Website for Browser and Platform Compatibility
By Christopher S L Heng
|In the early days of
the Internet, I used to come across many sites advertising "Best
viewed with Netscape" or "Best viewed with Internet Explorer"
or the like.
These days, such labels seem to be rarer. And no wonder. Webmasters
today put an inordinate amount of effort to promote their sites
on the search engines and elsewhere, and it's unlikely that
they'll want to turn away any visitor just because he/she uses
a different browser.
Along with this principle of catering to the widest possible
audience is the principle of designing your page for compatibility
with the different browsers, operating systems and hardware
In this article, I will discuss five compatibility issues. They
are by no means exhaustive, but they are at least starting points
to designing a site that will be viewable by more visitors.
1. SCREEN RESOLUTION ISSUES
site statistics indicate the following about the screen resolutions
of its visitors:
640 x 480 - 8% of visitors
800 x 600 - 53%
800 x 553 - 1%
1024 x 768 - 31%
1152 x 864 - 2%
1280 x 1024 - 3%
Others - 2%
If you design your site with fixed table widths, you
need to be aware of the above. For example, if you design for
the 800x600 screen resolution, at least 8% of your visitors
(if your site has the same profile as mine) will have to scroll
their screens horizontally to see the entire page. Horizontal
scrolling irritates a number people (particularly if they have
to scroll left and right continually just to read your sentences),
hence many sites design for the worst case scenario (640x480).
Others consider such a small screen area to be impossible to
design nicely for, and consequently design for 800x600 - leaving
those with 640x480 resolutions to fend for themselves.
In my opinion, it's really up to you whether you want to cater
to the 640x480 audience, since they appear to be getting smaller
with each passing year. If you wish to do so, remember to take
into account things like the size of the browser window borders
and scroll bars and the like, leaving you a maximum canvas width
of slightly less than 600 pixels. My feeling is that you should
not design your pages to require more than 800x600, for if you
do so, you'll displease more than half your audience, who will
have to repeatedly scroll horizontally (back and forth) to read
the sentences on your page.
Of course, if you only use relative table widths (such as the
use of percentages like 100%, 80%, etc), your page already caters
to different screen resolutions.
2. COLOUR LIMITATIONS
It may come as a surprise to you that a colour code like "#F2C3BE"
results in different colours on different systems, depending
on the number of colours in your visitors' colour palettes,
their monitors, etc.
What looks to you like beautiful shades of colours may turn
out to be ugly combinations on a different system.
Most web experts advise you to stick to colour combinations
that are duplicates of "FF", "CC", "00" and the like (multiples
of hexadecimal "33"), which are supposed to be safe.
Much has been said against the use of frames in web design articles
all over the web, yet frames continue to be used in many sites.
This is probably because it is the easiest way to keep content
which must be on every page in one location.
Many people dislike framed pages. It shrinks the screen area
available for viewing the page (which somehow seems to be always
designed for a screen larger than that available in the framed
page) forcing them to have to scroll horizontally to read the
page. Furthermore, the vertical scroll bar on the left frame
of many sites also usurps valuable screen area. And if the site
designer has decided to remove the scroll bar (because it looked
fine on his high resolution screen), you find that you can't
read some content because you can no longer scroll down.
Other reasons against frames include the inability of many search
engines to properly index framed sites; the possibility of visitors
entering your site via one of the subpages without your enclosing
frameset page; etc.
If you are considering the use of frames on your site, see if
you can think of alternatives. For example, you might want to
use Server Side Includes to include common content like your
navigation bar. If you really have to design with frames, make
sure you view your site in a resolution like 640x480 to see
if people with that screen area can even navigate or view your
site. I think you'll probably be unpleasantly surprised.
that many people use Internet Explorer and Netscape, both of
which support it, it is also true that a small percentage of
those facilities. For example, the site navigation facilities
on thesitewizard.com and thefreecountry.com can operate whether
a CGI script will be called to do the job.
If you're interested, my article describing how this can be
accomplished on your site, along with full source code for both
and CGI scripts to do your tasks.
5. JAVA APPLETS
Although everybody's raving about how Java is the best thing
since sliced bread, you should be aware that many people disable
Java in their browsers. Java applets also take an inordinate
amount of time to load on many machines: the virtual machine
itself takes time to initialise, not to mention the time spent
downloading the applet.
My feeling is that if you can do without, try not to use it.
I realise that this is not always possible: some sites use it
for entering confidential data (eg, filing of various forms),
educational purposes, games and other such purposes. If your
use of Java does not fall into that category, and you're only
using it to draw some nice graphics on your page, consider using
animated GIFs instead, which loads faster and is supported by
the browsers of a larger number of visitors.
You can find facilities to draw and generate animated GIFs on:
Plan your website from the start to take into account compatibility
issues. This way, you know that your site will benefit from
the widest audience that you've strived so hard to obtain.
Copyright by Christopher S L Heng. All rights reserved.
Get more free tips and articles like this, on web design, promotion,
revenue and scripting, from http://www.thesitewizard.com/.
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