I have always been convinced we should stop blaming Internet Explorer and make sure everyone on the web can at least use the bare minimum of our products and see our ads using graceful degredation. But there are limits. The discussion whether one should support Internet Explorer 8 may be obsolete for most of you, but for us it was still a present-day topic. Until today.
The percentage of IE8 users has been pretty low for years now, and after Microsoft dropped the support for Windows XP, the number dropped even further. In June 2015, the number of people in The Netherlands using IE8 is only 0.95%. We also have ads running in Eastern Europe, Russia and Kazachstan, and we see the same figures there. To me, that number is negligible. According to our own statistics (both RTB and reserved display) the actual percentage is even lower: 0.82% (3.5 million of 426 million impressions).
Why do we still care about IE8?
We are in the online marketing industry, and to our clients and to us as an agency, every conversion matters. And although 0.82% is a very small number, it is still an extra 0.82% chance for a click, a shopping basket placement and eventually an order.
Why these numbers lie
The chance that someone using IE8 sees one of our ads and clicks it, is actually far below 0.82%. We dived into our clients' analytics and what I discovered met my expectations. Not only do IE8 visitors have less interaction with our ads, it turns out that IE8 visitors convert over 44% less over visitors using other browsers*.
I think one of the main causes for this is that the websites of most of our clients are no longer working (properly) on the 7 year old browser. Another possible cause is that IE8 is mostly used in corporate environments, and people are less likely to buy something during their boss' time.
Supporting IE8 is expensive
Although the media costs for serving ads to IE8 users is pretty low because of the small numbers, supporting IE8 is expensive. We can't use new technologies that enable richer and faster animation like Canvas or CSS3 animations, because IE8 does not support them. Unless, of course, we build fallbacks for IE8 and other legacy browsers. This is something we do everyday. We show image stills or simplified versions of our ads. In our case this takes up over an avarage of 4% of the total time designers and developers put in the proces. That's quite a lot, compared to the number of people that we put all the effort in for, right? I'd rather see the designers use this time to come up with and implement things that improve the performance on browsers that matter.
The day has come
When we read those numbers it didn't make sense to keep supporting IE8. Therefore I'm glad to say that we stop developing for and testing on Internet Explorer 8 as of today. We will exclude IE8 from all our new media campaigns, so users that run IE8 will never, ever see the ads we develop.
Does this mean mean we can start using modern fancy things without keeping other legacy browsers in mind? No, unfortunately not. For example we still have to test on Android 2.3, because it is still pretty big. Graceful degradation stays key in everything we design and develop, so we can have the largest possible audience for our ads.
What if the client uses IE8 themselves?
Every now and then I find myself in one more discussion about supporting IE8 and the counterparty comes up with this argument:
"[..] our clients are still using IE8 and cannot upgrade. So they can't preview their own creatives"
So this person is suggesting we should put man-hours in making a creatives work in IE8 just for this? I think this is complete madness and the issue should be fixed at the client's side, not at the designer's side. The reason clients are still using IE8 is likely because they do not have the permissions to upgrade because of 'security reasons'. Microsoft revealed end of support for the browser, saying IE8 will no longer receive updates from 12 January 2016.. How about that for security? The clock is ticking, your client should start updating. If you really can't get your client to update, you can suggest to preview your products using a service like BrowserStack, or their mobile phones.
I personally don't think our clients even care about what specific browsers or platforms their ads are visible on. The most important thing is that their ads convert. This is achieved by showing them to the right user, at the right moment, on the right device with the right message. It is our responsibility to serve our ads on the browsers that help achieve that.
A word of caution
In our case it is no longer worth it to support IE8. But before you decide to also ditch IE8 (or any other browser), you should always check your analytics.
* We gathered this data from over 500.000 visits. The metric for a conversion was shopping cart placement.