In 2012, a Website Demanding IE5 or Better is Beyond Embarrassing

Mar 29, 2012

I recently received a notice that I am eligible for a limited health insurance plan offered by my contract agency. First thing I see in bold text:

How To Enroll Online: Use Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher (If you are a MAC user, please contact xxxxx to request an election form):

No. Really??? In 2012??? This is some benefits management company that provides a canned system for small companies to support benefits for their employees online. Even having worked for a health insurance company subsidiary I find this appalling. Anyone using IE5 has to be running unpatched naked Windows probably laced with viruses and trojans--not something you want accessing healthcare systems. Yet I didn't see anything in the source (as far as I went, the insurance is too crappy to sign up for) that would keep it from working anywhere.

I spent 11 years building web applications or their backends (9 in Java and 2 in Webobjects) and I never had any issues with supporting other browsers. One place I worked in 2006 told me only IE6 was supported but I ignored them and made it work on everything.

My suspicion is that the company paid someone to build a system for them who is no longer around and they can't (or won't) hire anyone else to update their codebase. But the code was using jquery so it can't be that old. How could anyone calling themselves a professional web developer act like time stopped in 2006 (unless maybe someone pointed a gun at them). If this is what the front end looks like I imagine the back end is a disaster as well, which would be bad for them should they suffer a HIPAA audit (though the Feds are mostly toothless).

Today putting up alerts telling people that unless you have IE5 or above (multiple places) you can't use the system is almost comical. The HTML isn't great and doesn't validate but there aren't that many errors (far fewer than oracle.com for example) and the Javascript didn't have any errors. I imagine they simply refuse to test against other browsers and thus it's more laziness that stupidity.

Recently I tried to refinance my mortgage by filling out a web form but on the second page I found I didn't have a number so I tried to go back a page and got an error "you must fill out the page entirely before moving on". So I tried to move forward and got the same error. I tried the save button and got the same error. Now I was stuck and had to abandon the form. The mortgage company admitted the canned system was a disaster despite being used all over the country and was about to can it themselves. So crappy web development sold for probably high dollars is not that uncommon. But don't the customers (and their customers) tire of all the problems and complaints?

I complained to the "webmaster" but likely it will fall into a bit bucket.

IE usage has fallen below 50% and is dropping rapidly. Readers of my blog (admittedly programmers) is 70% webkit browsers, 20% firefox and less than 10% IE and various phones. Not to mention writing for IE5 (which is hard to do) will fail miserable on IE9.

Come on all you IE5 requirers out there, support real customers with real browsers! Stop coding like it's 1999.