Web designer rants are dead: Long live web designer rants

In the world of the website designer, there is a dark force abroad, a nemesis of such evil potency that its very existance drives thousands of web designers to suicide each year as its malign existance causes waves of despair across the globe.

Welcome to the IE6 web browser.

Launched by Microsoft in August 2001, it was at the time, a moderately decent bit of kit compared to what else was around.

However, over time, standards (actually, they are just recommendations from the W3C) have changed and websites that want/need a dozen bells and whistles that can only be delivered in a modern web browser can be a nightmare to get to work in IE6.

A web design brief or contract that mandates compatibility with IE6 is going to have web designers jumping off cliffs like a collective of proverbial lemmings as they cry out in horror at the very thought of… get ready for this…

…doing the job they are paid to do.

Yes, it might surprise web designers, but they are not evangalists for the purity of web code, nor are they supposed to be on some mission to deliver the world from the evils of old web browsers – they are there to design a website.

If the client wants to/has to use MSIE6 – and a lot of corporate users still do – then that is the contract requirement and you should just put up with it. After all, that is what you are being paid to do.

Yes, you can say that adding IE6 compatibility will cost X amount more due to the extra effort – but rather than looking at that as a chance to earn more money, the web designer will snarl and moan and put laxatives in the sales departments’ coffee machine.

Because IE6 is quite elderly now – it is nearly ten years old – a lot of young web designers would have never used it as a web browser, nor learnt how to design for it.

But is that the fault of the web browser, or the university that failed to teach them how to design for a piece of software that still has a fairly decent market share?

When faced with this dinosaur that takes one look at the latest version of CSS style sheets and vomits all over their computers, rather than just getting on with it, they march en-mass to Speakers Corner to eulogise about the evils of Microsoft and the holy purity of Apple and Firefox.

Now, if for some reason I have to use IE6, then I have to use IE6, and it is your job to make sure your website works on my computer – not my job to change my IT system just to be able to log into my bank account or buy a book online.

  • Yes, it is an outdated bit of software.
  • Yes, it doesn’t understand modern CSS code – then again, try playing your iTunes songs on a 10 year old Sony Walkman.
  • Yes it is going to have security holes in it. But…

…for whatever reason, it is what the customer is using.

Please, stop whining about IE6 and just get on with your jobs.

Thank you

I still have a working copy of Netscape 3 on my computer.

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8 Comments

  1. Jeffrey Smith

    Hmm. Good luck walking into the average, non-specialized auto repair shop and finding parts for your 1964 Ford. Might have a grumpy furnace repairman if you insist he has to know everything about your 1978 furnace that isn’t made anymore. He’s likely to tell you it’s time to buy a new one. Like web designers, they’re professionals. As professionals, it’s their job to tell you what will work best for the job you have in mind. Sorry, but that’s not IE6.
    “Now, if for some reason I have to use IE6, then I have to use IE6, and it is your job to make sure your website works on my computer – not my job to change my IT system just to be able to log into my bank account or buy a book online.”
    Sorry, but banks aren’t likely to jeopardize security in their systems and transactions by using old technology with serious flaws. Yes, I know there are people, and businesses, who still use rotary telephones, mimeograph machines, and IE6. That’s fine, though in a business it’s short-sighted. But, simple common sense will dictate that, if you want to cling to old technology, you’re going to have an increasingly difficult time in getting the rest of the world to stay behind you in the slow lane.

    • IanVisits

      To use your analogy…

      A client says they want to design a new car radio. You turn around and complain that you don’t want to design a car radio that works in a 1964 Ford, and the client should tell customers to change their car instead.

      How far do you think that “tail wagging the dog” type of conversation will get you?

  2. Jay

    Even Microsoft wants people to stop using IE6 http://ie6countdown.com

  3. Andrew F

    Jeffrey is correct, if you’re employing me as an expert in my field it’s my job to educate you away from IE6. There is no good reason to use it and if the only way to get resistant IT departments to fix their systems is by making sites non-functional in IE6 and thus make their users complain then fair enough. It’s never going to be worth the man hours involved simply to delay the inevitable upgrade and actively support antiquated technology, which only goes to make the situation worse.

    • IanVisits

      My point is that it is not your job to encourage consumers to stop using IE6. You can do that in your own time if you want to – your job as a web designer is to build websites.

      Now, if the client says they want to support browsers with at least x% market share, and IE6 fits into that requirement, then it is part of the job to do what the client wants, which means making the website work in IE6.

      You might try to argue that the percentage will shrink over time and that the investment is uneconomic, which is a sensible approach – but that is not the argument that web designers usually make. They cry about “standards compliance”, getting headaches and how mean and nasty Microsoft products are.

      That’s the bit I am trying to say “shut up” about – the stuff the client couldn’t care less about.

  4. Graham

    Firstly, the reason web developers (not “designers” – it’s never the designer’s problem to solve IE6 issues) is that it’s buggy and unpredictable. You can build a site that uses completely bog-standard features that it’s meant to support (the problems are *not* related to trying to use more modern features, or “standards compliance”, or anything else) and IE6 will completely screw it up in all sorts of eccentric ways, that usually require making mostly random changes (it’s an art, not a science) to the HTML and CSS until you hit on a combination that IE6 will display as intended.

    Secondly, I’d think it’s only the minority of cases where the web developer is in a position to make an argument to the client about whether or not to support IE6, and a tinier minority where they stand to make any money from doing so. It’s far more common that no one in sales/management discusses whether to support IE6 before the contract is signed.

    Therefore the developer has the choice between either spending many thankless hours (“How long does it take to build a simple web page?”) debugging the site in IE6, or they can choose to ignore IE6 knowing inevitably they’ll get a complaint when Bob in accounts tries to load the site on his old laptop. It’s lose/lose either way.

    If the issue were anything like how you describe it, I’d agree with you, but it isn’t, so kindly shut up.

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