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When to stop supporting old browsers

Written by: Peter Fisher on October 1, 2012
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Supporting old browsersI’ve written two posts/rants about IE6 and IE7 and the annoying fact that people still use them. Whilst researching this issue I noticed that some big names in cyber space have actually stopped supporting these browsers.  Google and Facebook have both announced that they will no longer support IE7 in the near future.  This got me thinking about when, as web developers we should stop supporting these old browsers as well.

Phasing out is better than going cold turkey

I don’t think we should wake up one day and say “Right I’m never going to support that browser again”. You may be working on a project that requires an element of backwards compatibility and you dont want to alienate your customers straight away. I recommend dropping support in new project work and telling/agreeing with your client which browser versions you will be supporting in their projects. This way you will end up phasing out old browsers and working on the latest technology without harming your client base. If you have an existing client then any new work or enhancements on that site can be done outside of IE7. This will leave some aspects working in old browsers and some not.  This may not seem professional at first but by dropping support like this you will be phasing out backwards compatibility support for that client. This may not work all the time and for some clients its crucial that the whole site must work in certain browsers.  As long as this is agreed at the start then this is fine in my book.

Education is the key

When a new browser is released I wait 3-6 months for it gain adoption and then I think about dropping support for the oldest version that browser vender has.  When I make the decision to drop support for new client work I write an email or newsletter to my clients informing them that I will not be supporting browser x.x.x in future work. Included are common reasons why I’m dropping support and how my clients can upgrade their browsers. By doing this I am being transparent and passing on some knowledge to my clients. Who knows, maybe they will upgrade after reading it and that’s one less browser headache in the future.

There will always be a legacy browser to support

Unfortunately in this game there will always be an aspect of support that we have to provide for older browsers.  IE8 will be the the new IE7 and so forth. This is something we just have to accept and deal with.  I recommend that you have a policy of browser support.  This could state that you always support one version back from the current version. If browser compatibility is a big thing for your clients then get this agreement down in writing at the start of the project.

Don’t forget mobile

We should not forget that mobile phones and tablets have their own browsers. The key players here are Android, Windows Phone and IOS.  You can also throw in Firefox mobile and other third party browsers. If your working on a mobile project then you should define which ones you support and at what resolution.

 

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Peter Fisher is a web developer working in Gloucester UK. Founder of the digital agency Websomatic, author of this blog and the HowToCodeWell Youtube channel. Peter has over ten years of web development experience under his belt

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