Thursday, May 10, 2012

Exclusion Is a Feature Now

Every day I see examples of web developers allowing their ego to get in the way — trumpeting one browser over another, one technology over another, one methodology over another, and so on. These are typically not based on solid business or technical arguments. This week one stood out to me.

Paydirt

Earlier this week Paydirt proudly proclaimed We don't support Internet Explorer, and we're calling that a feature. The arguments speak more to the ease of the developers than its users. The author cites the difficulty trying to get sites to render pixel-perfect across various versions of various browsers, which demonstrates that he/she is missing the point about progressive enhancement. The writer also claims to be happier for it because skipping the dirty work of IE makes us very happy. Heck, I'd be happy to give up on some browsers, too, but that's not my job.

This proud proclamation comes early:

That's why we made a key decision at Paydirt: we don't support IE - at all - and we don't pretend to. You can't even sign up for Paydirt using IE.

Paydirt notes that it has received exactly zero requests for IE support, angry or otherwise. Given that the site targets graphic designers, developers and copywriters and shows the Macintosh UI in its software screen shots, it doesn't surprise me that only 1.63% of its traffic is from Internet Explorer. That low number of users is a far more compelling case to stop building support for any specific browser and instead to just rely on standards-based development.

However, had Paydirt done that nobody would have cared and there would be no press from it.

Microsoft

Rey Bango works for Microsoft promoting standards and IE's support for them. He's also a member of the jQuery Core Project Team, so he's no slouch on the code side. He tried to access Paydirt with Internet Explorer by adjusting IE's user agent string to get past a browser sniffer. His blog post Hey Paydirt: Your Site Works Just Fine in IE details some of the fun he had:

The signup was painless and I waded through the app with Chrome & IE side-by-side. As I went through, I didn't notice any differences in the functionality. Buttons worked as expected, data was being saved and even panels with fading functionality worked as expected.

He also found some vendor prefixes in the CSS, at least one of which was an -ms prefix. Not a big deal on its own, given how many developers leave code behind during updates, but it's clear that some of the shiny features were relying on browser-specific code that could have been achieved with standards-based markup.

What this response suggests instead is that Paydirt went out of its way to exclude IE. Instead of saving time by just supporting standards and ignoring IE issues, Paydirt spent time to exclude IE. That's not really a good way to argue that you are saving time by excluding a browser.

Some Guy (Bart van Zon)

I had decided that this little dust-up was over. And then today a link to this blog post came across my Twitter stream: Supporting IE Is Too Much Work.

It's a self-identified rant that nicely and succinctly summed up my thoughts (more succinctly than this post you might still be reading). The comments from developers complaining that it's too hard to test in Internet Explorer on a Mac seem to be what pushed him over the edge:

Seriously, if no slick way is a good reason not to test, you should be flipping burgers instead of developing. Your main job is development, not being a hipster. [emphasis added]

He notes that given the market share of Windows, not taking the necessary steps as a developer to set up a Windows/IE environment is unacceptable.

I completely agree.

Related

I have a long history of ranting at lazy developer techniques:

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