Just recently I’ve been getting particularly frustrated by Internet Explorer, and how it’s holding back web design. For those who are still in the dark about such things, let me make it clear that Internet Explorer (which is still used by about 90%) of the world, is rubbish. Complete and utter rubbish. A pile of pants. And before you say “Oh, I’m not a technical person, I wouldn’t understand all the computer-type jargon”, I promise it’s not as technical or complicated as all that! Yes there are some technically-accurate words I could use in places, but the easiest way to demonstrate my point is by showing you an example. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
I’ve just created a nice little web page showcasing some of the things you can achieve with CSS and PNG images. If you are one of the enlightened ones and have a decent browser installed, you’ll see it in all its glory. If you’re using Internet Explorer, you’re doomed to disappointment. It’s not that I’m using some obscure plugin that you haven’t got, it’s not that your computer is too old or too slow, it’s not that you need to upgrade Windows. It’s simply Internet Explorer failing to meet the standards. IE still cannot handle CSS properly, which means that layout goes awol, and PNG images (which have the advantage of allowing for transparency) do not display correctly – instead of rendering the transparent bits as transparent, IE makes it grey. Fat lot of good that is.
This has had a knock-on effect on the web design industry. Because most of the world uses IE6, we have to cater for that group of people more than any other. Unfortunately, this leaves our options decidedly stunted, since we cannot use all the functionality available. For instance, I might create a beautiful web site which uses a few of these well-documented standard techniques, only to find that it doesn’t work on 90% of computers. Thankfully, Microsoft is addressing these problems in Internet Explorer 7, which will ship with what is now Windows Vista, and will also be made available for Windows XP users. Sadly, anyone still using 98 or ME will not be able to use IE7 because Microsoft don’t think you should exist. Of course, if you are one of those people, there is nothing stopping you going and downloading your free copy of Firefox or Opera… Unfortunately for people like me, this comes rather too late – it will just take too long for everyone to upgrade, so for the next few years, we will all still be designing with our heads in the past, stuck in the ruts and Microsoft put us in, unable to move the web forward for fear of 90% of computers falling over.