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CODE4LIB  February 2013

CODE4LIB February 2013

Subject:

A Responsibility to Encourage Better Browsers ( ? )

From:

Michael Schofield <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 15:22:55 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (28 lines)

Hi everyone,

I'm having a change of heart.

It is kind of sacrilegious, especially if you-like me-evangelize mobile-first, progressively enhanced web design, to  throw alerts when users hit your site using IE7 / IE8 that encourage upgrading or changing browsers. Especially in libraries which are legally and morally mandated to be the pinnacle of accessibility, your website should - er, ideally - be functional in every browser. That's certainly what I say when I give a talk.

But you know what? I'm kind of starting to not care. I understand that patrons blah blah might not blah blah have access to anything but IE7 or IE8 - but, you know, if they're on anything other than Windows 95 that isn't true.


*         Using Old IE makes you REALLY vulnerable to malicious software.

*         Spriting IEs that don't support gradients, background size, CSS shapes, etc. and spinning-up IE friendly stylesheets (which, admittedly, is REALLY easy to do with Modernizr and SASS) can be a time-sink, which I am starting to think is more of a disservice to the tax- and tuition-payers that pad my wallet.

I ensure that web services are 100% functional for deprecated browsers, and there is lingering pressure-especially from the public wing of our institution (which I totally understand and, in the past, sympathized with) to present identical experiences across browsers. But you know what I did today? I sinned. From our global script, if modernizr detects that the browser is lt-ie9, it appends just below the navbar a subtle notice: "Did you know that your version of Internet Explorer is several years old? Why not give Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari a try?"*

In most circles this is considered the most heinous practice. But, you know, I can no longer passively stand by and see IE8 rank above the others when I give the analytics report to our web committee. Nope. The first step in this process was dropping all support for IE7 / Compatibility Mode a few months ago. Now that Google, jQuery, and others will soon drop support for IE8 - its time to politely join-in and make luddite patrons aware. IMHO, anyway.

Already, old IE users get the raw end of the bargain because just viewing our website makes several additional server requests to pull additional CSS and JS bloat, not to mention all the images graphics they don't support. Thankfully, IE8 is cool with icon fonts, otherwise I'd be weeping at my desk.

Now, why haven't I extended this behavior to browsers with limited support for, say, css gradients? That's trickier. A user might have the latest HTC phone but opt to surf in Opera Mini. There are too many variables and too many webkits (etc.). With old IE you can infer that a.) the user has a lap- or desktop, and [more importantly] b.) that old IE will never be a phone.

Anyway,

This is a really small-potatoes rant / action, but in a culture of all accessibility / never pressuring the user / whatever, it feels momentous. I kind of feel stupid getting all high and mighty about it. What do you think?

Michael | Front End Librarian | www.ns4lib.com

* Why, you may ask, did I not suggest IE9? Well, IE9 isn't exactly the experience we'd prefer them to have, but also according to our analytics the huge majority of old IE users are on Windows XP - where 9 isn't an option anyway. Eventually, down the road, we'll encourage IE9ers to upgrade too (once things like flexbox become standard), and at least they should have the option to try IE10.

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