Browser usage and coding for Internet Explorer 6

Internet Explorer 6 has been the bane of my existence as a web designer for years, particularly since (a) I have no computers that run Windows at home, so IE 6 is not readily available, (b) IE 6 does things in a stubbornly different fashion compared to other browsers, and (c) I’m not that good a web designer. So I can test my designs against Safari and Firefox, and occasionally a more recent version of IE, like IE 7, that does a better (i.e., more standard) job of rendering web pages, but IE 6, not so much — except when I have a spare moment at work. And, a recent check shows that, once again, web pages that look fine in the browsers I do have access to look like crap in IE 6.

It’s Netscape 4 all over again: that old browser did a horrible job of rendering CSS, but its installed base meant that it took years to go away. The question is: has IE 6 gone away yet? Are there few enough people still using it that it’s safe enough to ignore compatibility problems?

Using Google Analytics, I had a quick look at my visitors’ browser usage. The answer is: a definite maybe.

The top four browsers used by visitors to my three largest websites are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Google’s Chrome.

The Map Room41.0%40.9%10.9%4.3%

It’s interesting that two thirds of the visitors to use some variant of IE, whereas the IE-to-Firefox ratio on the other two sites is much closer and the Safari and Chrome usage is much higher.

Now let’s take a look at IE usage. Which versions are being used? The following table shows the percentage of IE users that use IE 6, 7 or 8:

 IE 6IE 7IE 8
The Map Room23.4%57.0%19.6%

Regardless of the site, a majority of IE users — between 57 and 64.2 percent — use IE 7; IE 8 usage ranges between 16 to 20 percent, while fewer than one in four IE users are still on IE 6 (and many of them are probably doing so from a work machine).

Looking at IE 6 users as a percentage of the whole, only 9.6 percent of all visitors to The Map Room or my personal site use IE 6; that number rises to 13 percent for, where more people use IE in general.

In other words, more people visit The Map Room and this site using Apple’s Safari browser (in all its versons, on all its platforms) than use IE 6.

IE 6 usage relative to other browsers is only going to decline over time, so if it’s not yet time to stop coding for IE 6, it will be soon.

It can’t come soon enough.