Euthenasing Internet Explorer 6

I think, much of the time, when website owners and developers decide to drop support for IE6, we go about it the wrong way.

For a not-for-profit, like WordPress.org, the decision can be simple. The project is free and the cost is resources. To no longer support IE6 in their admin means the WordPress team can develop more efficiently. When a website makes a profit, however, I think the decision is black and white.

Many of us, are bastardising Microsoft’s advice for users to upgrade. Once enough people have upgraded, sites can then safely drop support for IE6.

Website owners and web developers who drop support for IE6 before their users upgrade, forget a key tenet of customer service: it has to be focused on the customer! My perception — and it’s nothing more — is the larger the project, the more willingness there is to drop support for IE6 without regard for the user. A larger project has larger development costs, and the larger development costs increase the cost of supporting IE6.

If I ask someone why they’re dropping support for a particular browser, the answer I look for is: “The extra dev costs outweigh the profits from the browser segment”. When people list percentage of visitors as their justification, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Matthew Curry on Twitter.

Matt is the head of ecommerce for British sex toy retailer Lovehoney (this link may not be safe for work). He wrote: hmmmm, IE6 Lovehoney users have now dropped to 0.8% – decisions decisions…….Source

Some suggested he drop support for IE6. Matt’s background is statistics so I knew he’d follow the numbers. Instead, we spoke about conversion rates for IE6 users on Lovehoney. They were lower than for other browsers but not statistically significant.

To my mind, Lovehoney’s decision to drop IE6 or not boils down to this question: “Are development costs for IE6 greater than 1% of profit?” If the answer is yes, drop that browser like a hot potato. If the answer is no, support the browser until the answer changes. I’d be surprised if Matt’s question was much different.

There are things web developers can do to encourage dropping IE6. A prominent message, like the one on IE6 countdown is one way. However, the question at the front of the website owner’s mind should always be about return on investment.

If you’ve decided to drop IE6 support your website, I’d love to hear your reasons in the comments.

Published by Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson is a Senior WordPress Engineer at Human Made and contributor to WordPress core. Peter has worked on the web for twenty years on everything from table based layouts in the 90s to enterprise grade CMS development. Peter’s a big fan of musical theater and often encourages his WordPress community colleagues to join him for a show or two in New York or in the West End.