Internet Explorer 8 compatibility

Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) – the new version of Microsoft’s web browser – is likely to be released in the before the end of the year. This release promises to deliver greater standards support and better performance. However, with the release of any new product there is always a risk incompatibilities or bugs.

The risks posed with the release of IE8 are that the browser may not be compatible with sites already in service . These risks are minimized if you have  committed to standards based development as the IE8 development team is focusing heavily on standards support.

In addition, IE8 (and all subsequent versions) allow site maintainers to define how the browser should render pages. Where a site maintainer believes their site will render incorrectly in IE8 they can set a meta tag within the page that will force IE8 to render pages as IE7 would. This means that you can avoid rendering problems, either temporarily while we determine impact, or permanently where we believe it is not cost effective to fix.

A first beta version of IE 8 was released for developer review earlier this year and a second beta is expected in the next few months. The initial beta release is lacking significant amounts of functionality scheduled for inclusion in the final release and therefore not suited to site testing at this stage. However, based on feedback the following may potentially be an issue with the final release:

1.     Incomplete or buggy CSS 2.1 support

Action to take:

a.     Assess the severity on the site affected.

b.    Enable IE7 mode on site

c.     Determine effort to fix

d.    If viable apply fix and enable IE8 mode on site

2.     Some content may not be accessible when using assistive technologies (AT)

This is outside our mosts remit as it is a failure of the software. Additionally you need to posses the  AT equipment to test.

Action to take: none.

3.     Printing reverting to IE7 mode

This should not be an issue if sites  have already been tested with IE7.

Action to take: none.

The best action is to track developments as subsequent beta versions are released. When the 2nd beta release is available we will test with a sample of current sites. From this estimate the likely impact of the final browser release and take a view on whether IE7 mode should be enabled on current sites prior to release.

Upon final release test current sites:
·        Visual conformance comparing screen for screen with IE7

·        Rendering of flash content

·        Functional testing client-side functionality for failure and script errors

·        Functional testing forms for failure

This is best carried out on review servers were suitable, or by disabling IE7 mode on the live site during testing.

It is very likely that issues encountered in beta versions will be resolved on final release. I would therefore advise that you do not embark on full testing or make changes until the final release is available.

You should however plan to enable the meta tag to allow us to turn on/off IE7 mode at site level. You will need to estimate the effort involved for each platform. This feature will allow you to manage the impact of new IE versions ongoing.

Thanks go to  John Hunter who complied this for me.

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