Being something of a statistics and data analysis nerd, Crunch is the perfect place to work. Our rapidly expanding customer base, popular community sites, and quickly-growing formations site GoLimited mean we have access to heaps of data about user behaviour.

A few months back we dropped support for Microsoft’s ageing browser Internet Explorer 6. As you can see in the comments of our blog post announcing the change, the move was wholeheartedly supported by web developers and designers, who have to live with IE6’s incompatibilities every day.

However the support wasn’t unanimous – we received several calls from clients asking us to re-instate IE6 support. We noticed that those using IE6 almost always said they were working at a client’s site and had no choice as to the browser they used. This got us thinking – how many of the UK’s workers have IE6 forced upon them every day by lazy IT departments?

With major internet properties such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all having depreciated their support, forcing users to access the web with IE6 not only hurts productivity, it is unsafe.

Taking a random sampling of visitors from Crunch.co.uk over the last six months (the sample totals about 175,000 visitors), we have found that usage of Internet Explorer 6 jumps by a massive 1,200% during office hours, seemingly indicating that IT departments around the country are failing to ensure the employees they look after are getting a fully-functional, compliant and safe web experience.

Although the overall percentages are still mercifully small (IE6 usage tops out at a few percent of total visitors), extrapolated over the entire working population of the UK this means that as many as 300,000 workers are being forced into a sub-standard web experience every single day by IT departments who refuse to update their software.

It’s also worth noting that due to Crunch visitors’ tendency to be ahead of the curve in terms of modern browser usage, the actual figure for the entire country may be even more dire.

IE6 weekly shareIE6 share over three weeks as a percentage of total Internet Explorer usage

The biggest individual change in IE6 usage was around three months ago, when the share during the evening and weekend totalled 0.16%, but rose to 6.54% during working hours. For the most recent data we analysed (late October 2011), the average increase during working hours was 1,204%.

The browser has always been the window to the internet, but with the increasing adoption of cloud services it is becoming more and more an operating system in itself (see Google’s Chrome OS), and allowing users to languish in the no man’s land of IE6 is simply unacceptable. Our technical director Nick Doyle had this to say about the findings:

“We were frankly shocked by these figures. They go to show that, far from being the experts they are supposed to be, many IT staff at UK businesses are being left behind by the very employees they are paid to support, and are willing to force an appalling web experience on their employees – and risk their own security in the process.”

The loss in productivity from the usage of IE6 is difficult to calculate, however if the employees affected lost just 20 minutes of work per day (possibly a conservative estimate given the majority of the UK’s biggest websites are partially or completely incompatible with IE6) we’re looking at a total of 1,233 years in lost productivity in just the last six months.

Photo by Henry BurrowsCC