Goodbye IE6

January 10, 2012

Microsoft had recently announced that IE6 usage in the United States has finally dropped below 1%. Microsoft, and much of the rest of the world, have been waiting for its retirement for years. Why, exactly? IE6 wasn’t particularly secure. Nor was it standards-compliant. Designers and Developers know this all too well. Microsoft has since released IE9, and let’s not forget the upcoming IE10, which addresses many of the issues people had with the previous releases – such as memory allocation/usage, security, standards-compliancy, speed, etc.

What does it mean for designers, specifically? For starters, if you haven’t been using them, for shame! If you have, it means no more Conditional Stylesheets:

<!--[if IE 6]>
    <link rel=\"stylesheet\" type=\"text/css\" href=\"ie6.css\" />

Need I say more?

Well, actually – yes. This announcement doesn’t mean that we, as designers, can simply abandon IE6 from our development process. Microsoft didn’t issue a recall. People, real people, still use computers with IE6. To be a responsible designer, you’ll have to ask tough questions. One such question would be: who’s your audience?

If the target audience for the website you’re designing is aimed at the younger tech-saavy urbanites who tweet about their bowel movements, chances are that your audience is using modern standards-compliant browsers. With this audience, you should be thinking about HTML5, CSS3, and mobile development.

But, if your target audience is for folks who may not be as saavy, who still have and use the computer that they bought in 2002 and never bothered to upgrade, or maybe those who couldn’t upgrade because of company policies… these are the people you will still have to consider. Think about it, Windows XP is still a popular OS used in corporations worldwide. A standard installation, including the SP3 update, does not include IE7 or IE8! So every new installation, re-installation, or re-imaging of a PC with Windows XP, includes IE6 as the standard browser.

So while I’m happy about the announcement that people have been phasing IE6 out of their lives, we shouldn’t blindly abandon these users – at least not without consideration of your client’s business model and its target audience.


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