Tag Archives: IE6

Good news on IE6: government usage plummets in 2012

Almost a year ago, we published some interesting browser statistics based on the logs from one of our Central Government Citizen Space servers. We ran the logs through a piece of open source analysis software called Visitors, and this gave us an anonymous breakdown of all visits to Citizen Space, showing the browsers and versions that were used. We looked at the statistics for all pages, and compared them with the stats for pages only accessible to admin users. The results were insightful but rather scary: Internet Explorer 6 accounted for more than 1 in 3 visits by our Central Government admin users.

For those who don’t know, Internet Explorer version 6 (lovingly known as IE6) is a web browser that Microsoft released over a decade ago. Because it renders web pages differently (in some cases dramatically differently) from more modern browsers, web developers spend a great deal of time creating workarounds so that IE6 users can still access our websites. Of course, this increases the cost of product development without necessarily offering any benefit to the majority of web users who don’t use IE6. Coupled with the fact that IE6 now only receives limited support from Microsoft, almost everyone is in agreement that this ancient and decrepit browser must be phased out.

This morning, we had a comment on last year’s post from a reader who was interested in how Citizen Space’s browser stats had changed. Thank you Perry – you reminded me that I’d been meaning to re-do this analysis soon. So here are the graphs comparing the numbers 11 months ago with where we are today:

Central Government Citizen Space – all users (admin and public)

All users by browser, May 2011
Breakdown of visits by browser: IE8: 23.0%, Firefox: 15.6%, IE9: 14.9%, IE7: 14.9%, Chrome: 13.2%, Safari: 10.8%, IE6: 5.9%
All users by browser, April 2012

These statistics roughly follow the browser trends of the general internet population*, with IE8 and 9 increasing in popularity while the older IE versions decrease as expected. Pleasingly, IE6 usage has roughly halved since last May.

Firefox, Chrome and Safari have gained more of a stronghold in the past year, although interestingly, Internet Explorer as a whole has retained a far larger share of Citizen Space users than worldwide browser usage statistics* would predict.

Central Government Citizen Space instances – admin pages only

Admin users by browser, May 2011
Breakdown of visits by browser: IE8: 60.3%, IE7: 29.3%, Chrome: 3.8%, IE6: 2.4%, Firefox: 1.8%, IE9: 1.3%, Safari: 1.1%
Admin users by browser, April 2012


When looking at the statistics for our admin users, the most exciting thing is that usage of IE6 has crashed by 90% – from 35% down to 2.4% of visits. This is a great relief to us, and shows the huge effort that has taken place in government IT departments to upgrade users away from this insecure, ill-supported browser.

It’s worth noting that overall, usage of Internet Explorer among our Central Government users is more than 90%, compared to 34% worldwide*.

What next?

The interesting question is what levels of support to provide for different browser capabilities. We currently provide Level 2 support for IE6, which means that all content must be readable and navigable, but differences in styling and layout may exist. This works OK for our products at the moment, but as web users come to expect a richer and more fluid experience, the likes of IE6 are going to lag further and further behind. How small does the percentage of IE6 users need to be before we can stop supporting it at all?

To other web developers: when do you stop supporting ancient browsers and those with limited functionality? How much can you rely on the presence of client-side technologies like Javascript, cookies, HTML5, CSS3..?

To government IT managers (thank you for phasing out IE6 btw!) what level of support do you expect for older browsers? Do security constraints dictate that you disable features like Javascript or cookies?

As always, I’d love to hear your views.


*Worldwide browser statistics from statcounter.com.

Delib @ #BurningRubber – and some reflections from seven years of digital democracy

#BurningRubber was an event to celebrate ten years of Team Rubber (Delib’s parent company). It was a lot of fun to take the day out in *deepest North Somerset* at Colliters Brook Farm. There were small amounts of danger, some ball sports and a fire, all to be seen in Burning Rubber – the photo story.

Meanwhile, I just worked out that Delib is seven years old (incorporated June 2004). There have been a lot of changes in digital democracy in that time, here are some reflections from me:

After a turbulent 2010 (and a lot of turmoil for our public sector friends and clients), I’m seeing more and more great stuff in the UK, and abroad (hello Australia). I’m bullish about the potential of digital democracy to build a more inclusive, more responsive, more rewarding society. Times are interesting – and in a good way.

cheers,

Andy

Group photo. Some of these people work for Delib.  They like apples.  I am not in this picture

Some of these people work for Delib. They like apples. I am not in this picture.

Customisation Costs, Fact.

Nearly a year ago, Andy made an eloquent post describing the difference between brand and design. He argued that although design really does matter, paying extra to have an App branded to match your core website exactly, is overkill. More importantly, it is not cost effective.

I thought I’d follow up on his post with some numbers science.

Our Citizen Space product is sold with basic theming functionality. You can have your own logo, and the colour of the page headings can be changed to match your colour scheme. Due to the elegant, neutral design of the product, this is enough to give a sound match to a client’s core branding.

