No Company Should Support Outdated Browsers

776 words  |  
Categories:  Management, Web Development
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Any company that wants to be (or at least appear to be) cutting-edge, should encourage best practices both internally and externally. It should go without saying that your employees should be keeping their skills up-to-date and using best practices for protecting their security. But what about your customers?

Why are new browsers better?
A bite-size explanation taken directly from Smashing Magazine’s 2012 article Dear Web User: Please Upgrade Your Browser

Allowing your audience to continually use old browser versions is essentially enabling them to continue habits that are detrimental to their well-being. This may sound hyperbolic, but it’s true. Just like credit card companies encourage their customers not to create easily-guessed passwords and PINs, websites should encourage best practices in their users too.

Some of the biggest companies online are already doing this:

YouTube encourages users to update their browser Facebook encourages users to update their browser

If you’re only motivated by selfish benefits, there are plenty of those too:

  • Reduced development and QA time for your web team.
  • Reduced risks of bugs.
  • Better SEO results.
  • Cooler design elements are available to your creative staff.
  • You have greater flexibility to continuously improve your site.
  • A website production staff that is always learning and growing.
  • A website production staff that doesn’t have to perform the tasks they generally hate the most.
  • A website production staff that is happier, because of the above things.

I’m not saying that your company must adopt every single new technology that comes out. That can be just as disastrous as using outdated techniques. I am saying that you should always code in the present. This way your code base will continuously improve over time, and your team can safely implement new solutions to old problems.

Common Objections

Market Share

But we still have 2% of our users coming in through IE 8! We can’t afford to lose that business.

  • People that are using IE 8 will not simply leave your website because it starts to look janky. If they still use IE 8, the entire internet looks janky to them.
  • You won’t lose that business. Customers that are visiting your website won’t immediately leave because it looks janky. You can even offset that fear by including a prompt for your customers to update, just like YouTube and Facebook do.
  • If your target audience is technical in nature (for example, you’re a software or electronics company), or even if they’re under 40 (like a fashion or lifestyle company) they will most likely not be in that 2%. Don’t let that tiny minority get in the way of you engaging with your primary audience.
  • If your target audience is less technical or older, the newer coding standards have only improved the way they browse the web anyway. Better accessibility is one of the most important strides we’re making in web development today. It also doesn’t hurt to educate the less tech-savvy, as opposed to abandoning them.

Difficulty

We don’t have time to update our entire code base!

  • You don’t have to do it all right now. All you have to say to your production staff is “From now on, this is our new browser compatibility policy. Any work you do from this day forward should follow it.” (Then you pause for applause) Your site won’t immediately be cutting edge, but it will show steady progress.
  • If you haven’t already made your site responsive, supporting only the most recent browser versions will make that transition much easier.
  • As mentioned previously, you’re actually going to have less work than before because you don’t have to test as many browsers.
  • The improvements in performance, SEO, and user experience will provide real business value that will make it all worth it.

Other Technical Issues

Our platform doesn’t support [HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, etc.], so we can’t.

  • If your site uses a platform that prevents you from continuously improving, you have bigger problems than browser compatibility. You’d be better off migrating and rebuilding than continuing to maintain it.
  • Seriously, your highest priority as a development team should be to get off of this platform if this is your objection. I didn’t need to write a second bullet for this, but I felt it might bear repeating.

These are the only objections I’ve encountered so far. Please let me know if you’ve heard others and I’ll see if I can help answer them.

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about why it’s so important to keep your browser up-to-date, check out these articles that explain it way better than I ever could.

Do it for yourself, and for your customers. It will make the web a better place for everyone.

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