When Should You Stop Supporting Old Browsers?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

When Should You Stop Supporting Old Browsers?

I’ll take a stand here: The slavish support of older web browsers is holding back the development of the World Wide Web. Unless there’s a very good business reason to keep up that support, many developers would prefer to toss them on the junk heap of history and focus their time and effort on newer, faster, more performant systems. But wait: by dropping browsers which are still in use, how many customers will you leave behind? And how much time and effort will it take to keep them?

We constantly (some might say “stridently”) recommend that our clients have a web analytics package installed on their web sites. Any analytical program worth its salt will give, among many, many other statistics, the types of web browsers your visitors are using when they visit your site. For instance, here at Matcha Design, we can simply open up our Google Analytics page and see that the number of people using any version of Internet Explorer when they visit us is hovering around 9%. This is a tremendous plunge from just a few years ago, when IE usage was in the 70% range.

Now we wouldn’t dream of making any change to our site which would prevent nearly ten percent of our visitors from getting the full experience. But within that statistic lies another, more telling one: The number of people using Internet Explorer 8 is only 8.5% of that total.

IE8, as any web developer will tell you, is a tremendous pain in a specific part of the anatomy to maintain on a Web which is dominated by other browsers. The biggest problem for older Internet Explorer versions is a general lack of support for Web standards. Some very attractive and useful features, like rounded corners on boxes or automatic rejection of incomplete forms, are not available in IE8 and older. New semantic elements introduced in HTML5, like <section> and <header>, not only don’t work but don’t display at all. The only thing keeping designers supporting IE8 was a user base too large to ignore, plus a major ecosystem of “shims,” small Javascript programs which either duplicate proper functionality or at least don’t make it worse.

Having to constantly “shore up” IE8 has caused a lot of developer headaches since the browser was released. In extreme cases, web devs had to create two different versions of a web design: one taking advantage of all the good things HTML5 and CSS3 had to offer, and another, slower, more complicated version for the IE6/7/8 crowd. This essentially doubled the amount of work, but the alternative was to leave behind a sizable chunk of the audience, which meant leaving customers unsatisfied and money on the table.

So you can imagine how happy we were to discover that users of IE8 and its older siblings had shrunk to a mere 0.6% of our visiting public. The ROI to support such a small population has fallen to such ridiculously low levels that it’s hardly worth thinking about anymore. For a web developer, it’s like the career version of being released from a straitjacket. Now all we need to do is wait until IE9 falls off the charts …

Is your web design antiquated, full of shims, and poorly optimized for the modern Web? Give us a call and let us help you turn it into a fast, lean, future-ready site.

About Matcha Design

Matcha Design is a full-service creative B2B agency with decades of experience executing its client’s visions. The award-winning company specializes in web design, logo design, branding, marketing campaign, print, UX/UI, video production, commercial photography, advertising, and more. Matcha Design upholds the highest personal standards for excellence and can see things from a unique perspective due to its multicultural background.  The company consistently delivers custom, high-quality, innovative solutions to its clients using technical savvy and endless creativity. For more information, visit MatchaDesign.com.

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