX for a website in pure html (though there are many reasons not to). Similarly how does your site look/function with locked-down modern browsers (noscript etc.), and what are your users expectations? – Chris H Sep 11 '14 at 12:55
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    As someone who works with Hospitals, I share your pain. But Hospitals are usually stuck with what their IT department gives them, which is Windows XP, so they can't go higher than Internet Explorer 8 anyway. We tend to show a banner that says, "Your version of internet explorer is not supported, so some features have been disabled." and link them to Firefox and/or Chrome download sites. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 11 '14 at 13:04
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    I recommend using the HTML5shiv as a quick fix. One of the main problems with the older browsers is they simply don't know what to do with the newer HTML5 elements, HTML5shiv is a little bit of javascript that fixes this issue (and a few others too). It may not make the site work perfectly in older browsers but it might just make it work well enough. – Mark_1 Sep 11 '14 at 14:51
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is too localized. Whether to support a particular old browser has to be decided on a project by project basis based on target audience, technology, budget and a plethora of other factors. – DA01 Sep 12 '14 at 4:38

10 Answers 10

112

It strikes me that you probably should have researched your userbase before building the site. But hey, you're in this situation now so you need to deal with it as you find it.

I am not surprised that hospitals / academic institutions are using IE7. Performing an entire refresh of the OS, browers, hardware etc. is a very costly exercise, so you'll likely find that many similarly sized places have the same situation. It's not something the individuals in the institution can likely do anything about (firewalls, locked down machines preventing installs etc). Therefore showing them a broken site and a dialog telling them to fix the situation themselves by installing a new browser when that's not something they are even able to do is just a double punch to the face.

Depending on what your site actually does, it's unlikely that it is impossible to make it work in older browsers. If your target audience cannot access the site then that is not their fault, it is your fault for not doing your research and considering them in the first place, therefore you should suck it up and address the problem directly. Make the site work in IE7.

It doesn't need to be exactly the same in older browsers. Users can have an enhanced experience in newer ones, but it should still work in older ones.

  • 3
    Hmm. All good points. I think I'm going to have write some conditional style sheets. A bit annoying, but I risk embarrassment when I release this... – GhostRider Sep 11 '14 at 8:48
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    @GhostRider It's better you find this now than when it launches and you get loads of angry emails from people who can't use it. It's too late then! – JonW Sep 11 '14 at 9:27
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    +1 "It strikes me that you probably should have researched your userbase before building the site." – Kik Sep 11 '14 at 13:56
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    Let me save you a ton of time, if you don't already know this hack. A huge number of IE7 bugs are simply inline-block not working, but the hack to emulate inline-block is *display:inline; zoom:1; -- append that to EVERY display:inline-block; and hopefully it'll make things look a LOT better. Side-question: how's the site look in IE8 and IE9? – HC_ Sep 12 '14 at 19:27
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    @Howdy_McGee 6% of the world population is 420,000,000. That's quite a significant number. And even if the total number was only 100 people, that is still 100 people that you are refusing to accommodate. – JonW Sep 14 '14 at 22:18
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Windows Internet Explorer 8 is also no longer supported, so if you use it (or any other browser) to surf the web, you might be exposing your PC to additional threats.

Ref: Windows XP support has ended

It is safe to address this to IT of the hospital that they need to upgrade to at least IE 9 due to safety reasons.

  • 48
    There is likely a reason it's still on IE7 though. And it's unlikely to just be ignorance "oh, we didn't realise the browsers were out of date, even though we're the IT department". Upgrading a whole corporation like this is a very costly affair. Imagine the press - "Local hospital spends millions updating internet browsers instead of hiring new nurses". Just because they should update, doesn't mean they can / will. – JonW Sep 11 '14 at 9:29
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    @AwalGarg The browser download may be free, but the infrastructure to run it isn't. If they wanted to upgrade to IE9 or above then that requires Windows 7 or newer. That is where the cost comes in. If they're running WindowsXP (which is likely) then they have to factor in the costs of the OS upgrade, and potentially hardware upgrades too. – JonW Sep 11 '14 at 10:01
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    @JonW I can agree to that, to some extent. But what happens to other systems security when you deliberately leave out a required update. Can they be trusted? Do we know for sure that the renal care machine isn't compromized? – Benny Skogberg Sep 11 '14 at 10:14
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    I'm worried we're getting out of hand here. The problem here isn't about whether the IT department of a hospital (or elsewhere) can / should update their web browsers. The issue is that OP has created a site that is not compatible with a browser that is being used (for whatever reason). So the answers should be around solving that issue, not about whether or not the target audience should fix their infrastructure. – JonW Sep 11 '14 at 11:16
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    Also, many, many organisations - particularly hospitals and the health sector - run custom-built or proprietary software built years ago that only works on old versions of IE. Horrible, I know, but true. This is usually the biggest reason to not upgrade - it'd break things that are difficult and expensive to replace. – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 11 '14 at 11:16
27

Don't blame the user for their situation. This is not about who's right, and what's correct. The last thing you want to do, from a UX perspective, is judge your users. A modal dialog telling them to upgrade is self-righteous. By expecting your users to know or care about such things as browsers or operating systems you're judging them, and that's how it will feel to them. you may feel like it's their responsibility, but such personal opinions are best left out of interaction design.

