Edinburgh Web Development

P45 time for IE6?

by Iain Wilson

15 January 2008

For years the bane of web designers lives has been the number of different browsers out there - Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera etc.... Quite often it has meant coding different code for each browser. The cries of anguish when a design that works perfectly on one browser crashes on another have been heard around the world for too many years.

With the introduction of web browser standards, the major browsers are behaving themselves pretty well, although we're nowhere near pixel perfect behaviour - something our graphic designer friends find hard to understand!

Anyhow on the Microsoft front, now that Internet Explorer 7 is pretty widespread, we're noticing more design companies are starting not to support Internet Explorer 6 anymore.

Font sizes in IE6 Is this a good thing? Well, IE6 has plenty faults, like doubling the margin size when it feels like it and quite a few other things, but the single biggest drag of IE6 is that if you wanted to make the text on the web page resizable (for accessibility reasons), meant that you couldn't use price font sizes, eg 14pixels. If you did, the text size couldn't be increased (or decreased for that matter) when viewing a page.

The only way around this was to size the text relatively to some base size for the page e.g. 110%. So you would never know exactly what the font size was in pixels and sometimes, different browsers would interpret the relative sizes differently. This would result in text taking up different space on different browsers, especially when using nested sizes e.g. 70% of 110%. Things could look slightly odd or out of alignment. At worst, blocks would be pushed onto the next line, breaking the design.

IE7, and the other major browsers, will allow exact pixel font sizes to be resized. When we can use these it takes everyone a step nearer uniformity.

End of the line? So a lot of companies are no longer testing for IE6 compatibility and are simply putting a test on the front page which, if the browser is IE6 will show a little message saying that this browser is not supported and the user might be best to upgrade. Some people are behind selecting a date in 2008 when we should all be doing this.

For Blot, we will continue to test for IE6, for the time being at least, but the idea of putting the warning message is a good one. In the long term, we look forward to forgetting about Tan Hacks and the little tricks necessary to live with IE6.

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