Dealing with IE again

People have been linking to—and saying nice things about—my musings on dealing with Internet Explorer. Thank you. You’re very kind. But I think I should clarify a few things.

If you’re describing the techniques I showed (using Sass and conditional comments) as practical or useful, I appreciate the sentiment but personally I wouldn’t describe them as either. Jake’s technique is genuinely useful and practical.

I wasn’t really trying to provide any practical “take-aways”. I was just thinking out loud. The only real point to my ramblings was at the end:

When we come up with clever hacks and polyfills for dealing with older versions of Internet Explorer, we shouldn’t feel pleased about it. We should feel angry.

My point is that we really shouldn’t have to do this. And, in fact, we don’t have to do this. We choose to do this.

Take the particular situation I was describing with a user of The Session who using IE8 on Windows XP with a monitor set to 800x600 pixels. A lot people picked up on this observation:

As a percentage, this demographic is tiny. But this isn’t a number. It’s a person. That person matters.

But here’s the thing: that person only started to experience problems when I chose to try to “help” IE8 users. If I had correctly treated IE8 as the legacy browser that it is, those users would have received the baseline experience …which was absolutely fine. Not great, but fine. But instead, I decided to jump in with my hacks, my preprocessor, my conditional comments, and worst of all, my assumptions about the viewport size.

In this case, I only have myself to blame. This is a personal project so I’m the client. I decided that I wanted to give IE8 and IE7 users the same kind of desktop navigation that more modern browsers were getting. All the subsequent pain for me as the developer, and for the particular user who had problems, is entirely my fault. If you’re working at a company where your boss or your client insists on parity for IE8 or IE7, I guess you can point the finger at them.

My point is: all the problems and workarounds that I talked about in that post were the result of me trying to crowbar modern features into a legacy browser. Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting that IE8 or IE7 should be shut out or get a crap experience: “baseline” doesn’t mean “crap”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with serving up a baseline experience to a legacy browser as long as your baseline experience is pretty good …and it should be.

So, please, don’t think that my post was a hands-on, practical example of how to give IE8 and IE7 users a similar experience to modern browsers. If anything, it was a cautionary tale about why trying to do that is probably a mistake.

Have you published a response to this? :