Your only responsibility from a UX perspective is to design an optimal experience within budget constraints and to get it to the user by any means necessary. If all of them use IE8, then today your job sucks and you're making an IE8 site, because that's where the user is. Making the user come to you is poor UX.

Of course, that doesn't mean you always have to support every inch of your site down to IE6. You're on a budget of time, money, energy and patience, and if only 1% of your users use IE8, those resources can be better spent making the site awesome for the 99% of users who have decent browsers.

So here's what I'd do.

  1. Turn off all CSS and JS for unsupported browsers, like IE8 and below. If you have good separation of structure and style, you will still leave people with a usable website, albeit an ugly one. If not, you should fix this, for the sake of all your users and your own sanity in maintaining this website.
  2. Add a small message saying that the current website looks bad because of an unsupported browser, so that people know this is not how your company normally presents itself. Make sure that the message is added for unsupported browsers, not hidden for supported ones (you don't want it turning up in the Google blurb, or read out by a screen reader). Don't use a modal dialog, this is not an issue for which you want to break the user's flow.
  3. Have a look at your visitor stats. If you get a small percentage of IE8 users, it might pay to add a little IE8-specific CSS. Just enough to clarify the content and make it a bit useable.
  • It's more of a pain for single-page apps. Apps aren't documents, they don't have structure and style inherently separate. Javascript is what runs an app and you can't disable it. In this situation you need to communicate somehow that the user agent isn't able to run the application. – Kos Sep 16 '14 at 9:52
  • I agree that there is a point at which an app doesn't have a meaningful HTML-only version (like a browser game). In that case, you should probably tell people that their browser isn't supported. But in many cases, the app is just a skin on basic HTML functionality: a slider is a fancy text input, a file chooser is a fancy selection dialog etc. It does pay to build these things on top of basic HTML functionality when you can. – Peter Sep 16 '14 at 13:40
  • Yup, that's the first rule of UX. Never blame the user :) – Imperative Sep 17 '14 at 17:11
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I thought about sharing an interesting insight:

IE8 is dying fast (looks like exponential decay).

ie8 trend

Not dead yet, but by the end of the year and by the current trend, IE8 market share globally should be under 1%. This is great news for most developer thinking about starting to build something now.

However, as it has been explained, you should know your audience, and not only them but the trend that your audience is following. If you're working for Spain, go to http://gs.statcounter.com/ and check market share in Spain. If you go for hospitals, create a Proof of Concept and share it with your target audience and find their browsers through analytics.

  • Hadn't looked at that in a while, thanks! I see the 360 Safe Browser has nearly cracked the top 10 in the US market. Time to add that as part of my testing routine. gs.statcounter.com/… – Imperative Sep 17 '14 at 17:17
  • 1% of 1 million users is still a lot of users... – jibsales Jan 12 '15 at 20:29
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    @jibsales but 0.01% of that 1% actually using your site (Which is about 1, 2 maybe?) isn't that much though... :) – YoYoYonnY Jun 1 '15 at 23:19
  • @YoYoYonnY — I might have agreed before I started working for one of the largest and most visited websites on the Internet. Sure, that logic holds up for our blogs, but not in the enterprise world where 0.01% means 100s of thousands of dollars – jibsales Aug 25 '15 at 2:21
6

I'm biased towards not catering to users who are still on IE7 given how old it is and MSFT's lack of support for it. IE7 was released in 2006. 8 years ago.

I'd encourage you to resist the temptation to hold back on releasing the entire site because some percentage of your potential customers will be unable to access it on some percentage of the devices at their disposal (surely these doctors have phones, personal PCs, newer machines in the hospital), etc.

My proposed plan: 1) Launch the website ASAP 2) Use Google Analytics (or your web analytics platform of choice) to measure just how many IE7 users you are getting 3) Pop a message for IE7 and IE8 users that acknowledges their less than optimal experience 4) Determine a plan for what you will do based on the data you will collect from Google Analytics in advance of collecting it. (if IE7 usage against homepage is >10%, I'd rewrite the whole thing, if >5% I'd do the easy stuff, if <5%, I'd take no further action

In my experience, after you launch, you might find you have 500 more important problems than IE7 that you should be spending your time on. This is in part a design question but more acutely a product and business prioritization question. After all, you are loath to "reconfigure" your entire site.

