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Is it time to bury Internet Explorer (IE7) for good?

We’ve all been there. For the past couple of years it’s been a nightmare for us developers to spend hours either changing our CSS or HTML mark-up just so Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) can render our webpages correctly.  Since the launch of IE7 back in 2006, web technologies and web standards have changed significantly. Whenever I develop websites for clients, I usually don’t have any problems in regards to testing it cross browser, 98% of the time my websites work seamlessly on pretty much all the modern browsers until I’m asked to test it on IE7.

It is understood that most developers (including myself) still optimise websites for IE7, simply because there happens to be a small minority of users who still use that browser. Latest stats as of February 2013 show that usage of IE7 has dropped to less than 4% globally. The question we need to ask is, is it still worth putting in the effort to optimise websites for IE7 for this minority of users?

Based on my previous experience, it takes an enormous amount of time to make a website or web application optimised for IE7. Due to these problems, and the very small percentage of people who even use the browser, it doesn’t make it worthwhile as far as time, effort and money is concerned. Yes, it would be nice to have a website that is compatible with all browsers, but what are the chances of your visitors (target audience) accessing your website using IE7?

Why should we stop optimising for IE7?

Big name websites such as Google and Facebook officially announced last year that they no longer support older browsers like IE7 because they don’t have the capabilities to handle today’s modern web browsing needs. Google has urged people to update their browsers for a better and safer browsing experience. Facebook’s timeline has been completely phased out from IE7. When users visit their Facebook profile page they won’t see the timeline, but instead will be presented with the old profile page.

Some ecommerce websites have even started charging an ‘IE7 tax’. Australian retailer www.kogan.com was one of the first websites to come up with the idea of charging their users with an extra 6.8% tax. The website detects when visitors are using IE7 and issues a pop-up warning about the tax if the users purchasing goods from their website. The purpose of this approach is to encourage their users to upgrade to a modern browser for a better browsing experience of their website, thus avoiding the extra charge at the same time.

Why are people still using IE7?

One of the biggest reasons people are still stuck with IE7 is because some of them are still using Microsoft’s older operating systems. IE7 came pre-installed when Windows Vista was first launched in 2006, an operating system that many PC owners still use. Microsoft has also used several methods in an attempt to get its users to upgrade, but some organisations find it very expensive and time consuming to get all of their PC’s upgraded to modern standards. Most importantly it is our fault as developers as in the past we have spent hours optimising websites for IE7. This has only encouraged IE7 users to continue their browsing experience with IE7.

What can we do encourage users to upgrade their browsers?

  • We can use similar tactics like the Australian retailer “Kogan”.
  • Create landing pages that can detect if the users are using IE7 and provide them with a warning and upgrade solution.
  • Use badges and small banners somewhere on your website to encourage users to upgrade. Last year a website called “The IE7 Countdown” launched to dedicate the countdown of IE7. They provide code snippets that can be easily embedded on your website to display tiny badges and banners. www.theie7countdown.com

 

I think it is time to stop spending unnecessary time fixing IE7 bugs and instead using that time to do something more productive.

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