Clarification Regarding IE5/Win

Last month, I had posed the question: When can we hide from IE5/Win?. In retrospect, I probably should’ve titled the entry: When can I hide from IE5/Win?. Because, as others have rightfully pointed out, what matters most are the statistics from your own site, not others.

But the reason for that entry hasn’t changed. I wanted to take the pulse of IE5/Win in a very non-scientific, general way. And there were some good numbers throughout the comments. Essentially, IE5/Win users make up an average of 4% in the stats that were collected. Some less, some more, of course. So, my curiosity has been cured. IE5/Win numbers are (not surprisingly) dwindling — what that means for you and your site can vary.

But catering to IE5/Win isn’t that hard

Sure, this is true is most cases. For someone who already knows the pitfalls to avoid when authoring CSS for IE5/Win, that is. On this site, for instance, I’ve pulled out the necessary hacks (the obvious ones, anyway) that make IE play nice into their own separate stylesheet. There’s really only a handful of them, so on the surface it appears that I’m not doing much to make IE5/Win look like everyone else. But what about CSS newbies, those that are trying to grasp the basics? What I was trying to get at in the initial entry was that it would make learning this stuff much easier without having to explain box model problems, etc.

It’s not impossible to bend IE5/Win into the same designs that more standards-compliant browsers render, but it can’t hurt to take a look at your site’s statistics, getting a handle on what your audience is. It could help in deciding how much bending you want to do.


  1. Dustin says:

    And you’re totally right. I would just say that even if you’re a css guru, you can at least toy with the idea of hiding styles from IE5 (after confirming with your stats).
    I for one have no problem incorporating the necessary filters and extra styles to modify my layouts for IE5, but as soon as I heard you pop the question in your previous entry, it dawned on me that we’re entering a new year, and I’ve officially made it my new years resolution (and christmas gift) to start hiding my styles from IE5. You could say it’s more of a matter of principle. With 1.5% (on average per website) of my users browsing with IE5, you come to a point where you value time over money.
    If my business depended on a large e-commerce website, and my IE5 users were anywhere above 3%, I would definitely make the necessary hacks.

  2. I just redirect my Windows using friends to That seems to fix the rendering problems for me.

  3. For some reason, I thought this original conversation was exclusively about IE5/Mac. I got pretty disappointed with the conversation when it drifted back and forth between IE5/Win and IE5/Mac.
    Both browsers have their own unique pitfalls which require special attention with regard to CSS. IE5/Mac further complicates this matter by fouling up Javascript rendering engine.
    I always try to write my CSS to function properly in both browsers, but I tend to let my pages gracefully drop the DHTML functionality when it comes to IE5/Mac.
    The only major problem I have found with IE5/Win is the lack of support for inline elements padding/margin. Because of this, I always make my horizontal lists display as block elements and float ‘em. It’s a pretty easy fix and well worth it in my opinion.

  4. At least rendering problems with IE5/Win are usually pretty simple to solve, if not an enjoyable way of spending your time.
    Solving rendering issues with IE5/Mac is much like playing with voodoo, only with more zombie problems and no shotgun.

  5. Andrew Hume says:

    I have made it my policy to not support IE5/Win and IE5/Mac on my personal site and sites concerning web development, such as UsableType.
    However, for all other work, I still test and hack for these browsers. A lot of people have Win 98 running IE 5 and they don’t update (they probably don’t even know they can). For people still running Mac OS9, IE5.1 is still one of the best browsers you can get for the OS.
    Commercially, you can’t ignore that chunk of the market in my opinion

  6. What really irritates me about IE5/Win is that lack of DOM support. I was working on some JavaScript code for someone and the whole script broke on IE5/Win simply because it couldn’t handle all of the DOM API.
    At some point in time IE 5/Win will be the Netscape 4 of (now) 5 years ago.

  7. Julian says:

    Sure, you got the point. It’s very hard to fight against all the stuff IE does wrong. But on the other hand you cannot leave them outside, I don’t think redirecting them to solves that problem, although I’m an Apple-fan as well…

  8. Randy,
    At least IE5/Win *has* DOM support. All the basic DOM stuff works impressively well in IE5. I recently built a typical horizontal list navigation, which uses DOM to alter class names of sub-lists to display/hide them. This list markup, with supporting Javascript worked in IE5/Win just as perfectly as it does in IE6, Firefox, etc..
    Sure it has limited DOM support, but compare that to IE5/Mac.

