From a quick analysis done of our traffic over the past year (May 2016 to May 2017):
- Chrome clearly comes out as boss with 63% of total sessions.
- Internet Explorer & Edge follow – not too closely – with 14% (11% IE and 3% for Edge).
- Non-supported IE versions make up 0.55% of the Filtered total sessions in a year.
Why even write this?
We hear a lot from large organisations that legacy software and hardware hold them back. For L&D professionals that want to improve people’s working lives, that’s a frustration. During a talk given by Donald Taylor at Learning Technologies, this legacy issue resonated across the auditorium. IT departments don’t always know the full benefits of using certain software or of how up-to-date competitors are. Of course, multi-site setups and high-sensitivity sectors and departments complicate the situation further. This article doesn’t claim to help in all situations!
So I thought I’d write an article to try and help the situation. If you’re an L&D professional meeting with internal resistance, some of the below may help to strengthen your case, provide some context for colleagues and maybe even kick start a technological revolution in your company. I hope so.
This article focuses on browsers. We're not saying that browser choice is all there is or a cast-iron indication of tech up-to-dateness. Browsers are just a nice, loose, proxy measure of how modern your kit is. And everyone uses browsers every day. So for once, we have a technology discussion accessible by all.
Over the past few years, we’ve been focussed on innovating the e-learning industry. Not only by making learning recommendations with “under-the-hood” machine learning algorithms, but also improving the front-end – what learners actually see and interact with – by using the latest technologies.
So far so good, right?
Well – actually, no. It’s simple cause and effect. We improve our tech → we cut ourselves out of a chunk of the market.
Explain yourself, Juan
Exactly! As a product manager, I have lately found myself defending certain design and technology choices. What do you say to someone who perhaps isn’t as passionate or just up-to-date as you are, when they ask why your perfectly laid-out, smoothly animated, web-app, won’t work on IE8?
I’ll admit to having been tempted to say: “Because…”, and just leave it at that. But that won’t cut it if the person is asking about a large deal that could fall through because the client hasn’t upgraded since IE8.
What’s wrong with older browsers?
Security: As with any piece of software, browser developers must constantly update and upgrade their code to match latest security needs and prevent breaches. However, like anything else in life, browser support and security patches come to an end. As a matter of fact, on January 12, 2016 – that’s right, over a year ago – Microsoft ended support for IE8, IE9, and IE10 on Windows versions 7 and above.
Missing out on features: Almost as important as the above, if you’re surfing the web (more like being dragged across it) on an older browser, you are inevitably missing out. Let me list out just a few:
- Better colours and colour gradients
- Animations with CSS Transformations and others
- Modern libraries, such as react.js (the modern web is filled with react, Facebook as a great example) which makes things easier for devs, improves performance for the users and even has SEO benefits
For web developers
- Greatly improved ways to target elements on the page for styling
- Multi-column layouts (a big differentiator) - Almost every web page today is divided into columns or boxes. Adjusting these boxes so they display correctly on different browsers and screen sizes used to take a massive toll on web designers. CSS3 solves this problem with its multi-column layout property; all web designers have to do now is specify the number of columns needed and they will be created.
Real cost: As one could expect, cost is probably the biggest factor for companies. Something to keep in mind here is that supporting older browsers is not a one-time cost. It's an ongoing cost that will slow down development if companies intending to support these versions don't add more headcount. It's hard to do, it requires lots of testing, and more importantly, it breaks easily. It is also not a great long-term investment as over time fewer and fewer customers will need them, while costs continue to rise as these companies’ systems grow.
Here are some pro-tips if you’re looking to drive change in your organisation and need to make a case for upgrading.
- Can I Use? - a nifty tool that allows you to input technologies and outputs all the major browser versions that support that given piece of tech. (Try searching for React.) This tool will help you to easily demonstrate the limitations of older browsers to any stakeholders or decision makers when it comes to picking a technology to use.
- Update my browser - to quickly check if you’re due an upgrade, or at least to see if there’s one available.
- Start slow (and low). In my experience, effecting change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-winded process throughout which you need to collect an army (or platoon) of champions. Start at the trenches, with the end-users, and work your way up the management chain.
- Focus on value. It’s important you keep your goals in mind and don’t make it a case of personal taste and choices. Find that value that aligns with your vision and mission and use the tools you have at hand to demonstrate it.
- Risk mitigation is of great value to managers and helps influence decisions more than, say, a hunch on ROI - although both could be highly theoretical. Play risk averseness well and you should be better able to effect change.
- Bonus article: What Your Choice of Browser Says About You as an Employee
How about you?
And if you want a live and on-going measure of what browser’s others in your industry have, please submit your own and see the results instantly: tell me, what's the most used browser in your organisation?
Thanks for taking the time to read. Feel free to reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested in our products, are passionate about machine learning recommendations and what makes a great recommendation, languages, music, or travelling. I'm always happy to hear from colleagues and passion-sharers alike.