Could Kogan be right? How using Internet Explorer is costing businesses

Ruslan Kogan managed to make headlines again yesterday, after his namesake consumer electronics company implemented a new “tax” for any person who buys a product on its website using the outdated web browser Internet Explorer 7.

Some users were upset by the move, but many web developers have welcomed it. Kogan justified the move by saying it takes too long to code the website for IE7, which begs the question – just how much time does it take?

As it turns out, developers say it’s more costly than you’d think.

Mark Scarrott, of Sydney web firm Design Identity, says making a website compatible for IE7 takes as much as 5-10% of the entire coding time.

“It does depend on the website, but I think you could say an extra 10% of development, or about 5% of web coding, needs to be added to the coding time,” Scarrott says.

“And if you’re working on a $200,000 web project, then you’re paying $10,000 essentially for IE7, and depending on your user base, that may not make up a very big audience at all.”

As Kogan pointed out yesterday, it’s costing the online retailer money too.

“We have not done the exact maths, but it is [costing us] a significant amount. The front end of every screen has to get redeveloped every time in order to render properly in IE7,” Kogan said.

“It’s not only costing us a huge amount, it’s affecting any business with an online presence, and costing the internet economy millions of dollars.”

The Internet Explorer problem isn’t new. Microsoft updates the browser, but many users hang on to old versions – they get comfortable with what they know and don’t bother updating. Many IE users stick with the browser because it comes packed with Windows software.

But this can cause problems. Newer browsers take advantage of more streamlined coding features and enhancements in web design, while older versions of Internet Explorer still use legacy features that differ from the current batch of modern browsers and require extra attention.

A quick search reveals thousands of hits for developers searching for answers on how to fix Internet Explorer coding issues, saying the software is outdated.

Developers say more modern browsers, including Firefox and Chrome, make things much easier.

Microsoft even started a countdown last year, urging people to stop using old versions of Internet Explorer and adopt the new iteration.

“It’s such a pain to code for,” Scarrott says. “Developers have to make exceptions for IE7 for elements of the browser newer ones don’t have. There are just some quirks that take longer to code.”

“There are certain standards that are used on all browsers now, but IE7 doesn’t have them, so you have to make exceptions for it. It’s technical stuff, but it just adds time to the coding process.”

Scarrott says if businesses look at who accesses their website with IE7; it may make sense to just abandon it.

“I look at my Google analytics, and I’m seeing that IE is fourth on my list of browsers, and then only 7% of users use IE. So you have to question why you’re coding for it.

“I’m sure in the future the numbers will go down, and then people won’t even bother because the technology will just become too far advanced.”

This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

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