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Maxvoltar - Idea: IE6 Bugfix"R"Us

Maxvoltar is the personal weblog of Tim Van Damme, a freelance interface designer at Made by Elephant.

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Idea: IE6 Bugfix"R"Us

Now that Apple, Google and 37signals are no longer supporting Internet Explorer 6, you probable think it’s safe to say the browser is nearing a slow but certain death. The reality is that some clients still want to support it, as a lot of big companies are still using IE6 internally, and system admins are refusing (WHY?) to install some decent default browsers (Safari, Firefox…). No matter how hard you hate fixing bugs for IE6, it’ll still need to be a part of your skill set for the next 3-5 years…

Now, what if you no longer needed to worry about it? What if there was a service (comparable to slicing services) that would fix those bugs for you?

How it would work

  • You send them all the static HTML and CSS.
  • They take a quick look at it, and give you an estimated amount of hours it would take them to fix all the bugs.
  • You agree with their estimate.
  • The next day you get a CSS-file specifically for Internet Explorer.
  • Use conditional comments to include the file into your pages.

Advantages

  • You don’t have to worry about supporting IE6.
  • You don’t have to stress out when a client demands IE6-support.
  • You still are in total control of everything, even if you’re outsourcing some part of the labor.
  • There are only so many different kinds of bugs, meaning the people behind IE6 Bugfix“R”Us can spot and identify any bug in the blink of an eye, allowing them to work fast and efficient.
  • You are happy.
  • Clients are happy.
  • You don’t have to flood Twitter anymore with messages on how much you hate Internet Explorer.

So, who’s gonna do this? I’m sure there’s a lot of money to be made with a service like this…

11Comments

  • Dan Philibin

    3630 days ago

    It’s a great idea and something I’ve considered starting up for a while, but I’m not sure it would work so well.

    Problem #1 is finding enough people that are willing to do nothing but fix websites in IE. Obviously the service would be quite popular but it’s such a tedious job.

    The second problem is that it’s so much harder to work from other people’s code. There’s so many different ways people lay out and organize their CSS and HTML.

    It’s a great idea and I’d love to run something like that, but finding dedicated, able workers would probably make it a very difficult service to run.

  • Dan

    3630 days ago

    It’s a good idea in principle, but there’s less incentive for the IE6 bug fixers than the ones outsourcing the IE6 support.

    If like you say, IE6 will only be a big deal for the next 3-5 years, it would seem foolish to build a business around a market which is guaranteed to disappear.

    Still, I certainly wouldn’t mind someone else doing the bug IE6 hacking ;P

  • Mark Otto

    3630 days ago

    I dare to be the devil’s advocate. Have you ever thought you were looking at this backwards? Why do you have to design and develop for every other browser, and then deal with IE6?

    If IE6 is a concern to your audience, design for it. Most designers and developers are smart(ass) enough to say that IE6 is complete rubbish—and they’re right, it sucks—but the fact is it still is widely accepted as a fine browser.

    We have two options until IE6 phased out: (1) treat it like a sick dog while advocating behind it’s back to put it down, or (2) know that you and your dog are sick and fix it once.

    Find out what really bothers you about IE6, fix it, and move on. If you solve a problem once (say a peek-a-boo bug or the box model), know how to work around that in the future. Problem solved.

    (By the way, interesting idea, and I’m not being hostile, but rather practical. This kind of business doesn’t have very scalability now and isn’t likely to make much money moving forward.)

  • Jim Jeffers

    3630 days ago

    I think that this only works for a very small subset of traditional web media. Sites that only have layout issues in IE6 have always been trivial at best. That’s why it’s so annoying no?

    But Google, and Apple are dropping support for it because their web applications are quite intensive and I suspect that IE6 can barely run some of the complex scripts these sites use. So I suspect the drop for support has less to do with layout discrepancies and more so in this regard.

    As for your point. It seems like a happy medium. However, as a designer I think we need to be up to the challenge of advising and delivering what’s best for each browser we have deemed supportable.

    1. IE6 is dying a slow death but it all depends on your clients’ site demographics. Only 3% of the visitors to my blog have IE6 but over 27% are still running it on the eCard site I manage.
    2. Simply making the layout function identically in IE6 is not necessarily good. In fact I argue most of the time it is bad. Yes major layout restrictions are necessary but if you are using a lot of transparent PNG’s and javascript magic you should probably think about designing a completely separate behavior for a better degradation. Why do I say that? Because running IE7.js and other ‘fixes’ hinders the browser performance significantly. Especially when you consider how old most of these ‘still-on-ie6’ machines really are.

