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Re: Single Browser Intranets (was: Web Accessibility Myths)

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 20:09:48 -0400
Message-Id: <4.1.19991024194820.00a18ce0@pop3.concentric.net>
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
Cc: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
aloha, scott!

as a former intranet administrator slash architect slash implementer, i believe
that you are focusing on the wrong problem -- the problem isn't quote how can i
design for browsers X, Y, Z, and Q, unquote but quote how can i design the
content i need to deliver to my audience in a manner that will work with X, Y,
Z, and Q unquote

web design should promote interoperability -- anything else is merely glorified
desktop publishing...

when executives from a company want to interface with their corporation's
intranet via their cell phones, what are that company's IT people going to tell
the people who sign their paychecks when the pages that comprise the company's
intranet won't work with their phone browser because the intranet was maximized
for browser Z, and uses proprietary markup that the phone browser doesn't
understand, and which may cause it to render either no content, or only the
portion of the content that it can recognize and which isn't hidden behind
proprietary markup, an unsupported format (such as Flash), or invalid markup? 
hell, in an aural environment, even the use of physical markup instead of
structural markup can make content far less than comprehensible, not to mention
inattention to such apparently quote minor unquote details such as ALT text,
table summaries, NORFRAMES, etc.

the focus needs to be on the content and its most effective delivery, not the
browser, and the first step towards such effectiveness is NOT designing for a
specific browser, and that can be done, today, on a number of authoring tools,
and through such simple checking mechanisms as HTML Tidy, Bobby, the W3C
Validator, and the like...


PS: as an intranet administrator who also worked in a vastly under-peopled IT
department, i still maintain that people are more productive when they use
tools that are familiar to them and with which they are comfortable...  sure,
there may be security issues that eliminate browsers Z and Q from
consideration, but they are minimal compared with the frustration of the user
who suddenly can't get their work down because they've been needlessly forced
to migrate to a different browser...  and, no, i'm not advocating employee
choice on all applications used throughout a company or organization, but i
did, and would again, advise everyone in that company or organization to do
such simple things to promote interoperability when exchanging documents with
people outside of the company or organization to save documents in Rich Text
Format and to email them in both RTF and plain text, so as to ensure that the
recipient has at least  one version of the document that he or she can read...
Scott wrote:
>Hi, Charles
>Part of the problem related to supporting multiple browsers is that
>there is very little technology available which makes this very easy
>with little effort.  (Supporting multiple of anything usually requires
>working at an abstract level that many people, including programmers,
>have little experience.  Look at the problems of software portability
>between versions of UNIX, multiple types of graphics devices, etc.)
>A user model that I try to keep in mind is an associate sociology
>professor who is interested in using the web for her class.  She has
>minimal web background.  If you tell her that she needs to support
>multiple browsers for her class of 100 students, how do you think she'll
>respond?  Her focus is on subject material and class preparation.  Now,
>tell her the various challenges of supporting multiple browsers, like
>she'll probably have to hand-code each page so that it looks right for
>each browser.  (Most page editors do a poor job supporting multiple
>browsers.)  Also, any time she makes a change, she'll have to check the
>page in each browser.  Sociologists at MIT might be more technically
>motivated or have great technical support from the university, but it's
>not true for many campuses.  Do you think she wants to read computer
>manuals or sociology journals?  Do you believe she is very worried about
>interoperability for her class?  The reality is she probably tells her
>students that they all have to use a particular browser.
>I'm sorry to contradict you, but you are not looking at the underlying
>values of W3C.  It's an organization whose focus is the web.  People are
>much more likely to go that extra step, at least for appearance sake.
>What would people think of a web organization whose web pages don't look
>With regards to supporting multiple browsers in a company, my suspicion
>is that most companies would look at the cost and benefits of this type
>of arrangement.  While a company may use multiple operating systems,
>they are probably sectioned off since there is probably little need for
>interoperability for most employees.  For example, web servers might be
>UNIX, but most employees have a windows machine on their desk.  System
>administrators might have to manage multiple operting systems, but
>probably handle this with multiple displays on their desks or using
>Your comment about letting an employee choose software is kind of
>interesting.  Many companies do decide what browser will be used.  I
>have to admit I never heard of an employee quitting his job just because
>the company chose a browser he didn't like.
>Your comment about a company's employees developing misunderstandings
>about the web seems not very relevant to many companies.  How many of
>them are that concerned about this issue that they are willing to take
>on any additional costs?
>> Although I agree that W3C is not a typical organisation in general, I think
>> we make a good model for the question, and even more so for an educational
>> than a traditionally corporate setting. We represent a diverse group of
>> people who have a large amount of common purpose (like people studying a
>> particular course, or developing software) but also a variety of individual
>> requiremetns that aren't shared (some people work on graphics, some on
>> transport protocols, some on marketing, just as students study a range of
>> courses, and corporations expect engineers to work on engineering,
>> administrative staff to keep the organisation running smoothly, marketing
>> staff to promote the product to the world). In addition, we model the
>> corporate situation where there is a single language throughout the
>> corporation (in W3C's case US ENglish is the official language) but many of
>> our employees speak other languges (for example many of the team in Japan
>> speak Japanese, and there are a number of french speakers, german speakers,
>> etc).
>> W3C is not typical, but partly only becuase we are small.
>> Universities, COlleges and Coroporations have some important things in
>> with us:
>> 1. Although we are working broadly on the same thing, we have different
>> needs. Some of us work on graphics, some on transport protocols, some on
>> marketing.
>> 2. We are distributed worldwide. We have one official language (US
>> English) but employees often use another language in their everyday life and
>> work.
>> 3. We have a range of different backgrounds, and are used to different
>> tools (and computers and operating systems). Some staff take up new software
>> daily, others are reluctant to change from the tool they used three years
>> ago.
>> 4. Our systems team does not support all the software people use, but people
>> are prepared to read the manual to be able to use a piece of software they
>> like if it is unsupported. 
>> (The level of support I have seen at colleges does not justify relying on
>> their supported software, but that is probably just bad personal
>> We have some important differences
>> 1. We are vendor-neutral. Although we develop our own browser and our own
>> authoring tool (Amaya is both) we do not force people to use them as part of
>> a corporate culture-buidling exercise. 
>> That is a legitimate reason for having a single-browser intranet at Lotus,
>> at Opera, or at Citec (who make Doczilla), or at Netscape. It does not apply
>> to educational institutions.
>> 2. Interoperability is a stated goal. That is true of some businesses, and
>> not of others.
>> In summary, I am not saying that it is always a bad idea to have
>> single-browser intranets, just that there are very strong reasons not to in
>> most cases. I think education institutions are one of the cases where it is
>> extremely unwise except in certain very narrowly defined circumstances.
>> Just my 2 bits worth
>> Charles McCN

He that lives on Hope, dies farting
     -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1763
Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
   WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC
Received on Sunday, 24 October 1999 20:03:38 UTC

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