Archive for February, 2009

How I Might Deal with IE6

Eight years ago (almost to the day), Jeffrey Zeldman wrote, To Hell With Bad Browsers, signaling the dawning of “The CSS Age”. Explaining how the use of @import for referencing stylesheets is ignored by Netscape 4, was an important step in shedding away the problems related to supporting an ancient browser. Eight. Years.

Completely ignoring a browser in terms of CSS is a wonderfully freeing thing. It certainly can’t be done on every site. The important thing to remember is that it’s a site’s statistics that should determine what level of support you decide to offer.

Later, IE5/Mac became a problem. I began giving it the same “talk to the hand” treatment that NN4 was receiving by using the backslash comment hack years ago:

/* import stylesheets and hide from ie/mac \*/
@import url("screen.css");
/* end import and hide */

Now, in 2009, IE6 has become the source of our frustrations — and for certain sites, giving it an unstyled, naked view is exactly what I want to do. Alpha-channel PNGs, min-width, max-width, rendering bugs galore — there are plenty of sites I’ve designed and maintain where the IE6 stats are low enough to drop the axe and move on. Now is the time!

So what’s the easiest solution? I was chatting with Ethan about using conditional comments to hide styles from IE6 only, and after a bit of Googling, we found Simon Clayson’s article, where he cleverly does the following:

<!--[if !IE]><!-->
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen, projection" href="screen.css" />

<!--[if gte IE 7]>
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen, projection" href="screen.css" />

This hides all styles (assuming they’re all contained within screen.css) from all versions of IE, but then re-applies them for IE versions 7 and greater. Lucky visitors that are using IE6 or lower will get an unstyled view of the site, just like the lucky visitors using NN4 have been getting for close to a decade.

Simon’s method also serves up a bare-bones CSS file specifically for IE6, but I think that’s being too polite :) Another real-world example of this method in practice, is The Rissington Podcast, which cleverly serves an IE6 stylesheet complete with Comic Sans.

What’s nice about this approach is that you’re not having IE6 import all your styles, having to worry about overriding them later. You could serve IE6 with a minimal stylesheet starting completely from scratch. Or none at all.

Is it a bit hacky? Sure. But in certain situations, not having the burden to worry about IE6 seems well worth it.

Have a better solution? Let us know in the comments.

Update: Commenter Daniel James might’ve simplified things down to a single conditional comment, like so:

<!--[if gte IE 7]><!-->
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen, projection" href="screen.css" />

I’ve tested in Mac: Safari, FF3, Opera and PC: IE6, IE7, IE8beta, FF2. More testing required, but this looks very promising.