It is no secret that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer version 6 (and anything before it) is the bane of all Web Designers’ existence. If you’re a Web Designer and you don’t agree with that statement, then you are most certainly delusional and you probably hate Web Standards (assuming you’ve heard of them). IE 6 is best known for it’s inability to render transparent PNG images correctly and its poor handling of cascading stylesheets (CSS). It’s also known as the hack browser, because so many HTML and CSS hacks have been created to make it render Web pages correctly.
To this day, Web Designers have had to test all of their designs in IE 6 before launching a website, because so many Windows users still use it. Fortunately, those days are coming to an end. Microsoft is planning to force all Windows users to upgrade their Internet Explorer version to IE 7. This is extremely welcoming news to the Web Design community. What it means is that they will no longer have to test their designs in IE 6, especially now that it’s being discontinued. There was a similar feeling among Web Designers a few years ago when Microsoft decided to discontinue Internet Explorer for Mac – another disaster of a browser.
To get an idea of how frustrating it is to design websites for IE 6, I’ll give you an example from a typical project. At Sitening we initially code our HTML (XHTML and CSS) and test it in Firefox or Safari. It generally doesn’t matter which one we use for our initial testing, because both of those browsers are considered standards compliant, which means they should render correctly if the code was written well. After we finish the coding, we then test it in IE 7. IE 7 is a surprisingly good browser – not perfect, but good. It handles CSS very well and also supports transparent PNGs. The last step – usually the most painful – is making it work in IE 6. Since we often use a lot of AJAX, CSS and transparent PNGs in our designs, we end up having to spend hours creating hacks and workarounds to make everything render correctly in IE 6. It’s timely, expensive and we hate it.
Forcing Windows users to finally update to IE 7 will shave off countless hours of needless hacking and additional coding, which is a welcomed sigh of relief. Although Microsoft’s reasons for forcing the update on Windows users is because of security, the only reason for Web Designers is because it will take IE out of the dark ages.
This update isn’t nearly as authoritative and forceful as I had hoped. Ars Technica has the full let down.