Should Your Site Be Compatible with Internet Explorer?

All developers hate Internet Explorer.

Okay, “hate” is a strong word.

Here’s the thing, though: If you want to create a website or web application, you basically have to create it multiple times. One for all “normal” browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) and another time for each version of IE you want to support.

This begs the question, “What browsers should your site or application be compatible with?” And then, if someone tries to access it using an unsupported browser, “What is the best way to notify them without seeming insensitive, lazy or cheap?”

First, let’s discuss when is it important to have your site compatible with different versions of Internet Explorer. You should ask yourself the following 4 questions:

Who is your target audience? Who will be using your app the most?
Where is your target audience?
Where do you expect your users to use your site? At Home? At Work? In a Library? In a School? On a mobile device?
Do you have the budget to multiply development costs?

The first three questions revolve around your users. It’s vitally important to understand your users. The global browser statistics may NOT be reflective of your actual users. Identifying them by answering the first three questions will go a long way.

Example 1: If your target audience is the elderly, and they will be accessing the site from at Home, in a library, or at a nursing facility, you may want to consider that these places do not have a good reputation for upgrading OS’s, Browsers, etc. This might be a great time to consider developing compatible versions.

Example 2: If your target audience are students, you will not need to develop for compatibility. Most students have the skillset and the know-how to use the correct browsers. Also, most schools are now focusing more on the technology side of education and are keeping their equipment and labs up to date.

Example 3: If your target audience is outside of the U.S., you have a lot of information to gather to see if the users of that country are using specific browsers or have tendencies. This site is helpful to gather that information on a country or continent specific search: http://gs.statcounter.com/

Installing Google Analytics on your site and doing thorough testing and analysis, with focus and test groups, will be incredibly beneficial to your decision making. Don’t always trust the “global” trends. Rather, focus on your users and learn their trends and tendencies.

The statistics for global web browser use can be found here: http://www.w3counter.com/globalstats.php

Web Browser Market Share (Oct, 2014)

And diving deeper into the almost 18% of Internet Explorer browsers (as of Oct, 2014) we find:

Internet Explorer Usage by IE Version

So nearly ½ of IE users are using the latest version, but that leaves the other ½ using outdated versions. So you can say that globally, about 9% of all internet browsing is done on old IE Versions. That is a significant percentage that must be addressed.

Note: I prefer to use w3counter.com over the popular http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_explorer.asp as I believe the numbers are more representative over the global usage of the internet.

Addressing the issue:
Do you make your site compatible, or do you display a nice “not compatible” error message?
Some error messages can be quite simple:

Example Website Message

The question though is: Will your users accept that the browser isn’t supported, take the next steps to either upgrade or open the same site in another browser?

It is our belief that the more you know about your users, the clearer this decision will become. The global trend is that IE usage is declining each month. But that is just a trend. And it’s a “Global” trend. Study your users, study their tendencies and their trends. Then make your decision.

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