  9. I was thinking that most IE5/Win users would A) be using Windows 98 and B) Running very old Pentiums so would probably be very pleased with a “reduced” style website. It can be a painfull experience browsing modern websites on such ancient steam powered equipment.

  10. I recently wrote a comment for a similar discussion, where I pointed out that it is essential to look who is using it – and how many these are.
    — snip of comment —
    …what if you are designing a bank’s websites? What if the bank’s own server-logs state that less than 4% is using a browser not capable of handling the latest standards? Should we then just forget these 4%? Well, many web-designers are currently saying “I do not want to spend 20-40% extra time designing a website for IE 5″
    But, let us put this into perspective. Bank of America’s net income was in 2003 $10.8 billion, and 4% of that is $432 million. Should we forget about $432 million just to be lazy? No, of course not.
    Even if we consider, that only 1% of their income generated by their website it is still $4.3 million.

    This is one important thing to keep in mind. If the web designers are not taking this into account, the quest for “ease of development” may very likely damage sales.
    Consider also that man companies’ rate of growth is about the same as IE5′s browser share – and cutting that out would be catastrophic in the eyes of the shareholders.
    So I am not saying you should design for IE5, nor am I saying that you should not. I am merely pointing out that there many other – and important – factors involved in a decision like this.

  11. Darrel says:

    …what if you are designing a bank’s websites? What if the bank’s own server-logs state that less than 4% is using a browser not capable of handling the latest standards? Should we then just forget these 4%?
    You shouldn’t. But, from my experience with online banking, most do. :(
    There’s huge organizations that pump out products for their customers that still develop in IE6/Windows land. It’s crazy.

  12. Dustin says:

    all in all, when it comes down to it all… if you properly code your website, hiding styles to IE5 shouldn’t make your site ‘un-usable’
    So technically, it’s not like you’re throwing those users away. Just encouraging them to upgrade ;)
    But like BofA comment, 4% is a very large number.
    That’s why I mentioned the 3% in the very first comment

  13. Design says:

    Today, for the first time, I saw 2 sites that display the following message when visited with IE: “Your browser is not secure. You need a secure browser to view our website. Blah blah. Rant rant… get firefox and such…” You can guess the rest of the text yourself. Both sites were webmaster related. I can so see this trend building up in the near future.
    I know it’s bad, but there will be followers!

  14. Dan, like you said, it really depends on the statistics from our own sites, not others. Another words, find out who your audience is. If you develop a website for a company located overseas, south america, which is my case, you’re audience will def be IE5/win and up. I just focus on IE at all times, giving a little bit attention to others browsers. And depending on a project I recomend readers to update their broswer to a newer version, and in most cases I tell them to switch to firefox.

  15. I work for a large financial company that mostly does mortgages. I looked up the number of individual user’s browsers for IE5/Mac and they make up 0.598% of all the hits which runs at 4,442 out of 742,134 total individual visitor’s browsers. IE5/MAC is a pain to make work on a standards based site yet they represent a potential of 4,442 loans.
    It was finally decided by people higher in the company than I that if the browser’s share was less than 3% it was okay to not specifically program to that browser. For me that means that the design is slightly degraded or sometimes elements of the design don’t exactly line up.
    It’s nice to see that Firefox has increased its share at our site making up a total of 3.6% at 26,450. However, the tracking software we use says that the internet average percent for Firefox is 4.9%.
    Various versions of Safari make up 1.020% at 7,572.
    IE5.5/Win makes up 2.5% at 18,890 and IE5/Win makes up 0.8% at 6,552. Finally IE6/Win makes up 84.8% at 629,420.
    I have not been successful in making the case for web standards for our external sites as we mostly use .NET for developement, but I have created a webkit for intranet sites which is web standards and is getting a lot of play for intranet sites.
    I guess the question is how do I know that one user using Netscape Navigator 4.08 isn’t going for a million dollar loan. It’s happened before. I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision.

