Digital Cowboy

Digital Cowboy
Poker is life. Life is poker.

Archive for March, 2007

How very un-Progressive!

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Here is the message I sent to Progressive Insurance after a recent attempt to use their web site:

I came to your web site today with the intention of purchasing an auto insurance policy. I thought of Progressive first because of the TV commercials about how everything could be handled online.

Unfortunately, I can’t do business with you because your web site is broken. As a web developer myself, I can see that your site has been developed to work only with Internet Explorer. That was obvious to me, even before I saw your ridiculous compatibility warning, by the astounding amount of errors running up in Firebug’s Javascript validator at the bottom of my browser. (Do you really require IE 6?!?! Just one, out-dated browser?)

Internet Explorer itself is broken by design and only lazy or incompetent developers build to it. Quality web sites are developed to standards and then, because good business sense dictates accomodating as many platforms as possible, they are retrofitted with the hacks necessary to make them work even with poor quality browsers such as Explorer.

Obviously you are free to run your business as you see fit just as I am free to go elsewhere for my insurance. I would suggest you consider fixing your web site, though. It makes good business sense because with IE 7, Microsoft has once again demonstrated that not even Microsoft products are compatible with Microsoft products. It’s a costly and unnecessary moving target to develop to their intentionally corrupted specifications and with no benefit whatsoever except to Microsoft. In addition, IE is fundamentally insecure making it down right irresponsible to use it on the web. The world is waking up to this and the Internet Explorer market share is on the decline. This is why the U.S. Department of Transportation has banned all upgrades of Microsoft desktop products including Explorer, as just one recent example.

For the record, I have an old junky Win XP machine purely for the purposes of testing the necessary hacks to make my otherwise standard web sites work with IE. But I won’t use that junk just to deal with you.

It might also be wise to consider that for every person like me who feels strongly enough about this to tell you, there are probably 10 that will just move on and wonder why your web site is the only one they encountered today that doesn’t work.

The reference I made to the number of errors in Firebug – 153 and still counting on their main page when I finally found the “Contact Us” button.

I received a form letter reply that began “Our developers are aware that our web site does not currently work with (Firefox/Mac/Safari)…” It pointed out that the site is “optimized” for IE 6 and AOL and then droned on for three insulting paragraphs describing – in condescending detail – all of their “extraordinary” security – which amounts to the same web standard SSL encryption used at every ecommerce site on the AOLIntarweb. The first thing that went through my mind is that their silly opening sentence left out “(Navigator/ Linux/ Konqueror/ Opera/ Windows Vista/ Most of Windows XP/ Internet Explorer 5/ Internet Explorer 7/ OmniWeb/ Camino/ Flock/ iCab/ Epiphany/ All mobile platforms…)”

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that they assume smart people are not their target demographic so they don’t bother with anything but last year’s Microsoft browser and AOL. Fair enough. They have plenty of competitors.

Also of note is that I don’t even need to go in the other room and turn on the XP machine to use IE 6; I have multiple options for running it right here on my MacBook Pro (in addition to Parallels or Boot Camp) and sometimes do. But I won’t, for them, for the same reason. And technically, according to them, my XP machine wouldn’t even work because it’s running IE 7 and Microsoft provides no easy way to revert to IE 6. (I suspect the Progressive site probably works in other versions of IE including 7, but that’s not the point.)

Take note budding web billionaires. This is not how you run an online business.