As much as we would like to turn a blind eye to the large number people using Internet Explorer and thus take advantage of CSS3 and HTML5 in all its glory, with certain projects, we really don’t have much of a choice.
If the traffic in a particular niche is IE-heavy, then you have to deal with that accordingly. If you go the Andy Clarke route then you may choose to use those new enhancements to the full, but allow a degraded experience in IE.
If you go the traditional corporate route, then you do everything you can to get IE to look and behave the same as the other browsers. That could mean ignoring a lot of new CSS3 and HTML5 stuff, or else it means filling in the gaps with scripts, hacks, and IE-only filters.
What’s the Effect of a Degraded Experience?
If you choose to let IE be degraded, then you risk having anywhere from 40-70% of your users view your product in a degraded experience. I’m not a branding expert, but I know the importance of maintaining a consistent experience for all visitors.
It’s no wonder that some big brands are choosing to give IE a similar experience using filters and whatnot. For them, it seems, their brand is more important than any performance drawbacks that may result from using extra scripts and IE-only filters.
Of course, you could choose to fool your visitors into thinking they’re viewing the official branded experience, even though it has some major differences. But that’s assuming you’re okay with the degraded experience. After all, by creating a more enhanced visual brand for certain browsers, aren’t you basically admitting that the IE users are not seeing your product at its full potential?
What’s More Important?
I would love to hear what everyone thinks. Assuming a website’s audience is 40-60% IE users, what would you prefer? A slower website that maintains a consistent branded experience across all browsers? Or a progressively enhanced site that degrades significantly for IE users, but loads faster and uses extra stuff for modern browsers?