Why Web Developers Should Start Forgetting About IE

As we all know there’s a big problem with older versions of Internet Explorer: They just render HTML/CSS-code wrong differently than state-of-the-art browsers. Luckily, things have changed: recent releases of IE (9 and especially 10) are really good browsers. There’s almost no need to optimize stuff for them any longer. Your code just works. But the overall cost of [...]

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As we all know there’s a big problem with older versions of Internet Explorer: They just render HTML/CSS-code wrong differently than state-of-the-art browsers. Luckily, things have changed: recent releases of IE (9 and especially 10) are really good browsers. There’s almost no need to optimize stuff for them any longer. Your code just works. But the overall cost of development is higher than it needs to be, because we are still troubling ourselves with IE7 & IE8. Find out why it’s time for developers to stop adjusting or optimizing for IE, especially in the Facebook or Social Web ecosystem.

It was THE topic for all web developers in the last couple of years: Internet Explorer optimization, bug fixing, debugging and … budgeting. Clients and designers didn’t have much understanding for missing rounded corners or tiny layout mismatches in different browsers. So you always had to go the difficult & more costly way to solve remaining issues in IE7 and IE8. My pragmatic view on this issue for the last couple of years: If the client wants to see rounded corners in IE7 and if there is enough budget anyway, then that’s fine: Let’s do it! Recently, however, my opinion has changed dramatically. Supporting old versions of IE is simply a matter of pricing and the ROI your app can achieve.

The figures

Our look into our recent app statistics was revealing:

  • IE7: Dead (< 1%)
  • IE8: Almost Dead (< 5%; for some clients even < 2%)
  • Mobile (all mobile browsers combined) rapidly increasing: up to 33% in some cases

As honest and trustworthy software developers we really can’t afford to keep something this important a secret. We can’t just keep pretending that it’s still okay to optimize for versions of IE which have been released four (IE8) or six (IE7) years ago. To put that in perspective: Most modern browsers get updates every other week. There are almost no browsers out there that are older than a year.

One problem remains

There’s often one single person in a project who is going to complain about your not 100% pixel-perfect app or a slightly misplaced headline: your client’s project manager, who – due to big-co IT-regulations – still has to use an outdated browser him- or herself. Besides that, there are almost no other people who will ever uninstall or report your app because of slightly misplaced stuff at all.

Think about the following:

  • Do you think your customers are still sitting in front of old Pentium PCs and surfing Facebook with outdated browsers?
    No! They’re sitting in the subway, talking to each other while accessing your apps directly on their mobile phones!  That’s the truth about mobile usage of Facebook Apps!
  • Which part of your target group can guarantee you a better ROI?
    5% old-fashioned IE users or the up to 33% always-on mobile users?

Clients obviously can’t push infinite amounts of money into their Facebook apps, especially if it’s for short-term campaigns. Therefore clients should adopt their stance and recognize that limited budgets aren’t allocated properly when time and money goes into optimizing for IE7 or 8 (even if the clients themselves are using those browsers, their customers are not!). It’s the worst thing we can do with our money, when we could achieve so much more by focusing on the important stuff. Let’s cut down development time, use modern HTML and CSS techniques and code like it’s 2013!

Fellow developers: Please have a look at your recent analytics and share your insights about your Social Web apps. Take action and prepare yourself. Don’t ignore the trends. Push the web forward to becoming a truly mobile-ready platform!

You don’t trust me on this? Trust Google! They are predicting this shift too: In 2013 the term “ie dev” is dying :)

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Clarification

This article is focusing on Social Web and Facebook Apps. We do not care much about the overall numbers on the web since they are not relevant for the kind of apps we build, so we’re really cautious about extending our conclusions beyond the social space. Please keep in mind that you should only forward this blog post to your client when you are doing modern social software apps. Because if you are not, your numbers might be different.

About Author

Johannes Nagl

Johannes is CTO here at Die Socialisten and always looking for ways to optimize his code. He thinks that the best moment to start something is always now. Follow Johannes on Twitter, Facebook or Google+!

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