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Why design to IE?

So as I was downloading the Sockwave player onto my Internet Explorer, which I haven’t used since I bought this computer except to check how my web pages look on a non-standards-compliant browser, something I asked a couple members of this class last week came back to me:

Could someone tell me why we should even worry about how our web pages look in IE? Why bother with the little hacks and fixes?

Seriously. If the entire web starts ignoring IE, and users’ experience on all websites just starts slipping, won’t that just encourage a) users to jump over to Firefox or something that’s similarly compliant and open-source, and/or b) Microsoft’s developers to realize that there’s a real problem with being non-compliant, and getting with the program?

What really drove this home was reading about (and in the case of WebAim, simulating) the experiences and difficulties of those with disabilities using the web. The fixes are all doable, and not too hard to implement on an example-by-example, but overall, it’s a lot of extra coding, a lot to keep in mind, a lot of extra work.

Don’t get me wrong– the work is worthwhile, and even admirable. People with disabilities use the web. If anything, my experience as a big ol’ geek who spends too much time in internet communities, BBS’s, and networking sites seems to indicate to me that it’s actually a disproportionately high number– or at least that the handicapped have a disproportionately high presence on the web. My personal experience having a roommate with Parkinson’s has only backed up this concept– he spends more time online than almost anyone his age I know. It’s his livelihood and a major connection to the outside world for a guy who has to take a van to go even a block from home.

So I’m all for implementing accessibility measures on my web pages. It makes sense. It’s the humane thing to do. And it’s catering to a good potential audience of highly-engaged users.

But at some point, the camel’s back will break. I’m all for geeking out on doing your design, etc, but at some point you really just want to put the stuff up on the web and get it out where people can see and use it. If you’re looking for somewhere to cut corners for speed or convenience, it just makes a lot more sense to try to make your page accessible to the greatest number of people. Cut corners by not designing to the people whose only "handicap" is having a rotten web browser. And then, if you feel like trying to get those people to come over to the non-IE, compliant side, don’t coddle them, but prosthelytize!  Try to tell– or even show– people just how easy it is to install a nice, simple compliant browser.

My comments in other blogs can be found here, here, and here.