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?

Future Proof

Instead of thinking about the past and trying to conform our sites to Internet Explorer’s will, we should be future-proofing our sites. IE9 is a big improvement and IE10 is already on the horizon and will continue improving its HTML5 and CSS3 capabilities. Firefox 9 beta is ready for download and is promising faster Javascript performance, and Google Chrome is always secretly updating to give you full advantage of their latest technologies.

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.

December 1, 2011
Written by: John Hartley
  • Anonymous

    so, designing a site with your plugins will result in loss of 30% of visitors, is that the part you want to say?

    thought I would by yourlandingpage plugin, but when IE users can not see those pages…it does not make sense

    • http://maxfoundry.com Max Foundry

      Actually, the post is mainly about our themes. Our plugins don’t use nearly as much CSS3 stuff, so those are much better off for sites with older browsers.

      That being said, future versions of our plugins *will* use more and more CSS3 because that’s what provides the best user experience. So if 30% of your traffic is using IE6, IE7 and/or IE8, then our products probably aren’t for you.

      • Anonymous

        well, if you check real world websites and public traffic data, you see that IE has 50% traffic.

        if you are now saying..well I do not care about most of the web user, I guess then you are really the wrong person making WP pluginsö.

        • http://maxfoundry.com Max Foundry

          Now be careful, don’t put words in our mouth. We’re primarily talking about IE6 and IE7, with some sprinkling of IE8 thrown in. Most IE traffic consists of IE8 and IE9, not IE6 and IE7, so 50% of IE traffic is *not* IE6 and IE7. Those two combined are less than 10%, and we’re definitely OK with that. And like we said, if a potential customer disagrees, then that’s fine, go somewhere else. But that doesn’t make us the wrong company to develop and sell WordPress themes and plugins. Quite the opposite in our opinion.

    • unhappy customer

       absolutely agree with you..!.. As I see it, .. MaxFoundry 1 – Common Sense 0.

      I am staying well clear of maxfoundry products from now on… shame i’ve already spent some $$$ which I had to work hard to earn, and throw away with this.
      Max… make very clear on your marketing right from the start. Your customers deserve to know so we can make sound decisions based on clear product information and compatibility. Another one of those internet “goodies” that end up being a waste.

      • http://maxfoundry.com/ Max Foundry

        Hey Miguel – At least give us a chance to answer your support question before coming to our blog 10 minutes later with complaints. As I said in our support email back to you, your IE issue can probably be resolved by enabling the option I mentioned in the email. And if not, we’ll troubleshoot it more to see if we can figure out how to make it work.

        So while we understand your frustration, at least give us a chance to help you before disparaging us.

  • http://twitter.com/stevengliebe Steven Gliebe

    Thank you for helping to kill off old versions of IE.

  • Brett Peterson

    As someone who gave recent feedback on the Marketeer demo site’s issues with IE8, I understand your perspective. As an exercise in CSS3, I recently created a fully cross-browser compatible page with relatively sophisticated CSS3-based techniques (no images).  It rendered great and was amazingly small; however, the time to get there was agonizing primarily due to IE 7 and 8.  The PIE library (http://css3pie.com/) was a big help, but 80% of my time was spent on IE.

    BTW — I’ve found that putting IE8 in Compatibility View mode takes care of the most serious Marketeer IE8 rendering issue (pushing the header menu into an unusable state). Not ideal, but there is a workaround (although other issues exist that are easier to avoid).

    If and when you have time, I’d be interested in reading a blog post espousing your philosophy on specifying body minimum widths in themes (or just in general).  Even in pure CSS3, I’ve found it useful to ensure that sites degrade gracefully when browser real-estate narrows (i.e., a horizontal scroll bar at the critical minimum width).  I’ve concluded that it’s not really that big of a deal in 99% of real-world cases, but I’d be interested in your opinion.

    • http://maxfoundry.com Max Foundry

      Your comment hits on one of the main reasons why we don’t support IE6 and IE7: it’s extremely time-consuming to do so, and although better, IE8 has its own issues.

      As for body widths, we’ve been using the 1140 CSS Grid (http://cssgrid.net/) for fluid, responsive sizes as the screen size narrows, as well as CSS media queries to detect browser sizes. That’s how our Marketeer theme was built, although admittedly we have a bit more work to do for smaller screen sizes, such as those for the iPhone. CSS frameworks like the 1140 CSS Grid do most of the heavy lifting, but doesn’t always get you there 100%.

