IE 6 Reluctant friend and frequent foe – Part I

Jessica Hammer - March 7, 2008

Part I – How to troubleshoot, design, and make friends with ie6

For those of you who don’t spend your days wrestling with cross-browser compatibility (read: making the website look the same in all browsers) you may be unaware of the constant battle therein.

Of the many browser choices out in the wild world web, the three most used are Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox. Those three are the ones we primarily troubleshoot for here at MoreVisibility, and in doing so, attempt to ensure that the greatest number of users will be able to view our sites as the designer intended. Of course we check Safari on a Mac too, but it is rarely problematic.

So all three programs are browsers, all designed to do the same thing, turn code into a readable page, and transmit data from server to client, right? So why are there so many cross-browser issues?

That’s what I’d love to know! In programming these browsers, some companies got it right, some didn’t. A certain software conglomerate’s early browser incarnations couldn’t handle, for one, valid CSS. This means, for designers that code in CSS, a myriad of ‘hacks’ and shortcuts must be engaged to force ie6, yes you guessed it, to render the layout correctly. This is not only exhausting, but incredibly frustrating for someone who has spent hours laying out a design in, say Firefox, then switches over to ie6 to find that the right sidebar is above the header and all the links are pink!

Microsoft made many improvements in ie7, which does a far better job of paying attention to what the coder meant, but there are still bugs. In addition, not all users have upgraded to ie7 and are still browsing daily on a severely outdated browser.

Firefox is my browser of choice, and it rarely lets me down. It is an open-source software, meaning that updates and fixes come regularly, ensuring that you always have the latest and best version of the browser.

But as much as I am tempted to force users into switching to Firefox, or any standards compliant browser, the reality is that it won’t happen. I have to work around the ie6 bugs and learn from the curveballs it throws me.

In my next blog, I will share some ie6 secrets, and shed some light on how to get your layout to function in ie6 with minimal pain and wasted time!!

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