C.1 Browser and Platform Support

Deciding which features, browsers, and platforms to support is an iterative process. While trying to cast as wide a net as possible, you might find yourself limited by browser incompatibilities with necessary features. On the other hand, you might design a less ambitious site for greater compatibility or provide alternate versions of the site for different browsers. Take inventory of both the site's goals and likely user base to make an initial decision on platform and browser support. Test a prototype as early as possible to decide if you must change your initial design decision.

Here are the broad strokes:

  • Define your target audience, which dictates the browsers and platforms you'll support and which plugins you can use (or avoid). Corporate clients tend to use Internet Explorer on Windows and also tend to be resistant to requiring their users to download plugins. On the other hand, some corporate intranets support Netscape exclusively. You should support IE for the Mac and Netscape on both platforms if at all possible, because Dreamweaver makes it easy to do so. Sites targeting schools and Macintosh users should support Macintosh browsers more aggressively. Most clients don't understand browser compatibility issues so they'll need your guidance.

  • Settle on the browsers you intend to support. For a general interest site, remember that most people use Windows and the majority of those users have Internet Explorer 4.0 or later. It is probably unnecessary to support 3.0 browsers. Requiring a 4.0+ browser allows you to use CSS, as discussed in Chapter 10, and layers , as discussed in Chapter 4, Chapter 14, and Chapter 17. Macintosh users account for less than 10 percent of the total market, but may make up a larger percentage of your target audience. Netscape browsers have less than 20 percent market share according to most web surveys (some list Netscape with less than 10 percent). AOL customers can use any browser, but the default AOL browser is a derivative of Internet Explorer. Opera is the most prevalent minor browser on Windows and iCab is the most prevalent minor browser on the Macintosh. Test on Linux and Unix browsers, especially if catering to developers; although the Linux market share is small, the user base is growing and extremely vocal. The marginal cost of supporting these browsers is usually negligible.

  • Determine which plugins are required, if any. Flash 4 support is ubiquitous (over 95 percent of the installed base) and Flash 5 support is over 70 percent. For example, in a recent online financial calculator, we needed to print the results for the user. Flash 4 didn't offer adequate printing support, so we decided to require Flash 5 rather than eliminate this crucial feature (or have it perform unreliably). According to the Media Metrix survey at http://www.macromedia.com/software/player_census/flashplayer/tech_breakdown.html, about 98 percent of users have the Flash plugin, 69 percent have the Acrobat Reader plugin, 69 percent have the QuickTime plugin, and 44 percent have the RealPlayer plugin (not all users have the latest version of the plugin). See Chapter 5 for important information regarding plugins and see Chapter 12 for details on the Check Plugin behavior.

  • Determine whether you will use frames and layers. Almost all browsers support tables and frames (and you can provide a no- frames alternative) and the basic features of layers are supported in all 4.0+ browsers. More esoteric features of layers aren't supported as consistently, but that isn't a reason to avoid layers altogether. Refer to Section P.4 in the the preface for more details. Also see Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

  • Pick a minimum connection speed. It is usually unnecessary to design for less than a 56 Kbps connection unless targeting rural and international customers. On the other hand, expecting users to have connections faster than 56K is unrealistic . Unless targeting users whom you know to have ISDN, satellite, cable, DSL, or faster connections, gear your site towards 56 Kbps modem users. The status bar shows the estimated downloaded time for the connection speed set under Edit figs/u2192.gif Preferences figs/u2192.gif Status Bar. Use the 28 Kbps setting to approximate the download time on 56 Kbps modems, because actual connection speeds are about half the ideal speed.

  • Pick a minimum browser window size and test your pages at that resolution using the Window Size Selector pop-up menu in the status bar. Designing for 800 x 600 pixels (the most common monitor resolution) leaves a working area of 760 x 420 pixels after subtracting for the browser's borders and toolbars . Also test on monitors with a larger resolution to ensure that titles are centered on a wide screen, for example.

  • Test your graphics on different platforms and at different color depths. You can safely assume that most users have 16-bit monitors (thousands of colors) but not necessarily millions of colors. Older computers may support only 8-bit graphics (256 colors). Graphics tend to appear darker under Windows than on the Mac, so test your graphics for sufficient contrast and brightness. On the Macintosh, use Fireworks' View figs/u2192.gif Windows Gamma option to approximate a graphic's appearance under Windows. Under Windows, use Fireworks' View figs/u2192.gif Macintosh Gamma to approximate a graphic's appearance on the Mac.

Dreamweaver in a Nutshell
Dreamweaver in a Nutshell
Year: 2005
Pages: 208

flylib.com © 2008-2017.
If you may any questions please contact us: flylib@qtcs.net