May 26 2009

Universal IE6 Stylesheet: A Step Backwards

As many have noted, there’s many opinions on how to handle the Internet Explorer 6 monster. For a beautiful web just suggested his solution: one stylesheet to rule them all . It’s completely ridiculous, and I’m suprised to see other professionals agreeing.

A Relatively Capable Browser

IE6, while certainly layout-challenged, can handle basic layout, and still decent color, background, type and image support. People using Internet Explorer 6 are used to web pages looking decent. Websites looking plain black and white with no design all of a sudden will make people think your site is broken (or just sucks). And one principle of web standards is that they shouldn’t think your website is broken .

Sure you could change the text colors, you say. But c’mon, its really not that bad to remove the problematic CSS from IE6. Boagworld did a good job of showing how easy it is to do, and it still looks pretty decent.

The Standards Stance

I’ll be the first to condemn IE6 to the farthest depths of the trash can. I hate the bugger. But as a web developer, I also strongly believe in progressive enhancement , and giving each browser what it can handle.

Sometimes I’m asked to make something look the same in IE6 as Firefox 3, and while I do it (I need to eat), I strongly disagree with it. My boss expects some whining from my side of the office when I’m told. I agree more with Yahoo’s graded browser support .

The plain stylesheet to IE6 turns it into a cousin of Lynx, and certainly under-utilizes the power that IE6 does have. Ultimately, it goes against the point of standards . Why bother at all, if you aren’t going to treat everyone the way they can.