How We Won the Developer Lottery ( aka: Dropping Support for IE8 )

04/24/2014

Microsoft's Internet Explorer - the bane of most every web developer.  If it's not the security issues, it was the box model rendering issues and laundry list of hacks that are needed to get IE to render a simple page.  Unless you're super lucky, more than likely you're including a version of Modernizr, Chrome Frame, or the HTML5 Shiv just to bring IE up to par with modern versions of Chrome and Firefox.

 According to the Global Stat Counter (http://gs.statcounter.com), 4.71% (March '14) of the World's Internet users, are still viewing pages in IE8.  Embarrassingly, if you limit that search to North America only, the percentage jumps to 5.76%. Here at Craftsy, we average 1.7 million visits a week, and at the time of this post (April '14), we had 26,913 (1.52%) users on our site still using IE8 (most likely using Windows XP which officially died this month.)

 Potentially, tens of thousands of people viewing your website are on an outdated, slow, insecure browser that is displaying the page differently than your Design Team had intended, and creating extra development time for your Front End Team to fix browser specific bugs, rather than innovating. So when is the right time to pull the plug, or how do you get your users to change?

 We employed two philosophies:

1. Users are very important to us, so we try to 'encourage' them to switch by hand-holding them through the process of downloading Chrome. In IE8 and below, we show a nag bar that has links to Chrome and Firefox with a nice message asking them to upgrade.
Our Support Team are also rockstars who have the patience and skill to walk our customers through the browser upgrade process. Craftsy-ie8-upgrade-nag-bar

2. Draw a line in the sand. We set ours at 2% total page visits. If you look at Craftsy.com in IE8, you'll see that 'Happy Path' functionality still works.  You can buy Course, Patterns, and Product. Our video player, however, relies on its Flash fallback to work.  This allows us to focus on building functionality around the HTML5 Video specification, but users aren't left completely in the dark.

Craftime-contiuum Video player features, such as video speed variations control aka "The Craftime Continuum" are only done using HTML5. We don't want to isolate users, but at the same time, we don't want our site to get stagnant.

 The UX team was the first to drop support.  No more rounded corner sprites. No more JavaScript drop shadow filters or hover animations. The list could go on and on. Our CSS files have become smaller and, since dropping IE8, a lot of the icons you see on the site have been included in a custom Craftsy webfont.  Media Queries are CSS based, not JavaScript based. We make it a point to use CSS3 animations first, and fall-back to JavaScript or jQuery if needed. The Front End team will address bugs if they appear in any of the IE8 'Happy Paths,' but new functionality is developed with modern browsers in mind. Craftsy.com is currently running jQuery 2.1.0 and leveraging the semantic power of HTML5. This allows us to focus on optimization and cutting edge technologies in a browser stack where functionality is more or less equal.

When you throw developing for tablets and phones in the mix, you may come to realize that spending the time and the developer resources fixing the major bugs and display issues associated with IE8 may not be cost effective for your company. On the other side of the coin, your user demographic, your clients, or your management might still require legacy support which is a hard point to argue from a developer standpoint, but when that day comes, and you finally 'Hit the Developer Lottery,' make sure to have some awesome candy in your Internet Explorer piƱata!

PS: Want to join the party? We're Hiring!

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