Why we're adapting our approach to Internet Explorer support
A little over a year ago, Microsoft took to their blog to make an announcement about changes to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle. The short and sweet version of this is that Microsoft will now only provide security updates and technical support to the most recent version of Internet Explorer that is available on their operating systems.
What does this announcement mean?
The change in their support lifecycle policy now means that Internet Explorer 8 will no longer receive support as there is a more recent version of the browser available on each of their Windows operating systems. This is crucial because, as of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft introduced automatic updates to help their users stay more secure and up to date. These two factors combined eradicate the issue caused by manual updates being neglected and follows the model of other leading browsers Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
What if users still don’t update?
It’s true that, despite no longer receiving support, there is still nothing to force users to update their existing installations of legacy browsers. However, there is one key demographic that is very likely to take heed and follow Microsoft’s browser migration guidance. Large organisations who may have stayed on an old version due to the cost of updating hardware or to support legacy business applications cannot afford the implications of no longer receiving security updates or technical support. This demographic alone makes up a substantial portion of an already diminishing total of those still using IE8 (and below).
Why change approach now?
Although the announcement was made a year ago, the change in Microsoft’s policy only begins after January 12th 2016 to allow users time to migrate and, as web developers, we had the responsibility to provide the same courtesy. That being said, websites launching from this point forward will endure too short of a lifespan in the Microsoft Support Lifecycle to justify the extra time and cost involved in supporting these browsers.
Can this benefit you and your website?
Cost of web development and maintenance
Legacy support can significantly add to the time and cost of a website build and will continue to affect the ongoing maintenance costs too. By starting out with support for legacy browsers we are effectively commiting to this for the entire development cycle, usually a minimum of three years. Although support could theoretically be dropped mid-cycle, the likelihood is that compromises in development techniques would have been required in the initial build which would still impact the ongoing development.
More focus on growing traffic sources
One crucial factor to consider when making a support evaluation is the growth trend and sustainability of a group of users. As discussed above, the IE8 audience is neither growing nor sustainable. Development time would be more beneficial if focused on an ever-increasing traffic source such as smartphones and tablets. We are effectively asking ourselves if the time required for a small, perhaps negligible percentage of users will negatively impact the quality of the experience for the majority.
We think forwards, not backwards
At Absolute, we strongly believe in designing and building future facing websites for our clients. We want your website to stand the test of time so it doesn't quickly feel outdated and lead to a shorter development cycle. With fewer limitations imposed by browsers, this approach allows us to be more innovative and creative with our solutions in order to fulfill our goal of ensuring your precise individual needs are met. This may include the use of a number of modern HTML5 and CSS3 web standards that aren't well supported in IE8 - and significantly media queries which are crucial for forming better responsive website experiences.
- The speed of the site can be improved with less polyfills included, better for those on slower mobile connections.
- By feeling less restricted, developers may feel liberated which can have a positive impact on a project.
- Combined, IE6-8 accounted for less than 0.5% of external traffic on our website in 2015.
- Ten of our most visited client sites showed IE6-8 traffic fall from an average of 1.48% in the first six months of the year to just 0.88% since.
Support for Internet Explorer 8 has already been dropped by some of the industry's biggest players, Google included. Yes, that means YouTube too. And while we no longer include it as standard, if legacy browser support is required on any given project then we are more than happy to provide this as long as the above points are understood and appreciated.
Our change in approach does not mean we now neglect legacy browsers, we just prioritise our time and effort to give you the best results for your budget.