More than six years ago Microsoft brought us Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) – a web browser which has caused problems for web developers ever since! The question is do you still need to program for it? Is it worth the trouble to handle the users slowly opting out of IE8, and in general, other browsers that are seeing diminishing users?
This browser is still incompatible with browser standards that enable better user experience. Hence more users switched over to new browsers such as Firefox, Google Chrome or Apple Safari. However a portion were still stuck with the old version and now Microsoft has officially announced that it would no longer support this version from January 2016. (http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-to-drop-support-for-older-versions-of-internet-explorer/).
In fact Microsoft often joins hands with other communities to watch the old browsers and software phase out. It did so for IE6 and IE7 and now it does so for IE8. http://www.theie8countdown.com/
For now, IE8 is still one of the popular browser with current market share over 10% (http://marketshare.hitslink.com/browser-market-share.aspx), but its demise is already around the corner and it is best that we prepare in advance.
Web development cost can get time consuming and expensive. Understanding your target consumers is a starting point to focus and reduce efforts. For companies, your visitor report is a good place to look for users insights, such as where and when it came from. Here is an example of how a standard browser report we provide to one of our clients looks like for the latest month.
The breakdown here shows which browsers bring the most visitors to your website. Here we see that Internet Explorer or IE brings lower number of visitors to the site than Safari, Chrome or Firefox.
We can dig into further details to see the performance of different versions of Internet Explorer.
Here we see the version 8.0 or IE8 is producing lowest number of IE visitors at 7.4%. Comparing this data with the past month for visitor source provides valuable insights on user groups that are more profitable. For this particular case, IE8 users contribute less than 2% of overall users for this client’s site.
However, the development cost for making a website compatible with such old browsers like IE8 is high as there are exceptions required to many levels of the user interface to account for the lower capabilities. Also by making a website that is compatible with old browsers, you may be missing out on new improvements available in the latest browsers because budget has been skewed to account for those small and constantly diminishing number of users.
Based on budget, we are recommending to many clients that they remove IE8 from User Acceptance Testing in project developments. Instead, adding a browser message for IE8 users that their experience will be optimised on one of the more recent browser version (IE included). There are exceptions to that case, where clients offices have old licenses of Windows bundled with IE8 and we don’t expect everyone in the office to force IT to download new software for them. But the question comes up a lot, say with 2% of users out there like our example above, is it worth the extra development cost to handle IE8, especially now it will not be supported in 2016? Especially as IT can be flagged with this date as a dangerous security risk if anyone in the office is still running IE8 post 2016.
Weigh up these questions as part of your project to determine if IE8, or other browsers which are being replaced are still worth the effort to code for. Company policy here is most sites launch with a 95-98% browser compatibility and IE8 is increasingly dropping off the list of supported browsers.