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Dave's Web Site Design Tutorial

Chapter 2 . . .
. . . General Design Considerations

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One of the first things you need to understand when you design sites is that they will be viewed on a variety of computer platforms and browsers. Your visitors could be on a Windows PC, a Macintosh, or a UNIX system. They may be using Netscape or Microsoft browsers, or numerous others.

The platform issue is much less of a concern than the browser issue. The major limitation based on platforms is that you can't run a program downloaded from a platform different than yours unless they are compatible platforms. A BeBox program won't run on a Windows system, as a UNIX program won't run on a Macintosh. This is one of the reasons Java has come about. Programs written in Java can run on any platform, as long on the browser is compatible with the Java standard.

With browser considerations, the major concern is of the version of the software, rather than the brand, at least with the two most popular browsers, Netscape's Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Older versions won't support all the new tag additions and modifications, such as fonts and table colors. But HTML was designed from the ground up realizing that there would most likely be new tags and attributes in the future. So browsers just ignore any tags and attributes they don't recognize, without rendering it to the visitor.

If you've ever tried placing a greater than or less than sign on a page, you've probably noticed that it hasn't showed up when the page was rendered. This happens because the browser assumes that anything between a less than and greater than sign is a tag, and if it doesn't recognize it, it will just ignore it completely. As you probably already know, if you want to display a greater than sign on a page, you type &gt; instead of > and that if you want to display a less than sign on a page, you type &lt; instead of <.

Another major consideration you must take into account while designing your site is that the visitors could be in a variety of screen resolutions. The most common screen resolutions are 640 x 480 pixels, 800 x 600 pixels, and 1024 x 768 pixels. Currently, it still appears that 640 x 480 is the most common, mostly because people don't realize they have the ability to switch into a higher resolution. Computer manufacturers will usually have computers run at 640 x 480 at default unless the user changes the setting.

The number before the x is the width, and the number after the x is the height. This is important because if your page exceeds either of those numbers when rendered, it will display a scrollbar for the user to scroll to see the rest. If your page is more than the browser's width, a horizontal scrollbar will be displayed. If your page is more than the browser's height, a vertical scrollbar will be displayed.

People usually assume that most pages will have a vertical scrollbar, and are usedto using it to scroll down pages. But many, including myself, despise the horizontalscroll, and will often complain if they are forced to use it. Kind of like those paper towel dispensers you find in restrooms, if it is dispensed vertically, no problem, buthorizontally, that is just plain awkward!

Then comes the WebTV's browser. With a horizontal resolution of just a few dozen over 550, it shows less pixels than a computer monitor running at 640 x 480. And horizontal scrollbars aren't allowed! So if you have a graphic or fixed width table too wide for its screen, it will just compact its width, decreasing the quality and readable of it. So some browsers don't even have a horizontal scrollbar, and on those that allow them - people dread being forced to use them.

So if you have a 650 pixel wide graphic, and view it in a resolution of 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768, it should look fine, being displayed without a horizontal scrollbar. But viewing it in 640 x 480 or less, part of the right side of the image will be hidden. A horizontal scrollbar will automatically be displayed, for you to use if you wishto see the rest of the it. Trust me, most people don't want to have to scroll horizontally.

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Quick Index

Main Page

Glossary of Terms used in this Guide

Chapter 1
Getting Started

Chapter 2
General Design Considerations

Chapter 3
Layout Considerations

Chapter 4
Graphics, Backgrounds, and Colors

Chapter 5
Page Division, Legal Considerations, and Moving Your Site

Chapter 6
Using Tables for Layout

Chapter 7
Major Turnoffs in Web Design

Related Site Links

Copyright © 1997 Dave Kristula. All rights reserved.
Dave's Web Site Design Tutorial - Chapter 2: General Design Considerations