Why Older Versions of Internet Explorer Need to Die

I’m sure that the majority of developers will agree with me when I say that one of the most frustrating things about developing a website is cross browser testing. Any developer worth their salt will fine tune the website they’re developing to look near perfect in any browser and I can tell you that from my own experience, this can take time.

When you look at how the Internet has evolved, the number of browsers has grown considerably and the HTML features that they support has equally changed. Whilst there are literally hundreds of web browsers out there, the key players are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and the bane that has always been mine (and I’m sure I’m not alone) Microsoft Internet Explorer.

I am an avid user of Google Chrome but whilst I don’t mind the occasional browsing using Internet Explorer (IE), it is always the one browser that seems to throw up most of the issues when developing a website. In past years, I have developed websites where I’ve had to alter something for IE and it subsequently breaks in another browser. This is not time best spent when you’re working to a deadline! In recent years, IE has got a lot better with regard to web support but with users of the Internet still refusing to upgrade from IE6 or IE7, it makes life difficult.

For instance, IE6 simply refused to show transparency on PNG images and would instead show a light blue background calling for the need of JavaScript to come to the rescue. IE7, whilst a step up from its predecessor, still had flaws including a majority of CSS bugs. Internet Explorer 8 can generally be considered the currently most widely used version, but the fundamental flaw with this browser is its lack of CSS3 support. Granted that when this browser was released in 2009, CSS3 wasn’t as big as it is today, but when this browser still has quite a large market share, you need to be catering for these users when developing websites.

I was recently involved with a few other people in working on redeveloping a website that was using a lot of CSS3 and JQuery scripting and so cross-browser testing this proved such a nightmare. I found so many things that wouldn’t work in IE8 which meant that through a company decision, I spent nearly a week going through our massive site to pretty much provide some separate styling for IE altogether. Something that I’d rather was avoided.

A look at any decent browser stats website will show you that whilst IE8 is the most common version of Internet Explorer in use, IE9 is not far behind it so I’m personally keeping my fingers crossed that it overtakes it soon. One thing that I am glad about though is that I don’t see IE6 on these stats so I really do hope that it has died a death and someone isn’t just playing a horrible joke on me!

So, I feel at the moment it is going to continue to either be a painstaking decision to keep on testing on these older versions (IE6 excluded) or to bite the bullet and take a decision to make sure that any site I’m developing simply just “works” on these older browsers until users finally decide that their browser is long overdue for an upgrade.