die ie6 from .net magazine

The Long Proposed Death of IE 6

die ie6 from .net magazine
die ie6 from .net magazine

The proposed demise of IE 6 rings with the shouts of joy from web developers the world over, but is it truly on the horizon? While sites trying to kill IE 6 extoll all the valid reasons web designers and developers have to want the death; clients sit and look at philosophical arguments and compare them to the real world dollars of IE 6 users.

The Reality

The truth is that for many sites IE 6 users bring in money. I currently work with an e-commerce site where IE 6 users bring in 12% of the annual income. So that means in the last 30 days IE 6 users brought about $12,000 into the pockets of the owners. Don’t know about you but I would notice that money missing from my pockets.

On top of that there is a marked difference if we don’t provide full support for IE 6. Not having transparency on the images drops IE 6 conversion rates by 50%. Um I’d notice that hole in my pocket.

One company I sub-contract for only supports the latest editions of each browser. I totally love that I don’t have to hack around with IE 6 till it’s perfect. Sure I still check and put in a few minutes on it to fix major items but that’s about it. I do wonder though if the clients realize the real world dollars they could be throwing away by not supporting IE 6?

The Cost

I mean how long does it take really to get IE 6 supported fully? Let’s say it takes a whole work week, 40 hours. If we figure that you bill on the high end of the scale or are an agency with lots of overhead let’s say it costs $150/hour. So in 40 hours we just spent and extra $6000. Yeah we’d make it back in two weeks.

The cost is inconsequential really.

The Right Approach

The right approach when looking at browser support is to evaluate the clients statistics and support their clients. If they balk at the $6000 price of supporting IE 6 show them how much the users bring into the site and how quickly they recover the cost.

Sure I’d rather be building cool sites that just run the latest technologies. I’d rather be using HTML 5 and CSS 3 but more than that I like having food and a roof. I don’t love time debugging IE but I like affording a coffee.

So I’ll keep supporting IE 6 as long as it pays for my clients to do so. Really when I’m hired, I’m hired to give the best advice and solutions for a client situation not the best advice that isn’t a pain for me. Let’s just provide our clients with the right solution and get off our high horses.

3 thoughts on “The Long Proposed Death of IE 6

  1. It’s a chicken an egg problem. IE6 is a horrible browser, and it’s definitely holding the Internet back in terms of progress. If Microsoft were a responsible company, they’d take ownership of the problem and help their clients migrate away from it, or even release an update to IE6 that has an IE7 or IE8 engine in it. But instead, they are offering to support IE6 for another few years. But yes, IE6 is currently still a dominant browser, and it’s silly to ignore it.

    If a client is making tons of money off their website, then there’s definitely value for them to support IE6. But if they are already pushing their budget on a new site, and the site doesn’t have an eCommerce component, it’s hard to convince them to drop another wad of cash on full IE6 support, especially considering traffic is slowly disappearing for it (obviously it’s still far from zero, but last year most of my sites had about 25% IE 6, and now it’s around 10%). For most small sites, IE6 support isn’t too difficult to achieve. But on larger sites with lots of Javascript, Flash and other moving parts, it can be a real challenge to get it to work, and sometimes you have to write separate code-paths for different browsers, which makes maintenance more difficult. In those scenarios I don’t blame companies that charge extra, since it’s a substantial amount of work. But ultimately I think the IE6 decision should be the clients, and not forced by a web designer or developer.

  2. Also, I want to pose an alternate scenario here for fun.

    Let’s say you just finished building a $30,000 website for a client, and it currently doesn’t support IE6. Let’s say you figure it’ll take a full week of time, or $6,000 to properly support IE6. In doing so, they’ll appeal to that 12% of their traffic, and make a bit more money.

    Is that the right approach for the client, or does it make more sense to invest that $6,000 in enhancing the current website for non-IE6 users, and possibly doing some A/B testing on their sales page? That way, they are investing that money towards the 88% of their traffic that is non IE6, instead of for only the 12%, which potentially could earn even more money for them.

  3. @Duane

    To you hypothetical scenario yes that could be the right way to deal with the issue. It is possible that doing good a/b testing and appealing to the 88% that is on other browsers would bring in more money than spending that money on the support of IE6 users. I personally am just getting very tired of all of the righteous arguments from web designers/developers that just don’t support it at all and refuse to do so. I believe it’s out job to give our clients the best advice possible and if their budget allows for extra time spent on IE6 we should do it. We should even recommend that IE6 should be supported for those clients that it makes sense to do so.

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