The IE6 Petition, UK Government and Developers

The UK Government has posted a response to the petition I started back in January.  You can read the full text here:

If you’re here, you’ve probably read it and are curious or a bit miffed.  I’m writing this as there is no mechanism for reply on the above site.

It’s the cost, stupid
With a massive budget deficit additional spending on upgrading browsers as opposed to building schools is not a vote winner, it never will be – or not in large enough quantities to make it worth doing.  Keep your job, or let other people in the office have IE8.  Get real.

What I was looking for was a recommendation to upgrade away from IE6.  A recommendation isn’t hard, it’s cheap and easy and isn’t an admission of guilt.  It puts the onus on the government departments to modernise, to innovate and to take care of their own.

Realism vs optimism
There’s not a chance that we can always get what we want.  Sometimes we just need to get what we can.  Recommending the move would have been great.  Not recommending it is short-sighted and diminishes ambition just at the time when we need it.

Mixed messages? Sure.

There’s not much we can do now and I’m sorry to sound defeatist, but in the short term that’s it.  Realism tells me that this is all based on cost, not on security or whether the government wants to make web designers or developers happy.

  • Is it realistic to ask the government to do good things? Yes.
  • Is it realistic for the government to do them? Probably not.

People, what now?
So, if you want to lobby your MP on this, go ahead.  They work for you.

If you work in a government department that still uses IE6, you can approach your IT department and talk to them about finding out when they plan to upgrade you.  Leaving you in 2000 isn’t a credible option.

In Scotland the whole public sector is upgrading to IE7, which is better.  Well done to them.

A colleague suggested that the application of Big Society to this would be guerilla browser upgrading at night in government offices.  Nice idea, perhaps some IT companies will donate their services.  If you’re that altruistic about it, you’re more generous than me!

Designers and developers, what now?
I think we have to look seriously about development for old browsers and put IE6 firmly into the has been category.  If Microsoft are going to support it until 2014 then it’s going to be in use for a fair chunk of time yet.

Our strategy at Inigo is to charge more for IE6 development.  Fortunately it’s not been a big requirement recently, but we’ll be asked to do it and we’ll need to be tough on it.  If it means we lose work, so be it.

In design, tell your client that you’ll be designing for IE7 & IE8 and that they shouldn’t assume that all design features will run in IE6.  Rounded corners and transparencies won’t transfer as you’re having to get ready for new technologies coming down the pipe.  You will still have to make the site work – but you can charge more for it.  Charge for your time.  I believe it’s acceptable.

So, it’s disappointing, but life goes on.  Every public sector organisation (and private sector for that matter) that upgrades away from IE6 is a small victory.

The funeral for IE6 has been held, unfortunately there are lots of zombies still out there.

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