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Top firms' websites not ready for IE7

Browser trips up 13% of FTSE 100 company sites

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A survey has found that 13 per cent of the UK's biggest companies did not have their websites ready for the launch of Internet Explorer 7 (IE7), the first new version of Microsoft's market-leading browser since IE6 launched back in 2001.

IE browsers are used by 80 per cent of internet users, said usability consultancy Etre, which carried out the survey on companies in the FTSE 100 index of leading UK listed companies.

"On Friday 20 October – just two days after IE7 was released – we kicked off a short internal study," said a statement from Etre. "We fired up two machines and compared the homepages of all one hundred FTSE 100 companies in both IE6 and IE7. Were these companies ready for IE7? Were their sites bent badly out of shape? Or has this all been a big fuss over nothing?"

The company found that the websites of 13 out of the FTSE 100 companies faced some sort of problem relating to IE7. "Problems ranged from warped page layouts (Alliance and Leicester) to small presentation glitches (Hanson)," it said.

The companies whose sites faced some problems were: Alliance and Leicester, BHP Billiton, BP, British Energy Group, Compass Group, Hanson, Lloyds TSB, Northern Rock, Sage Group, Shire Pharmaceuticals Group, Standard Life, Unilever, and Yell Group.

Though Etre admitted this was not necessarily a statistically significant enough sample with which to extrapolate to the whole internet, it said that if the same proportions of general websites suffered problems as FTSE 100 company websites did, then 12.7 million sites will need some work as a result of the release of IE7.

Microsoft has been warning that the engine inside IE7 is quite different to that inside IE6, and that companies need to test their web pages against the new browser.

The release of IE7 is likely to have a massive effect because it is being installed via Windows' "automatic update" feature, so will become the default browser on millions of computers simultaneously. That update happens on Wednesday 1 November.

Surprisingly, though, it may be the FTSE 100 companies' unwillingness to embrace internet site standards, which are designed to ease accessibility and usability, which prevented the problem from being more severe.

"It is worth pointing out, however, that the general lack of adherence to web standards among the FTSE 100 companies may have insulated them somewhat from IE7's various bugs and glitches," said the Etre statement. "IE7 tends to struggle most with standards-compliant sites – particularly those using hacks and filters to achieve decent presentation in IE6. Given that most sites aren't standards-compliant, however, we think our results are pretty representative."

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