IE6 Support Spectrum

I know, I know, not another post about IE6! I actually typed this up a couple of weeks ago while immersed in my site redesign project. I had recently decided that I would no longer support that terrible browser, and this tangential post just kind of “fell out.” I wasn’t sure whether or not to post it, but I recently decided to purge my draft stash by posting everything for your reading pleasure. Thus, you may see a few turds in the next few weeks, but hopefully this isn’t one of them. In any case, here is my final post on IE6..

Hypothetical Spectrum

Over the past several weeks, I have seen several unique methods of dealing with Internet Explorer 6 — conditional comments, dialogue boxes, evil scripts — you name it. As I thought about these different strategies, I began to see them as positioned along a spectrum of relative usability, accessibility and overall enthusiasm. On one end of the spectrum, we have complete usability and accessibility; on the other end of the spectrum, we find absolute resentment for the world’s slowest-dying browser, IE6. Here is an attempt to diagram this hypothetical spectrum:

IE6 Support Spectrum
Hypothetical diagram indicating relative quantity of “love” for IE6

How much “love” do you have for IE6? Let’s find out:

A: Much Love

It takes a lot of love to get to this end of the spectrum! We’re talking full support for all aspects of your site on Internet Explorer. From proper CSS display to complete JavaScript functionality, your site shows its strong love for IE6 by looking and behaving exactly as it does in modern browsers like Firefox, Opera, and Safari. Bonus love for pixel-perfect presentation.

B: Some Love

If you are still supporting IE6, but only to the extent that the site remains usable and generally decent looking, you are showing “some love” to IE6. Sure, the margins and padding may be off here and there, and there might be some awkwardness in your form presentation, but at least you took the time to conditionally apply the clearfix hack, min-width hack, and PNG hack to fix the basics. And, just to let visitors know that any functional and/or presentational problems are due to the browser and not the design, you thoughtfully implemented a specially targeted message via conditional comments to make it all crystal clear.

C: Less Love

Let’s see.. if basic support qualifies as “some love,” then no support would probably be classified as “less love.” For example, I recently dropped support for IE6 by removing all CSS and JavaScript functionality. IE6 visitors will still be able to use the content, but they must do so via plain, unstyled pages. When showing less love to IE6, using a conditional comment to deliver a custom message is a great way to explain the site’s “nakedness” while encouraging IE6 users to join us here in the 21st century. Of course, you could show even less love with an urgent JavaScript dialogue box notifying IE6 users that their browser is not supported, outdated, and unsafe. Something clear and to-the-point, or even something bordering on insulting would still put you in the “less love” camp.

D: No Love

And, finally, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we find absolutely no love for IE6 whatsoever. In fact, with this strategy, disgruntled designers turn to the dark side of the spectrum. We’re talking unadulterated vengeance here, where designers aren’t content with idle non-support or even ominous browser messages, but rather seek to completely block IE6 from the site. Using any number of browser-detection methods (e.g., via .htaccess, PHP, JavaScript, etc.), some angry young webmasters show absolutely no love to IE6 by kicking all requests straight to the curb.

E: The Dark Side

For some up-and-coming Sith lords, simply blocking IE6 isn’t enough. Those on the dark side of browser support have been known to take “IE Support” to the next level by shutting down IE6 completely. For example, here is a simple JavaScript snippet that will completely crash every IE6 browser that dares cross its path:

<script>for(x in document.write) { document.write(x); }</script>

Slip that poison into the header of your favorite web document and watch the hapless IE6 browsers curl up and die while trying to load your page. Alternatively, to crash IE6 without requiring JavaScript, here’s a single line of HTML and CSS that will do the trick:

<style>*{ position:relative }</style><table><input></table>

Clearly, these strategies demonstrate a serious lack of love for ‘ol Internet Explorer. So many ways to show your hatred! I can’t believe it.

Und Sie?

As we have seen, there are many different ways of dealing with Internet Explorer 6. Each designer and developer must decide the best way to deal with IE6 according to their own unique circumstance. So the question for this post is, what is your preferred method for handling IE6? I would think that the more “corporate” or formal cases would need to stay closer to the left end of the spectrum, while the more “independent” designers would enjoy a little more freedom.. What do you think?