  16. So is it bad that I don’t really care about MacOS users? The thing is that I don’t have any possible way to see how my website works on IE5 in Mac.

  17. to Peter Usewicz, there is a website called browser cam that will send you a screenshot of your site in every browser know to man, very usefull even if it isn’t free
    and to Nikolai Bailey, very good point if they are using these slow old machines loosing the CSS will definately speed their times up. Maybe they would appreciate it, but it’s getting across to them WHY we’re doing it without being condecending.

  18. Jon Berg says:

    I think webmasters should stop to fix things that looks bad in IE. The faster people will stop using IE. All I make is made for Firefox, like it or love it.

  19. joran aerns says:

    I would certainly not exclude IE 5 users. But would let my websites nicely degrade in IE 5 and lower
    In my opinion it would be ok to friendly point users of insecure older browsers to some more secure alternatives.
    My parents use an old Pentium II laptop with Windows 98 on it. They use Firefox as Internet browser. They happily made the switch to Firefox from IE, once I told them firefox was a much more secure browser.

  20. Bruno Girin says:

    As said before, it really depends on your audience. But in some cases, you might also want to educate said audience. I design online banking software for a living and our software is able to support multiple brandings and can make branding decision based on user agent information. However, the branding we deliver out of the box is meant for IE6 and Firefox. This is because 1) it enables us to use CSS properly 2) it limits the number of browsers we have to test against (important in a small company) 3) we are dealing with banking where security is paramount therefore having users connecting with IE5 is a potential security risk. At the end of the day, thanks to the multiple branding ability of the software, we can design alternate brandings that support IE5, Netscape 4 and everything else our customers want but we make sure they understand the consequence of doing this first.
    Yet another approach to the problem is to question the design you came up with in the first place. If one aspect of your site relies on something that IE5 does not handle properly, do you really need to use that feature? Can’t you design your site in such a way that it looks as good, respects standards but doesn’t use that pesky feature? Or do you even care if it is displayed slightly different in IE5? At the end of the day, HTML is meant to give the browser a rough idea of how it should present the data to the user and it is the browser’s responsibility to display it. The more your design relies on complex presentation requirements, the more it is likely to break. the most obvious example of this is relying on fixed page/table width that depend on a particular screen resolution: this sort of things breaks as soon as your user has a setup different from yours or you code for multiple languages. A site that has been built with flexibility in mind will usually look good whatever the browser, even if it looks slightly different from one to the next. Who cares about the margin bug in IE5 if increasing the margin just means making that portion of text stand out? Whether it is shifted 10 or 20 pixels doesn’t matter, as long as it is shifted. In this case, just write compliant CSS: you know it will look slightly different in IE5 but it won’t look bad and, more importantly, it won’t degrade the site’s usability and that’s what’s important.

  21. Sorccu says:

    Instead of various hacks, why not use Conditional Comments for IE5+?

  22. Donnie Jeter says:

    I work for a small company that has roughly 5-6 computers in their main office. It seems, with a lot of small businesses especially, people are afraid of change – most notably when it comes to their computer. It seems like the 35-45 year old male/female professional, knows what he or she likes and what works. If AOL tells them they have mail (literally), then by God they are going to keep AOL – some people seriously do not understand that it’s all ONE internet. Likewise with browsers, it seems this older demographic just doesn’t want to chance it when it comes to changing their system. Your 4-5% could be this very demographic.