    Just my two cents. I just argue that older clients be taken into consideration to provide a slightly different / simpler experience instead of being hacked and badged up to work the same way. This can all be done with conditional comments and browser specific CSS as you mentioned. This route gives you some meaning and merit to take part in it. And as for clients – if you are fortunate enough to be dealing with them directly I’m certain they are always interested in doing whatever they can to impact their bottom line. After all they’re putting this thing up to make money we should hope ;)

  • Kai

    3630 days ago

    A business idea that shouldn’t have to be one! ;-)

  • Kevin

    3630 days ago

    Interesting idea! While I can see some people saying that it’s not a sustainable market, I think there’s always going to be a need for ancient browser support.

    One thing I can see being a problem is that some fixes for IE6 require you to redo the way parts of the code is written. That could cause some problems if the original developer is picky.

    It would be neat to see the dollar value that IE6 support requires. They’d have to pay me a pretty penny for me to subject myself to such torture.

  • Tim Van Damme

    3630 days ago

    • Dan Philbin: #1 It would easy money. #2 There are enough tricks to make it an easier job.
    • Dan: If you’re temporary out of work, this would be a great way to get some cash flowing.
    • Mark Otto: Designing for IE6 first would mean 75% of your visitors are still using IE6. If less, it’s just not worth doing, and you should return to the usual way of working: BBF.
    • Jim Jeffers: You’re right on the scripting rather then styling issues, but this doesn’t mean it’s not giving our big goal a nice push forwards. I’m also very aware of this site, and completely agree with it. I’m talking about layout issues, not pixel issues. Made by Elephant is a one-man company, and I would much rather focus on writing clean code and designing kick-ass interfaces then wasting an afternoon working on something that should’ve died ages ago…

    Thanks all for starting a little discussion. Really enjoying it!

  • Matthias

    3629 days ago

    Is IE6 dying a slow death?

    At the moment, IE6 is for the most part surviving in the corporate and public administration world. A world where change doesn’t happen overnight.

    These institutions work most of the time with tailored-to-their-needs made software. Applications that were built even years ago and are mission critical. It’s hard to phase those out because they are heavily integrated and without them, data cannot be read. Remember: most of these companies rely on proprietary formats and such.

    Changing even the littlest of aspects of such applications is a well thought, time consuming matter.

    On my previous job, I was a sysadmin for such an organisation where much happens through non-standard coded, ActiveX based webinterfaces.

    If I allowed a user to install firefox on monday, I would have him standing next to my desk on tuesday asking why the tool he needs everyday is screwed up. And thus, we go at lengths to keep IE6 alive.
    Today, some companies don’t upgrade to the latest SP of Windows XP and even block critical updates as a means to keep IE6 on life support. (And so, the problem is not just supporting standards but also creating a safe office environment, keeping track with modern changes,…)

    Of course, I know – and so do most sysadmins – that there are better browsers then IE6, but these choices are pragmatic ones.

    IE6 owes its’ survival to corporate management and the decision makers. People that decide who gets the contract to build the software. People that – most of the time – don’t know squat about standards and browsers and make choices based on budget and time. Bad decisions are made and organisations get caught and a web of expensive licenses for proprietary, closed software.

    Educating decision makers is the best way to get rid of IE6. But since the survival of IE6 is only a manifestation of the problem, it’s going to be a rough journey. Trying to put a timeframe (3 to 5 years) on IE6’s funeral is a challenge, having experienced that the organisation I was part of only switched to Windows XP in 2005(!).

  • Filip Bunkens

    3628 days ago

    @Tim: If you need something cleaned up for IE6 you know how to find me.

    @Dan: I for one would do it, until I earn enough money from my photography bussinnes alone. I’m a former slicer at a webdesign office but now I’m a self-employed photographer. I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of IE6 fixing on the side, just to pay the bills.

    @everybody else: If we keep building stuff with IE6 in mind, people will keep on using IE6. So unless the company explicitly asks for it, don’t start fixing every bug in IE6. In the end, the people that need to understand it, will do something about it.

    But in the mean time, you can send your IE6 problems over to me :-)

  • Danny Foo

    3628 days ago

    I’d give this business 2-3 years max. With the release of Windows 7 and the new IE, I’d say version 6 will definitely die. :P

    But I’d say it could be a good start and it’ll be easier to move the business to cater for all IE or IE7 onwards only later.

    Though, you’d have to think how to quote per job and how many jobs you’ll need to cover your own expenses. :)

  • Harry Roberts

    3628 days ago

    Most IE6 problems come from poor code in the first place, so any projects you get sent are most likely going to be horrendous! I personally wouldn’t want the job (as I’d end up recoding all the site knowing me) but I suppose it could become as common pace as ‘we slice your designs’ services…

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