In the past
We have occasionally performed an extensive re-design of Citizen Space for a client. The initial extra cost for this increases the price tag by approximately 35%.

Fast forward to the present
As standard, Delib offers clients the option of an SLA. This SLA covers things like upgrades and critical fixes. We roll out a new version of Citizen Space roughly bi-annually, adding new features and improvements to usability.

Get to the cost
So for a standard Citizen Space client, an upgrade rollout takes approximately 10-20 minutes. We recently performed upgrades for two of our heavily themed clients. These took an average of 2.5 days for skinning and Quality Assurance. That’s 2.5 days of real cost, charged to the client.

Why?
All Citizen Space releases are fully QA’d. This means they support all major browsers including IE6, and are fully Accessibility tested. For a standard Citizen Space, these tests need to be done once, then applied to every standard client. The cost of this is spread across all the clients. For a bespoke skin, all these tests need to be run again, and fixes made. There is the real cost.

Upgrade time (hours) for upgrading a Citizen Space with standard theme (including client logo and colours) versus a fully customised theme

Conclude me something
If you’ve got bags of money, or you expect huge volumes of traffic to your app, then paying around £3000 a year to keep your custom theme up to date and accessible might be a good idea. For any one else it’s simply not cost effective.

IE6 – the facts: 1 in 3 of our government clients still using it

We spend a lot of development time ensuring that our software is usable across all the commonly used web browsers. A disproportionate amount of this time is spent ensuring compliance with Microsoft’s archaic Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), which is 10 years old this year.

From time to time, we wonder whether we could provide better value for money by dropping support for IE6 and making more use of the facilities provided by newer browsers; a decision that has already been taken by the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Google.

Steph Gray recently blogged about whether Alphagov should have dropped IE6 support. Steph critiqued this decision, pointing out that a lot of civil servants still use IE6. We thought it might be useful to share the breakdown of browser usage by our civil service clients.

What do the numbers show?

Here is a chart of browser usage on the admin pages of our Citizen Space app, for the servers used by our Central Government clients:

IE7: 47.5%, IE6: 35.4%, Firefox: 7.1%, Chrome: 5.9%, IE8: 3.4%, Safari: 0.7%
Breakdown of admin pages by browser

And here is a graph of browser usage across all Citizen Space pages (admin and public-facing) on the same servers:

IE7: 21.2%, IE8: 20.3%, Firefox: 14.3%, Unknown: 13.2%, IE6: 11.0%, Chrome: 9.3%, Safari: 6.6%, IE9: 3.0%, Others: 1.2%
Breakdown of all pages by browser

Here you can see that IE6 is used by more than a third of our Citizen Space administrators, but only about a tenth of the total visitors. At the moment, there is clearly a need to continue supporting IE6 for our clients, but it does seem a shame when this investment could be put towards improving the user experience of the site’s end users.

I could write more words about these differences, but here’s another chart that tells the story pretty clearly:

Comparison of browser usage by admin users and all visitors

We’ll be keeping an eye on these figures to see how they change with time, and we’d also be interested to know how they compare with data from other sites aimed at government clients around the world. Does anyone else have any data they’d like to share?


The science bit:

  • Data was taken from May 2011’s Apache access logs from one of our Citizen Space servers. Data is anonymised.
  • We parsed the logs using the open-source Visitors software (which we modified to include the most recent versions of IE). The software can be downloaded from http://www.hping.org/visitors/doc.html.
  • Statistics are based on visits rather than pageviews, where a visit is all requests for a given useragent and IP address on one day.
  • We excluded any visits from our own IP address and from our server monitoring services.
  • We did not exclude crawlers and other bots, which probably account for the majority of the ‘unknown’ useragents in the second chart.

Internet Explorer Increasingly Less Used

It’d be no surprise to anyone I wouldn’t think, that Internet Explorer is not exactly our favourite browser here at Delib towers. Not only do none of us use it at work or at home, it’s also the one that causes far and away the most trouble when developing sites for clients, in terms of making sure the site looks right and works correctly.

So it may be schadenfreude, but it’s still pleasing to read here that the percentage of web users using Internet Explorer has for the first time dipped beneath the 50% mark. There’s an interesting article in the pie chart about which browsers are most used as well.

Tragic then, that in response to a recent petition, the UK Government has stated that it’s going to keep on using Internet Explorer version 6, despite the fact that it’s getting on for 10 years old, and Microsoft is now on Internet Explorer version 9.

But surely, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? If IE6 still works, then why should government change? Well, for one thing, the internet’s moved on a huge amount since 2001 when IE6 was released, and does things now that weren’t even dreamt possible then. The more people stick with IE6, the less they’re going to be able to do online, and the more they’re going to have to spend on software to make sure that it still works with a browser fewer and fewer of their actual customers are using.

In reality, a lot of the cost this generates is shouldered by software companies rather than government, and I guess we have an obvious interest to declare in this regard. But it seems like a backwards move not to at least upgrade your version of IE, let alone move to another browser.

It’s also an odd position to take for a government that claims it wants to encourage businesses to generate money to get the economy back on track.