Error getting theme layout

A Gentle Nudge for Users of Outdated Browsers

Posted @ 4:49 pm by Grady Kuhnline | Category: Technology | 0 Comments

Is it safe to encourage your users to upgrade from their old browser? Only your own site’s browser stats can really say what’s best for your site’s visitors. But there’s a growing list of major web sites that feel it’s time for their users to upgrade. And they’re letting their users know that they’re being left behind.

Facebook warns IE6 users that they will not have the best experience.

There’s good reason for leaving those old browsers out of your site’s supported browsers list. Old browsers consume valuable developer time with greater debugging requirements which is an important consideration for budget conscious web sites.

But sites with relatively bottomless budgets like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are dropping old browsers too — specifically IE6 — because those old browsers aren’t capable of supporting the next generation of features that HTML5 is making available. Older browsers are slower and less capable than new browsers, which makes advanced site features and maintaining a snappy user experience difficult to impossible.

Which Browsers Need to Upgrade

As might be expected, the major focus for upgrading old browsers is aimed at Internet Explorer, particularly Internet Explorer 6 (released in 2001) and Internet Explorer 7 (released in 2006). It’s important to recognize that Internet Explorer stands alone as the only browser available today without an aggressive automatic update feature.

Chrome and Firefox, which together make up for more than 40% of web traffic, auto-update the browser transparently every 6 to 8 weeks. Safari uses the Apple update services (even on Windows) to push regular updates, and now Opera has an auto upgrade feature as well. Meanwhile, IE has had issues getting their users to upgrade and Microsoft has stopped short of forcing users to upgrade their browser.

Microsoft recognized this problem and started a PR campaign last year to promote the end of IE6 and even celebrates countries where usage has dropped below 1%. That list of countries with low usage of IE6 is growing and as of December 2011, the United States is among them. For the vast majority of sites it’s now safe to drop IE6 support  —  which basically means that it’s not necessary to test your site in that browser.

Giving Your Users a Hint

But what do you do for users that arrive at your site with an outdated browser? Historically, doing nothing was always a fine choice. But increasingly the major sites — including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — have been addressing IE6 users with splash screens and warnings, letting them know they’re on an old browser, they might not have access to all of the sites features and encouraging them to upgrade to a more capable browser.

YouTube warns that their site won’t work at all, Twitter pushes IE6 users to the mobile site and shows a small notice explaining why and Facebook shows a small notice that some features may be disabled.

Twitter actively degrades the experience for IE6 users and let’s them know about it.

YouTube redirects IE6 users to a detailed warning page that explains they won’t have the best experience on older browsers and encourages them to upgrade.

You can easily add these notices to your own site to help your users have the best experience possible. The most common strategy is to use specially formatted comments that only IE will process to show a banner to your users. The banner that Microsoft designed for their IE6 Countdown campaign links users to the official IE upgrade page on the Microsoft website.

Making an Informed Choice

While Microsoft’s banner is asking users to upgrade to a newer version of Internet Explorer, a more even-handed approach for your own site is to link your users to one of the many informational sites that show users what other options are available. After all, even IE 9 is well behind Chrome and Firefox in implementing cool new HTML5 features. It’s possible that users aren’t even aware that other browsers are available.

Two standout informational sites are What Browser from Google and Browse Happy from WordPress. Both sites provide links to the 5 major browsers, including Internet Explorer. What Browser goes a little further than most sites and tries to explain the concept behind upgrading a browser to users that may not know the difference.

Notable Browser Upgrade Sites:

Finer Browsing has an example banner bar that is easy enough to implement and could serve as an excellent starting point to designing an “outdated browser” banner for your site. SolutionSet has typically linked users to the Google What Browser site for clients that want to supply a notification to their users.

Focusing on Mobile Instead

At SolutionSet we’re encouraging all of our clients to drop support for Internet Explorer 6 and 7 when possible and re-focus those energies on supporting mobile users as a first-class citizen. IE6 has less than 1% market share in the US, IE7 has less than 4% in the US. At the same time, mobile users make up nearly 10% of traffic on the Internet and some of our clients are reporting as much as 25% to 30% of their total traffic is coming from mobile devices.

While dropping support for older browsers may be a confusing experience to the minority of users still using them, providing a little direction for those affected can help steer them in the right direction.

Leave a reply

Error getting theme layout