IE Tester – IE6 Woes

One of the greatest headaches for a web developer is making sure your site renders correctly in all the different browsers in use by a sites visitors. Internet Explorer 6 and even 7 and 8 are an absolute nightmare. Internet Explorer 6 is by far the most annoying though.

I intend to make a few posts on some of the IE6 bugs i encounter regularly and the ways around them. There are plenty of sites already with IE6 bug fixes and hacks and elaborate JQuery to get around the issues so I will just be posting the ways i use mainly to have a reference for myself when i inevitably forget the little methods.

First of all you can eliminate this headache completely if you don’t even bother developing for IE6. Do your users use the browser? What percentage of users? For example most people who use IE6 still are either stuck on a corporate network which enforces IE6, or they believe the little IE6 logo on their desktop is actually the internet and have no clue what a browser actually is. Does your website hold any interest for these users? If you are purely a technology site or a web development site its unlikely that the second group of users will ever visit you, they have the internet to look at emails and keep in touch with people and maybe occasionally browse for recipes, therefore you will be wasting your time trying to shoe-horn in IE6 compatibility. I say compatibility but that should really read ‘creatively breaking your site so that IE6’s broken rendering engine will break your site sufficiently to make it look right’.

If you find that you do need support IE6, or like me you just want the site to be at least working and readable in the antique browser so the occasional traffic you do receive from this group of users doesn’t instantly drive them away then you come up against the next hurdle.

The next hurdle is, how do i actually test in IE6? The browser is so old now, over 15 years, that just finding a computer around your house that is old enough to have it still installed will be a challenge. Windows XP was the last OS to support IE6 and you cannot buy it anymore. I stayed on IE7 for a long time when i moved to Windows 7 just so that i could use the compatibility mode it came with that would sort of render sites like IE6 would have, allowing me to kill the bugs. Unfortunately (fortunately) IE8 and 9 have been released and gradually brought Internet Explorer into standards compliance territory, though IE 8 is still a bit of a pain.

SOOOOOO, IE6 support will have to continue for some sites, but you cant test it without having an old computer or a development environment, wrong, well partly. Check out IE Tester its a program for windows which lets you virtualise IE 5.5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and soon to be released IE 10.

So as long as you have windows installed you can test your site out with all the browsers without having to worry about setting up XP or some other elaborate method of testing.

As for support with this site I’ve just gone for a as long as its readable I’m not fussed. Ive installed a basic PNG fix plugin just so the logo works etc but I wont be making separate IE6 style sheets etc. I was thinking about adding some browser detection method and informing users if they were on outdated browsers but as i explained above the people on this old browser either won’t know what you are talking about or won’t have the choice to switch browser anyway.


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