As a web designer and developer, I am constantly reminded that I wear two hats: 1) to design and build websites that can reach the widest audiences, appeal to the most people and deliver rich, interactive, exciting content; and 2) design and build sites that are cost effective, timely and maintainable.
It seems that for some time now those two objectives have been at logger-heads as cross-browser, cross-OS, backwards compatible, highly portable websites have required so many “hacks” , “patches”, “tweaks” and “tricks” to keep things in order that development time increased exponentially. The result being that clients had to take an objective view – spend more money achieving the last 10%, or save money and chop off a category of potential customers.
That dilemma came one step closer this week to being removed. And not before time. There have long been calls from web developers, technologists and end users to convince Microsoft to signal the end of the IE6 browser. The basis for this is in IE6′s complete disregard for web standards, topped with security and compatibility issues. Google’s recent debacle in China proved to them at least that IE6 had not just been an inconvenient side-track, but had actually led to irrevocable damage. Google pulled out of China, and after a brief investigation announced that support for IE6 in its enhanced applications was to be removed as a direct consequence.
Google pulling out of China is not a small headline… It’s not like saying the German’s are to stop eating sausage. China is the most populated country on Earth, and currently one of the largest untapped online resources. Google “giving up” on them is an historic headline. And it seems to me that Google’s announcement to drop IE6 should be seen as the direct aftermath of those events.
Time then, has come to remove your IE6 hacks, tear down your IE6 test machines, hang up your well-used crib sheet for IE6 cross-browser tricks. Isn’t it?
Well, there’s the rub… the purists out there (and in here too) still feel an obligation, a need, a moral duty, to keep providing support for any device/browser/age/config that exists. Isn’t that our job? Shouldn’t we still take the time to explain to clients why cross-browser/cross-everything-else support is still worthy of a few extra Pounds/Dollars/Renminbi?
Of course, some clients will still see the need, and will appreciate the dedication that a good web developer can demonstrate when seventy four different browser/OS combinations are showing pixel-perfect renditions of their new website. But I fear that those clients will become fewer and fewer, and as a business I must recognise the value that is placed on perfection. I will of course always offer full cross-browser support, and will continue to provide the best possible service to my clients. But I will argue just a little less when they say “just make it work for the majority”.