  23. Tommy says:

    Donnie I work for a virtual tech company and I can’t get my fellow employees to even try Firefox, much less use it as their primary browser. Which makes no sense to me since we’re an ASP so we’re in a browser 24/7.
    Firefox accounts for less then one percent of our traffic last month. IE 5.0 just under 3 percent.
    Because we’re a small company we all multitask. As the VP of marketing I am in charge of developing new sites. The learning curve has been huge. A few months ago I had never opened DreamWeaver, much less programmed a site. As an former ad agency guy I had teams of people that did this work.
    So I went to sites like this one, bought books, and tried to learn how to code. Our VP of technology (we were both recently hired) told me he didn’t have time to help because while I am working on a new site he is rewriting the code for our entire product. But he did tell me that the site had to be CSS/HTML compliant.
    I was in total agreement. If you do something you should do it right. But as I started to test the site in older browsers I ran into a ton of problems. My boss, the owner didn’t seem to understand why I was stressed our site wasn’t working correctly in older browsers. Well yesterday I finally broke.
    I think I could have been heard saying (actually yelling) at our VP of technology, “you know, at this point I don’t care about that 1.5 to 3 percent of people. I just don’t care.”
    Now, I know there are a number of people posting here that could fix my problems in a matter of a few hours I am sure. But what I think many people that post to sites like this don’t take into account is there are a lot of people out there programming sites (like me) that are not HTML/CSS experts. I wish I was, but Web sites are just one of about a hundred things I do each day. Would I prefer to hire someone like Dan or 37 Signals to do my web work, of course, but the reality is that won’t happen anytime soon.

  24. Nick Toye says:

    I too have tried to push Firefox on my friends, but at work they have common guidelines where they can’t change browser, and to do so, involves a committee meeting and too much red tape to mention.
    It reminds me of when I was at college and the IT rooms were full of Netscape Navigator browser based computers. Even though Microsoft was still the world’s most popular browser, the college policy was to use Netscape.
    As a matter of interest 80% of my site visitors use Firefox and a mere 6% use IE6. But if I was to go for a job and just design for Firefox and hide styles from IE, I wouldn’t get the job. Its like designing for those minorities, such as those who are unabled to view at a higher resolution.
    Until Microsoft get their act together and comply, I will still design for both. But on my home site I have a reference to Firefox, so maybe that may persuade some users to see the light.

  25. G. I. says:

    OT: Nick Toye, your website’s background color hasn’t been set, so in my browser it’s light gray, because I’ve changed the default white. I guess you’d like to show it white for everyone, wouldn’t ya? :o)

  26. Ellen says:

    An important factor that one should probably take into account when mulling over all these flat access stats (.6% MacIE, etc) is the actual distribution of browser types per capita of browser users.
    As an academic, for instance, my community accounts for an easy .6 of that .6% – but given our educational and economic demographic, we may well account for many times that % of actual patronage of internet services/resources.
    Obsolescence versus marginalization are two different dilemmas that seem to get conflated pretty often. With MS discontinuing all support for MacIE later this year, we Mac types will all be on Firefox anyways, so the IE obsolescence issue will become moot – but the marginalization one won’t, necessarily. A zillionaire or influential visitor using Netscape 4 (or IE5) is a much less likely scenario than a desirable up-to-date target community simply using a non-Windows-based browser.
    If anyone knows of any crushingly relevant market studies on browser types & market demographics, I’d be intrigued to see what the breakdown looks like.

  27. Tony says:

    Ellen said:
    “With MS discontinuing all support for MacIE later this year, we Mac types will all be on Firefox anyways, so the IE obsolescence issue will become moot – but the marginalization one won’t, necessarily.”
    That will be interesting, just don’t forget that Safari is there too.
    I work as technical support for an ISP, and frankly we don’t provide support for any product no longer supported by Microsoft. At the same time, we only provide browser support for Internet Explorer. If IE fails we refer them to OEM and suggest they install an alterntate browser in the meantime.
    I don’t get many calls with people using Macs, maybe 3 or 4 per week, so it really makes me wonder how the policy is going to change for Mac users.
    Another note I would like to make isn’t necessarily about IE versions, but IE cypher strength. If the browser doesn’t have a mimumum of 128 bit cypher encryption support ends and we request they upgrade their IE. This is especially important for web designs over a secure server. Just something else to consider when deciding if that 3 or 4% is worth developing for.
    However, I agree with most of you, I’m not a novice at CSS, but I’m not an expert either. If my client requests development for all browsers, then so be it. otherwise I’ll let it degrade, sometimes not quite so gracefully.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Should we forget about $432 million just to be lazy? No, of course not.
    MS has $60 billion cash, why would I fix IE5 quircks for them? I wonder who is lazy…

  29. F-i-r-e-f-o-x.
    I’m loooooving it. :-)

  30. mitchell says:

    First of all, great web site!….one of the best Ive seen in terms of clean colorful design, XHTML, CSS, and font control. A real inspiration to me personally!
    Second, I think that XHTML has answered everyones questions by default, in terms of whether or not to support IE 5 for PC, for MAC, designing for other agents, and “graceful degradation” of your web sites in general using. What you will find, if you move to XHTML and separate out your presentation from the markup using CSS, is it naturally does a pretty decent job delivering usable content to older agents! Its the style sheets that stir up trouble. Ive found that a simple strategy of import and link tricks which blocks most styles from older agents and delivers advanced layout style sheets only to say, version 6 and greater browsers, means they get your fancy web designs, and the older ones get what I call “linearized content”, or plain text pages, which is what plain xhtml and all those divs become when you disconnect css from those pages. In other words, you can design a style strategy where you send say MAC IE 5 and IE3-5 for PC and Netscape 4 series plain markup without styles or minimal styles, and even though it doesnt make your web site look the same as the newer browsers, its “usable” and “readable” and “accessible” by that tiny percentage of people out there in a simple linear text-reader format. The same applies for addressing most mobile devices as well, many of which still,, like Pocket PC 2002 version, dont support linked styles anyway. The newer ones support everything. But XHTML can send this diverse group “digestible” text-based html content, if you use it wisely.
    Thats the whole point of moving to XHTML….it almost takes care of the problem of content delivery and cross-browser issues, for you. Why? Because XHTML is seen as HTML in the older browsers and so comes with some default formatting in all browsers…its essentially the same element set as HTML. So it will allow you to reach say 99.9% of users, if you are creative with how you deliver CSS and who gets which styles. All the many CSS hacks out there in cyberland will help you with that. And as for IE 5-5.5 representing 4% of the market currently, thats also what my logs show….but that is still a good sized demographic that can still see your site. There is only a handful of issues with that agent however, and they can be fixed in CSS so it can and should get your full CSS design. Its not hard to fix those bugs. Just keep in mind, if you do decide to ignore style modifications for say IE 5, you can use a style strick to send it plain xhtml without styles. However, what will you do when IE 7 arrives? You still will need to support IE 6 and its “quirks” for some years to come as well, as it will die the same slow death as version 5. Did you know that IE 6 drops into IE 5 mode or quirks mode when you dont put in a valid doctype? So,thats why, understanding XHTML, your CSS sheets, the browsers quirks, and accessibility now, and delivering the right mix, you can now and in the future give everyone usable content. Excluding anyone is not a good excuse.
    The whole premise behind moving to XHTML is inclusion! If you design your xhtml markup well, and content and structure well, most of those issues will resolve themselves and when you test your site with a text-based agent like Lynx, or even Netscape 2.0, you may be suprised at how well your content reads in those simple agents, even if they are less than 1% of users in your servers log files.

  31. BD says:

    I am almost at the point myself of just serving up plain-vanilla (X)HTML to any version of IE. I have wasted so much of my good time, both now and in the “hey-day” of my FrontPage clients, that I am seriously considering dropping support for IE altogether on my web site. I no longer accept projects that require any Microsoft .NET crap, since it only really runs right using IE (go figure?), and I inform all of my clients to make the switch.
    Thanks Dan for a great web site and I look forward to reading your book. After years of trying to punch my monitor in the eye, it will be refreshing to learn a different approach. :)

  32. Skinner says:

    IE 5 came as standard with Win 2000 too though, Nikolai Bailey.
    I use Opera (because it’s the best), but I refuse to update the exsisting IE on my computer because it takes up far too much space for something I don’t use more than once a month.

  33. Creford says:

    I often use the Firefox to check on the compatibility of my website.
    I think it’s necessary.

  34. As a designer working on a Mac in an office that is all PC, I find making sites work on many different browsers a challenge.
    I just recently (last few months) began using and learning CSS in all the sites I develop. The last few days I’ve run into my first major glitches and they were on IE6 on PC.
    I generally end up making the sites I do display properly on IE for PCs even if I lose some of the graphical aspects that looked better on my iMac.
    A site I’ve begun developing in my offtime ( and using it as a playground of sorts for trying new things looked wonderful on Safari on my Mac until I saw it on a PC at work. Now I am upset to have to lose that feel to make it work on the PC, but oh well.