The Whole World Uses Windows and Internet Explorer

Warning: Controversial post alert! This may make your blood boil, but if it does, please feel free to add a venomous comment or two after reading.

PCs suck! Microsoft suck! Windows sucks! IE sucks!

Oh my, how often do those of us working in the web industry hear this from the community and colleagues? I would take a guess at daily, and they’re all probably right.

Although not a Mac user myself (cool points totally lost I know), I know enough people, whose opinions I respect highly, that say Apple and Macs are far superior in every way to PCs and Windows – I believe them.

I was a front-end developer and have spent days and nights (mostly nights) pulling my hair out, shouting and swearing at bugs in IE from what I know to be solid clean code – from this perspective, I know how this browser can at times seem like a demon sent straight from hell to torment us all and make us doubt all that we know to be good.

The post isn’t about IE6 alone, but this made me ‘gigglesnort’

But, as a Digital Project Manager your perspective of this whole topic has to shift dramatically because guess what – as much as most who manage, design and build websites loathe to say or admit it…


Ok, maybe not the whole world, but a bloody lot of people.

The evidence

Now while I imagine pretty much everyone reading this article will know this to be a fact, I still think it’s important to show the figures to really ram it home because it seems to me, the more the web industry production teams out there move closer and closer to an all Mac environment, the attitudes to catering for anything Microsoft become more negative, to the point of being damaging to a business commercially through decreased bug fixing competencies/speed and lowering team low-morale.

A table of statistics showing the OS usage statistics for 2009
OS Usage in 2009, with Windows at about 90%
A table of statistics showing the browser usage statistics for 2009
Popular browser usage in 2009 – hmm no Netscape ;-)

This last table says about 40% of people use IE with Firefox now the market leader at 46.6%, huzzah!

But wait, I would hazard a guess that if you take a look at the Operating System and Browser combination analytics for your client’s sites, not your own (unless you only make sites for cool kids only) these aren’t the figures you’ll see.

I’d bet Windows and IE combinations are way ahead of any other – on average the combo splits on client sites tend to lean overwhelmingly towards Windows and IE combos, usually around 70% and upwards of all traffic.

Please, take a look at your client’s analytics and tell me I’m wrong. I’m basing this statement on only stats I can see, which is a lot, but this is one instance wherein a way I’d love to be wrong and look like a complete Muppet…

10 Reality check facts

Of course I completely understand, and empathise, that by pampering to the makers of IE it can feel like we’re possibly postponing the evolution of the product to what most would consider acceptable standards, but I’d like to point a few things out to web production teams that I believe to be perhaps uncomfortable truths:

  1. We primarily design and develop websites for non-web industry people, not cool kids
  2. Most clients do not give two hoots about, or even understand, the IE vs. Firefox vs. Safari debate, they just want a site the majority of their users see as the designs they paid for indicated
  3. Most clients do not accept progressive enhancement as an acceptable solution when confronted with stats that tell them two thirds of their traffic is from IE
  4. Testing and bug fixing in IE is just as much of an important part of a developer’s job as is cracking that awesome innovative piece of new code
  5. It’s commercially pointless to be able front-end develop at warp speed for Firefox and Safari if subsequent fixing for IE takes an age due to lack of knowledge, experience or enthusiasm
  6. No matter how much you scream, you will still have to fix those IE bugs so why not accept it and see it as an important part of your job rather than a chore – to deliver a solid product for the client and their customers
  7. Leaving IE testing right to the end, after creating some really complex CSS and JavaScript, is asking for trouble. Maybe don’t fix till the end, but just have a few quick peeks during development to see just how broken things are so you can adjust your strategy early if need be
  8. Saying client’s and their customers “Should use a better browser” is just not an acceptable or constructive response or attitude, despite it being completely true
  9. Quality developers want their work to be perfect in all browsers, and despite resenting it, will work tirelessly to accommodate IE out of sheer pride and determination
  10. And most importantly of all… Please try to realise and appreciate how lucky we are to work in such a cool industry and in jobs we love!

I’ll take full-time IE bug fixing over a dead-end job I hate any day! How many people do you know who live THAT life…

Seriously guys we are SO lucky!

In my defence…

Now let’s get one thing straight here, I’m not defending IE here, I would love as much as anyone to see it go away never to be seen again. It causes me, and anyone in Digital Project Management, endless amounts of headaches, but, being on the front-line with clients and their KPIs means I just can’t ignore the reality right now.

This article is not meant as a rant at designers and developers, but really a plea on behalf of all Digital Project Managers to the web designers and developers out there to just take a step back from the in-house, ‘in-industry’ red mist that surrounds this topic for a moment and appreciate the bigger commercial picture – the one Digital Project Managers and web agency owners have to live in on a daily basis.

Let’s all keep trying to spread the word about using more standards compliant browsers, continue to educate clients we meet on the benefits of using Firefox over IE, inform everyone about the Google Chrome Frame, Progressive Enhancement and Graceful Degradation, but…

Please try to realise the commercial reality and support us in getting digital projects finished on budget, on time, with minimal in-house stress and making client’s, and the large majority of their users, really freakin happy – which the for the time means accommodating IE in all its dominant form.

To a Digital Project Manager, while it has such a large market share, getting it right in IE is just as important a part of the project as getting the designs signed off on time or making sure as much JavaScript as possible is un-obtrusive – we have to set personal feelings aside, be tenacious and get the job done.

Trust me, we Digital Project Managers understand that Microsoft, Windows and IE completely suck when developing websites and applications, but as we openly empathise with you, please try to empathise with us, accept the amount of people that still use them and the position that puts us in when managing the delivery of websites and web applications.

So come on, quit with the un-constructive negativity and stop dragging your heels when it comes to getting it right in IE, it adds nothing positive to the atmosphere or morale of a web agency team – set your personal feelings aside, be tenacious and get the job done.

Ok, time for me to put my riot gear on…