      • http://www.Marisic.Net dotnetchris

        At my organization we’ve released sites based on cssgrid.net, what it opened to us was to trust users have monitors 1280 or wider.

        Our current application we’re working on is built on Twitter’s Bootstrap framework where we generated our layout to be based on 24 columns at 48px each, of that being 36px content and 12px of gutter in those 48. Leaving us a total resolution of 1152 wide.

        This allows tons of flexibility for how we wish to layout pages as we can design that the number of columns can all work with lowest common multiples of 2, 3, 4 and 6. Which easily allows 1, 2, 3, 4 column layouts or any fairly fine grained positioning as needed.

        For users that have 1024 /shrug they can scroll around.

        Later we plan to extend this with media queries to present better layouts to mobile devices.

        • http://maxfoundry.com Max Foundry

          Although not necessarily IE-specific, that’s a key point: that widescreen monitor usage continues to grow rapidly. We’re seeing more and more developers move away from the years-old standard of 960px widths, and move to 1140px or larger to take advantage of the additional screen real estate, but then use responsive techniques and CSS media queries to handle smaller screen sizes.

  • Xalikoutis

    free the web from IE all versions

  • James

    Every Statement of Work that goes out the door at our company explicitly states that we DO NOT support IE6 for functionality or IE7 for CSS-based styling features. If it works it’s a happy coincidence. If something doesn’t work we’ll spend a few minutes on it as a courtesy, but we have realized long ago that spending a lot of time beating your head against a wall eats into profits.

    • CheloXL

      Are you able to send (or paste here) the part of your SOW where you states the above? I would like to add it to my SOWs… :)

  • Stephan

    IE6 has been dead for a while now, so don’t rage about it..

    You guys sound like emotional IE-haters, maybe you just need a self-help group ?

  • http://localtouchmobile.com Bryan Jackson

    I won’t add to the fray except to say I sincerely hope that the numbers will continue to decline for this nightmare of a browser. The Microsoft penchant for ‘backwards compatibility’ really only has resulted it backwards thinking and of course a complete headache for Web designers everywhere. For those that want to exercise their freedom to choose IE we say fine with us. We have decided to abandon the platform and we explain to our client the reason. Surprisingly, most of them see our side of things. As for the die hard fans out there that won’t change despite the obvious limitations IE imposes… well let’s just say we have a nice message for them. A visit to our site (not one of our clients) using any version of IF will present the visitor with a simple choice, “lose IE or forget about viewing our content” And while I’m sure that many will disagree with our decision, we no longer care – It’s just not worth it!

  • unhappy customer

    Yes. What you are saying is that we should ignore IE just because you don’t have a product that’s compatible. And to be honest, when I purchased a pack of buttons earlier today, there wasn’t any information such as what I can see on this page. I had to buy it, then put it on my website to THEN realise that it wasn’t working with IE.
    You SHOULD make that VERY clear on your literature on your product, in BIG BOLD letters .. so customers like me won’t feel dissappointed and let down.
    And now you may say.. ey!.. it’s ok, it’s only $5 right? WRONG.. just like it is wrong to make such assumptions that we should not care about IE compatibility… just not right.

    • http://maxfoundry.com/ Max Foundry

      Miguel – That’s not what we’re saying at all, and I think our position is pretty clear on the matter. As for your issue with IE and one of our button packs, we answered it in our previous comment above, but I’ll echo it again here: the solution we gave you in our support email back to you should resolve your issue, and if it doesn’t then we’ll look into it further.

      But next time, try to give us more than 10 minutes to respond to your support request before coming to our blog and making complaints. Not that we don’t mind, that’s what blog comments are for, but at least give us a chance to actually help you first.

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  • Not so unhappy customer

    I love this guy who bought a 5$ button pack and messed up the setup and is now raging on here hahaha

  • Kiks

    Sorry to wade into this, but something most people seem to miss is that bluechip companies such as Barclays, HSBC, etc…) all still use IE7 ..stupid, I know. But true. So a lot of wealthy professionals can’t shop on your site during lunch breaks.