There’s no other way to say it: Internet Explorer is the pariah of the web community. When developers actually get some sleep, they have nightmares about their client saying “must support IE6″. As easily as this post could become a hate-rant about IE, we’d rather talk about why we don’t support IE6, IE7, and for the most part, IE8.
The Simple Answer
The simple answer is that not everyone has to have the same user experience. Our themes use CSS3 techniques that won’t gracefully degrade to older versions of IE. Take the navigation bar in our Marketeer theme: awesomely coded in CSS3, but won’t look the same in IE6, and it shouldn’t have to. Yes there have been movements for “one web” but again, it comes back to user experience. Is it really that big of a deal if one user sees border-radius while the IE6 user sees standard blocky corners? Or what about box-shadow?
We’re not saying that you should completely forget about IE8 and earlier, but the time has come to stop worrying about a separate stylesheet just for Internet Explorer (if using HTML5, it’s still recommended to use the HTML5shiv to allow the layout to at least look the same in older browsers).
Fancy Numbers and Charts
gs.statcounter.com gives us a good look at how the browser wars have been going. First is this graph covering from July ’08 to October ’11. You can see that Internet Explorer is losing its once dominant share of the browser market, dropping from ~68% to ~40% in a little over three years.
Now let’s take a look at browser versions for Internet Explorer:
From this graph (with other browsers hidden), we see that IE6 and IE7 make up a very small portion of the browser market. IE8 is still a contender with IE9, but if the past few months have suggested anything, it’s that IE9 will quickly dethrone IE8 as the most widely used Internet Explorer browser version.
These numbers tell us that while Internet Explorer isn’t going away anytime soon, a small fraction of the web’s population is still using IE6 and IE7. When you think of your own website traffic, that’s probably a small percentage of people that won’t get the full perks of your website. Full perks doesn’t mean the whole site, it just means CSS3 and anything else that doesn’t degrade gracefully.
Remember, always ask yourself: do websites need to look exactly the same in every browser?
With new versions of browsers iterating faster than ever before, we should be trying to future-proof our sites so that whatever comes next, our site’s usability and performance will, if anything, improve. Thankfully HTML5 is a continuation of the HTML 4.01 spec, so no elements are really being deprecated, some uses are just being changed (for a list of those changes, check out the W3C’s documentation).
What We Tell Customers
Do people still use IE6 and IE7? Yes, but their numbers are rapidly declining. As for IE8, its usage is going downhill as well, though its numbers are still high enough to not be completely ignored. When customers ask us about IE6 and IE7, we don’t hesitate to tell them that we flat-out don’t support them. It’s simply not good use of our time. And when it comes to IE8, we usually spend a few minutes on a support issue, but that’s about as far as we go.
This approach allows us to help move the web forward by moving our customers forward. And if that’s not good enough, then maybe we’re not the right WordPress theme company for them, and that’s OK.
We’re doing our part for the greater good of the web community at-large, and that benefits everyone.