Round 3 – Back flip on a Back flip – Hell’s on the Boil


You know a few months back Microsoft floored the web industry by doing a back flip on its previous decision to include a X-UA-Compatible Meta switch with Internet Explorer 8.

What a difference 6 months makes.  Now Microsoft are back to their old tricks.  So what have they done, well it seems now that Internet Explorer 8 will not be defaulting to rendering in complete standards compliant mode that Microsoft promised.

What Microsoft have promised is a compatibility view which allows the user to switch from IE8 rendering to IE7 rendering if the page is not forced (via code insert) into IE8 rendering mode.  So what this means is if you have a standards compliant page that IE8 will place an icon on the tool bar, to tell you that you can shift the rendering to the IE 7 engine if you like.

That Icon

The Compatibility View Icon

It’s not that you have an icon (shown to the right), that I’m concerned about. It’s that the icon is representing a negative outcome.  A broken image, a sign that something is wrong, when it most cases there will be nothing wrong.  As Ben Buchanan explains in detail, this creates a fault premise that the user needs to fix something when there is no reason to.  Mind you Johnanon Snook doesn’t think it’s really an issue.   I wonder if there has been a series of tests done on the perception of what people think this icon will do.  Iconography is always a user interface minefield.

Alternative to Compatibility View Icon

Now why have a broken page represented in the icon at all. Why not something to do with switching. Something that has a positive slant not a negative one. To the right is a quick idea. The broken one for me is just too negative.

And We Come Full Circle

So if we want to ensure we don’t have the “Compatibility View”, we have to put in a meta tag (from Microsoft):

The best way to ensure users have a great experience with your website, and thus don’t have to use the Compatibility View feature at all, is to test your site using Internet Explorer 8 and update it as necessary. In the event that a user selects Compatibility View for your site, you can “bring them back” to your desired layout mode via use of the version targeting <META> tag / HTTP header. A new content value, ‘IE=EmulateIE8’, rounds out the list of supported values and assists in this particular scenario.

Now isn’t this a little like where we started. Sometimes it’s 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.

They Win, Again

If you have an Intranet, you can automatically render in IE7 mode, or elect to have any URL always rendered as IE7 for your corporate SOE. This will be beyond most users, but that’s not who it’s aimed at.  It’s for the Enterprise, this is just a case of the corporate intranet winning again.   As Hakon Lie points out  what Microsoft is playing the numbers game the Enterprise PC numbers are higher so the Enterprise gets what it wants.

I expect if the web design and developer community cry foul again that Microsoft will flip flop back the other way.  creditability for Microsoft on this issue is wearing a little thin.

At least the development of IE8 has been “interesting”.

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