  • This should be the correct response, IMHO. – janesconference Jul 23 '15 at 11:42
  • This is something which you should do when your initial end user analysis aren't correct. Working on a global level can be challenging and this answer clearly mention the way it should be done. + 1 – Zerotoinfinity Aug 3 '15 at 10:11
  • "...measure just how many IE7 users you are getting". Unfortunately, there no way of measuring how many people don't use your website because it looks terrible in their browser. The old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impressions applies too. – David Hammond Nov 5 '15 at 17:44
6

Google Chrome > Legacy Browser Support

Google offers Legacy Browser Support, enabling automatic switching between Google Chrome and an older legacy browser (such as Internet Explorer).

From their web site:

Your organization may use web apps built for browsers that are now a few versions old. Deploying Chrome unlocks the benefits of the modern web, offering more security for IT plus speed and the ability to run the latest business apps for employees.

Chrome’s Legacy Browser Support allows employees to switch automatically between Chrome and another browser. IT specifies which sites should launch into a second browser and deploys this Chrome policy for the organization.

Google Chrome Frame (end-of-lifed project)

The LBS feature above should not be confused with the nifty but now-teriminated Google Chrome Frame that allowed a web site to invoke Chrome within an IE window.

5

For the general Internet audience, you'd be better off telling the users that they could/should upgrade to a newer browser. After all, IE7 or less is run on less than 1% of the world's web (thankfully!), and you shouldn't be supporting such a minimal audience. For your specific audience, where money runs tight and upgrades are not forthcoming anytime soon, you'll have to choose a balance between usability/looks and browser support.

For this specific case, I'd recommend getting a version of jQuery 1.x, which supports IE6 and newer, and lets you write one set of code that will run across all versions of IE that are supported, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc. That would take care of your scripting. After this, you'll want to build a custom style sheet with lots of "important" modifiers in a conditional comment that will take care of the rendering issues in the older IE browsers. The actual amount of work required may be very little for some sites, but without seeing your page's complexity, it'd be hard to tell. You could potentially tweak this up in just a couple of days depending on your site's complexity.

However, if it's going to take longer than that, then I'd just tell the users that they may not have an optimal experience, and they should try out Google Chrome or Firefox. Chrome runs on XP SP 2 or newer, for example, is free, and is usually considered acceptable software by most IT departments, assuming disk space isn't an issue. In fact, Chrome can even install without administrative privileges (it installs in the user's local directory), assuming the user has any permissions at all.

  • 5
    An Internet browser is not only about web surfing, it is also about Ethernet services. It is often the case in hospitals that internal networks are disconnected from the Internet. They are not subject to security threats and use their IE7 to fill in forms or query their internal database. On the web, thankfully, old browsers are dying out, but not so fast in other applications. – Pavlo Dyban Sep 15 '14 at 10:22
2

You will need to write a whole bunch of additional styles. You can do so with this syntax:

<!--[if IE 7]>
     <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="ie7.css">
<![endif]-->

... and it's gone.

EDIT

To explain this, yes of course it is necessary to support IE7. Your goal is to design a user experience for the client, and if the client is using IE7, they must still have an enjoyable experience.

It is not acceptable to coerce your user into upgrading since users at the hospital have no choice.

1

I think just showing a message asking user to upgrade the browser is enough.

  1. It is difficult to satisfy needs of all. Satisfying the old browsers may lead to compromise on user experience for new browsers
  2. Considering your target audience, if they are looking for academics related information then I am sure they would be using latest browsers like chrome, etc. Hence you can still let go off with users having old browsers.

Hope this answers your question.

  • 4
    What if they can't update? It is a site aimed at academic institutions, not people on their laptop at home. Corporate firewalls etc may mean they can't update it. In fact I'd assume that is likely the case, or they would have updated by now anyway. – JonW Sep 11 '14 at 8:26
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    In that case its upon their IT department to take it up for an upgrade. – Pratap Gadgil Sep 11 '14 at 8:30
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    True. This is an IT department job. They are currently exposing their systems for external threats allowing browsing the web with IE7. IE7 and IE8 is no longer supported by Microsoft. As a consequence, current and future security flaws are exposing the entire infrastructure of the hospital. That can't be a good thing. – Benny Skogberg Sep 11 '14 at 8:33
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    @BennySkogberg: Actually, MS are still supporting Windows XP, depending on the customer: UK government pays Microsoft £5.5m to extend Windows XP support – Vince Bowdren Sep 11 '14 at 11:17
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    @ JonW: I see your point now. I came across a situation where client cannot upgrade browser as there are other legacy and business critical applications which run only on older version of browser hence upgrading it will cause trouble for other applications as well. – Pratap Gadgil Oct 14 '14 at 6:00
1

I think the best thing is to use some kind of progressive enhancement. Anything IE8 and below should get served a simplified single-column site and any more advanced layouts should be in media queries that will only be processed by more modern non cringe-worthy browsers.

I agree with JonW that the people who are stuck in the situation likely can't upgrade so a modal bugging them to do so it pointless. But getting the site to work in IE7 does not mean it has to look the same as it does in the latest Firefox.

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