IE6 users don’t want to be “warned”, “notified”, or anything else.

IE6 may have just cost you hours of your life that you’ll never get back, but that doesn’t mean that all IE6 users are clueless slobs that go around kicking puppies. Not at all. They are real people, even smart people.

A lot of the suggestions I’ve read for getting rid of IE6 will probably do more to degrade user experience than to stop the use of IE6. They seem to assume that all IE6 users are just a bit clueless and haven’t figured out IE6 is old yet. Posting warning messages, reminders to upgrade, or excessively stripping out styles just sound like ways to take our frustrations out on these users. If you start thinking of IE6 users as people instead of the embodiment of this evil browser, all those “solutions” don’t make a lot of sense anymore.

Don’t believe me? I give you three people*, I may even know in real life, who use IE6 and who don’t want to be warned or notified or anything else. To make things even worse, they will probably continue to use IE6 for a long time to come, at least in internet years. (*Names have been changed to protect the innocent, of course.)

Bob, aka “Stuck with it”

Bob works for a mammoth corporation. Actually, it could even be a big corporation, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the IT department of said corporation has decided the browser of choice for the entire staff is IE6.

Bob might be hip enough to know that IE6 sucks, but it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have admin privileges, he can’t install apps, he’s at the mercy of the IT department. Your messages telling him he should upgrade just rubs salt in his wounds and probably even make him a little mad.

Julie, aka “Has a good reason for still using it”

Julie is a PHD student. She conducts research studies of specialized things and collects data. She also needs to analyze that data. Unfortunately, the software she needs to use to do that is only compatible with IE6. True, she could have a second browser installed for non-research use, but chances are she’s too busy to go through all that trouble.

Warning messages telling her to upgrade are either annoying or just go ignored. She’s not going to upgrade until she gets through her dissertation no matter what you say.

Hazel, aka “Totally technology-phobic”

Hazel has an old computer. Maybe she got it years ago, or maybe she bought an old used one. Either way, to her it gets the job done and she doesn’t need anything else. She mostly uses it to email her friends. She is not “computer savvy” by any stretch. In fact, the idea of downloading or installing software scares her. The only way an upgrade is going to happen is if someone else does it for her.

Warning messages will confuse her at best. They’ll probably just make her think she’s done something wrong. Either way, she’s not going to take any action.

So…

This isn’t to say that we should do nothing at all about IE6. I do think it’s time to start phasing out full IE6 support when it makes sense for a particular project. And I have no problem with sites looking different in IE6.

But our collective time would be better spent taking the time to understand our audience and building what makes sense for them. Taking the time to quietly give IE6 what it needs to let the site do what it should is a much better plan for all involved.