The browser problem

Delib share some interesting stats on browser usage of their products.

Here you can see that IE6 is used by more than a third of our Citizen Space administrators, but only about a tenth of the total visitors. At the moment, there is clearly a need to continue supporting IE6 for our clients, but it does seem a shame when this investment could be put towards improving the user experience of the site’s end users.

What is possibly more worrying is that administrative users of Delib’s stuff (ie the folk in government) operating with IE6 and IE7 combined is 82.9%!

As Steph pointed out to me the other day, from a web designer’s point of view, IE7 isn’t much of an improvement on version 6, and Google are already dropping support for it in their web apps like Docs and Gmail.

I still really don’t understand why it would be so hard for public sector workers to have a second browser available to them, even if it’s hidden away so only the really keen can find it. The support overhead would surely be minimal.

After all, if you want people to do a good job, give them the tools they need to do them!

7 thoughts on “The browser problem”

  1. The main problem with the Public Sector still lies in their IT. A lot of their web based systems only work in IE6/7 and parts of the government like the DWP/HMRC and most councils refuse to upgrade due to the large cost it would generate.

    Secondly, administering other browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari or whatever is more difficult to lock down with ‘Group Policies’, so until the public sector start using open source, IE will always be the browser of choice.

    The government is still bashing out ideas for a complete reform of the public sector IT structure and to collate all the information from different departments and sectors, but as soon as they decide on a solution, they scrap it, again due to cost and the supposed idea that migrating and combining their data is too big a task.

    I agree 100% that if you give the people the right tools, they will do a better job. The idea of our government and public sectors sharing information will speed up many of our long and drawn out processes like Benefits (JSA, Housing Benefit). A claim can be made and sorted in one day rather than taking 4 weeks or more.

  2. The reason I’m given is that IE is still the “default” browser internally as some software relies on specific IE hooks (although I’m never told what those hooks are)

    1. Here’s what I suspect is happening here. The council has a bunch of enterprise applications that run in the browser which haven’t been upgraded in yonks because it costs too much. Those applications won’t run in anything other than IE6, so if the council upgrades the browser, the applications appear to break.

      So while upgrading IE is free in terms of licensing, upgrading SAP or Oracle or whatever most definitely isn’t, hence the council’s reticence.

  3. This problem has been known for so many years now. I think it’s case of what Euan Semple blogged about today: IT Departments do not get the Internet.

    Lots of large organisations have big expensive corporate software that won’t work in newer versions, because it was coded in a way that tightly coupled it to the browser (a design decision that was well understood fifteen years ago, BTW, because IT departments crashed into it as soon as they had to link mainframes to Windows machines.)

    The answer is simple enough. Add a second browser to the desktop. Lock down IE6 so it can only be used to talk to SAP, or Unified Housing Benefit, or whatever it is people need IE6 for. Just hire someone who understands group policies and your access control architecture, design a solution, and share it with the entire public sector.

    But make sure the budget is small, because if you tender for an expensive solution, you can bet one of your big-shot suppliers will charge you through the nose to lock you in for another ten years.

  4. @Gordon

    Asking the Government or the Public Sector to keep a budget small is like going to a whore for a hug. It’s never going to happen. Part of that is because of what you mentioned about IT Departments not ‘getting the internet’. Though I would say this would be more ‘Developers’. I have worked with so many of them throughout my career and the word ‘Cross Browser’ scares most of them to death. Designers o the other hand are fine with it.

    Back to budgeting. Earlier this year the DWP signed a desktop deal with Fujitsu. The deal involves 140,000 desktops and, according to a Fujitsu spokesperson, is worth at least £200m over six years. He added that could be worth in excess of £330m depending on any extra requirements, like cleaning moss or a turtles, cleaning a moat, or maybe a 3rd home for every MP.

    Not only have Fujitsu signed, but so have HP and Canon as well as a few other well known companies. So by the time your done, your probably talking about a a billion pounds, And this is just the DWP!

    A second browser would be great, but as I mentioned above, Group Policies suck with none Microsoft software, plus with the likes of Firefox and Opera rolling out updates faster than the above mentioned whore changes her underwear, It would be a nightmare to roll out security updates, patches, and latest versions. So they want to stay with IE. This article here still stands and to be honest, it shows the lack of information, intelligence and the security of the government (and they wonder why they have data breaches). I for one am not happy with my Tax Credit data being used on an unsupported and outdated browser.

    The plus side, is that I totally agree with you.

  5. Somehow I managed to prevail on someone’s kindness a few months ago and had Chrome installed.

    However, I’m currently working away from my desk for a few weeks on a computer that had ie6.

    I tried, I honestly did, to merrily use ie6 but even though I was only needing the web for a couple of things it was proving such a barrier to my getting the job done.

    So I made the formal corporate request for ie9 or Chrome. And someone tried to get Chrome working but for whatever reason it wouldn’t install on my account. So was the fall back the up to date version of ie? No, the solution was ie7.

    I don’t understand why Chrome was acceptable but then the next alternative was ie7 rather than ie9 or even ie8.

    My frustrated tweets did throw up something I hadn’t appreciated – Firefox doesn’t need admin privileges…

  6. The browser issue is a continuing pain though we have successfully migrated to IE8. The downside to this is that between us we don’t have the capability to test using IE6!I

    I’ve successfully argued to get FF installed though IT refuse to support it. Amongst other things, FF plug-ins provided essential developer tools, not least of which is an excellent little Cookie finding app.

    In the last few weeks, we’ve encountered a new frustration, our firewall upgrade to comply with government security requirements. The firewall blocks authentication certificates (or whatever they’re called) which means that makes logging into any https site a nightmare. As I understand it, the firewall will provide an internal certificate which IE will accept, but FF won’t. (Bonus points for guessing the firewall vendor.)

    To get access to any https site requires a business case. Yet we can quite happily use a crappy third party applications that don’t even meet W3C standards. (Yes, not directly comparable, but I’m sure you get my drift.)

    I’m told the security compliance really only applies to a couple of staff in the org. We’ve ticked a box without a proper needs/risk analysis and made work slightly more difficult and infinitely more frustrating.

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