I’ll explain in detail why I feel Microsoft Internet Explorer is evil and how to fix it, if you insist on using it. Yet there is a very simple solution and that is simply to not use Internet Explorer for Web browsing. Really, it is that simple! Using other browsers is a topic I’ve written about before, most recently in Browsers, Passwords and Security. Firefox and Chrome are both free and they don’t have even a fraction of the problems of Internet Explorer. For your own sake, please use one of these other browsers!!!
Now that I have that out of the way, I’ll discuss the reason I feel Microsoft Internet Explorer is evil and the one setting you can change to rid yourself of the worst of its evils.
It started with a phone call about ten days ago from a user who claimed “your Web site has been down the last three days.” I found this odd since I had been surfing the site myself just a few minutes earlier without any problems. Just so you understand, our Web server is not located in our office. If my geography is correct, it is at least 2000 miles away. Since the site was indeed working, I asked a few questions and the real problem was “a script error on the shopping cart.” I wasn’t able to get a lot more information about the error from the user, but I did find out that Internet Explorer was being used. The simplest solution to complete the user’s order was to have them use a different browser and that is exactly what was done.
After that was resolved, I placed some test orders myself using Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 25 and Chrome 30. Those orders were all completed without error. I could only assume there was a setting on the user’s computer in Internet Explorer that was causing the problem. Since I couldn’t re-create the error, I had no idea how to resolve it other than suggesting users avoid Internet Explorer.
Then I heard from someone else a couple of days ago. While the description of the problem was different, the result was the same thing. The user was not able to complete the checkout process on our Web site. Am I upset? You bet because customers aren’t able to complete their purchase and that takes money out of my pocket.
Something else happened between hearing from those two users. I installed Windows 8.1 on two different computers in our office. As part of Windows 8.1, we got copies of Internet Explorer 11. I tried to place another test order using Internet Explorer 11 and I got the error. I immediately tried again on the same computer in Firefox and Chrome and got no error. Some of you will say that there is an error on our site. We certainly aren’t immune from errors. But if the error is on our site, then will you also blame other companies with the same problem? Internet Explorer 11 also broke the Google and Outlook sites! In giant corporate politics, some would say there may be something fishy about Google, a major competitor, having problems. Who owns the Outlook site? Ah yes, Microsoft. So if you want to blame our site, I’ll accept it as long as you also blame Microsoft and Google for the same problem.
As I was researching the problems on other sites, I saw mention of a potential solution. I tested it and it did indeed fix the problem on our site. While I know this is a solution for Internet Explorer 11, you may also want to consider making this change in earlier versions of Internet Explorer. I don’t have a copy of Internet Explorer 10 installed to test, but the setting does not appear in Internet Explorer 9 and it is this awful setting that kept me from installing a newer version on my main computer.
Go to the upper right of the Internet Explorer window and you should see a small gear icon similar to the one in the red box of the graphic shown above right. Clicking on the gear icon brings up the menu shown and you want to select Compatibility View settings. This will bring up the dialog box shown below right.
When you get to this dialog box, go down near the bottom and you’ll see a checkbox labeled “Use Microsoft compatibility lists” as shown inside the red box of the graphic at right. By default, the box is checked and it seems to do exactly the opposite of what it claims. Compatibility implies it will help things work when in fact it causes many sites to stop working correctly. Remove the checkmark from the box as in my example and click the Close button. Problem solved!
I am absolutely disgusted that Microsoft has this awful setting turned on by default as I’m sure they are aware it causes problems with many Web sites, including their own Outlook site. It is irresponsible decisions like this that cause me to strongly encourage all users to use other browsers. For those of you who refuse to give up Internet Explorer, please make things better for yourself by turning off the compatibility lists that will only cause you and site owners headaches.