Why IE6 still matters, even if you do happen to be a cross browser testing company!
This post should more properly be titled 'How could we be so arrogant' - read on to discover why.
Two weeks ago, one of our customers emailed and said some of the developers on his team could not launch a live test or an automated screenshot test - they did not even see the buttons! In questioning further, he shared that they were accessing the system with IE6. Now, I have to admit... I did not think there were ANY users of our system that access it via IE6 - these are web designers and developers after all - surely they all are using the latest, greatest verison of Firefox, Chrome, or Safari? My partners shared that conviction. While we did try to make sure the site functioned properly in IE6, we did not worry about the appearance. We had some pretty major flaws on our home page with rendering in IE6, which we were okay with - because NOBODY (ok, no designer / developer) uses IE6. Since none of our customers use IE6, we focused our energies on things that mattered.
Except we were wrong!
Checking Google Analytics feed us some humble pie. Here are a couple charts looking at the 'logged in' area of our site, specifically the 'My Testing Center' page. First, overall browser usage:
As you can see, roughly 50% of our customers are using Firefox, 29% IE, and 10% Safari. This fits with our assumptions about the makeup of our customer based. Heavily weighted by designers, the percentage of Firefox users is vastly greater than a 'normal' consumer site's makeup. Drilling down further on the Internet Explorer users, we can look at the customers accessing the My Testing Center with IE6:
A fifth of our customers that are IE users are using Internet Explorer 6! And we were providing them with a layout that did not render properly, and, in this case, a broken product... NOT GOOD.
It only took a few minutes to correct the issue on the My Testing Center page which was preventing the customers with IE6 from testing with our service. We had done a redesign of some of the blocks on the My Testing Center the previous day - these changes were what caused the problem. And, in light of our little wakeup call, we are in process on redesigning our home page so it renders properly on IE6. We still have a little work to do, but here are some before and after screenshots:
As you can see, the original design's center content area was wrapping, leaving a large unbalanced blue area on the right side of the layout. It also had several other issues. The new layout still needs a png fix done on our logo and some padding work, but overall it is much more presentable.
BTW - this issue lead us to add capability to take automated screenshots of areas behind authentication to the CrossBrowserTesting.com system. This new capability will help us easily screen for issues on our pages that require user sign in. We believe it will also help our customers.
Lesson learned - cross browser compatibility is important, even for a cross browser testing company!
Ken, Mike and Tony
Pick an OS | Pick a Browser | Test a Website
(we may change this tagline to "We can eat crow with the best of them")