IE 5.5 is dead. The number of people using it are tiny, at least according to the stats on the most popular sites I run. Here are the numbers.
Has a larger proportion of Firefox users than Internet Explorer users due to the high level of traffic from some social bookmarking sites, meaning a more web-savvy crowd who are more likely to be using alternative browsers:
The level of IE usage is still pretty high though, but even so only a single hit from IE 5.5 recently:
A much more broad and ‘average’ user base with Internet Explorer dominant:
Still, only 6 Internet Explorer hits recently, a tiny proportion of overall visits:
What does this mean?
Time is money
Designing for multiple browsers takes time. The more browsers you need to support the more time you need to spend supporting them.
A recent project I worked on required a redesign of the site from the ground-up (aswell as a bunch of other stuff) and making the site work in any version of Internet Explorer lower than 6 just wasn’t worth the time, and therefore money, put into it. The return just wasn’t there and I decided that IE 5.5 was gone, dead, obsolete and I wasn’t going to try and mangle the design to work in it. Rather than just display a really crappy looking site to the user I decided I would let them know via a short and to-the-point message that their browser was not up to displaying the site and directing them to upgrade to a new version of their browser.
Give them the good news
But how to do this? The site was developed in Ruby on Rails and I’d heard of a neat gem called rack-noie6 that provides a piece of Rack middleware that blocks Internet Explorer 6 and below, but that isn’t going to work in most cases. Hard as it may be to make your site look good in Internet Explorer 6 you can see from the stats above there’s still a large proportion of users using it and to turn them away would be crazy, at least while the pool of IE 6 users out there is still so large.
So a quick fork and patch later (github we <3 you so much) and the new noie6 was accepting an option for a minimum version of Internet Explorer it should accept instead of just rigidly blocking version 6 and below. Configuration is really simple:
Now any users visiting the site in anything below Internet Explorer 6 gets the message above helpfully directing them to update their browser. Not bad for a two line config update.