practical ammo for the browser wars

pris sears (sears@vt.edu)
Sun, 20 Oct 1996 22:43:25 -0400


Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 22:43:25 -0400
Message-Id: <v01530505ae90563b591a@[128.173.34.130]>
To: www-html@w3.org
From: sears@vt.edu (pris sears)
Subject: practical ammo for the browser wars
Cc: sears@vt.edu

we've talked a lot and determined several things:

the web was designed to be a way to share information regardless of
platform and software

certain interests see the web as a commercial arena where there is money to
be made by continually upping the stakes with new (often platform specific)
features, requiring new soft- and hard-ware to get to the content

the users are an unpredictable lot who just want to get to the content
without a lot of fuss (strangely enough, pretty much what HTML was meant
for)

granting there are certain things that text cannot do (like the geometry
lesson or the java-powered visible human project), i still think that there
are ways to compromise and convey most of the content out there relatively
painlessly.  i really hope i will get some *practical* additions to this
list of suggestions, as knowing what you want is most of the battle.  the
rest of it is educate, and complain when you find something you don't like

my suggestions:

-----------
designers:

make reasonably-sized documents, that is, less than 50K

carefully weigh content. is it really critical? could it be
represented in a simpler way? is it helpful or distracting?

provide alternate pages - if you are going to take the time
to do fancy stuff, you can take a little more time to make a text
version. use your web server to dynamically redirect browsers to
the appropriate page or provide a simple entry page with
links to plain and fancy versions. (this is where to put those
'download blah now' blurbs.)

put text alternatives at the top of pages!

if you must use frames:
use <noframes> outside of the <frameset> tags - preferably at
the *top* of the page - for critical links and text.

don't count on the following to convey your information
properly. many browsers don't see
these the way you expect they will (or at all)

centering
font information
graphics (inline or background)
tables - use <pre> alternate pages
blinking text
&nbsp
plug-ins

use pictures sparingly, many folks can't or don't want to look at them,
many folks are paying by the minute for web access, and wasting
time and bandwidth is criminal.
use alt tags always, especially when using graphics as links.
some browsers don't see alt tags
either, include text in the body for descriptions and links.
put pictures on their own pages, make a link to the
page with a note as to content and size of graphics.
use transparent and interlaced gifs to improve download speed.

make script calls low in the page, below critical text and links
 - better yet, make a link to your super java enhanced page and
 see how many users want to look at it if you don't force them to.

validate your pages

---------------
users:

tell providers when you can't get their content.

write to browser makers and ask them to focus more on device
inpendency and less on marketshare.

-----------------
everybody:


participate in the html process.

keep up with the activities of the ietf and w3c groups

-------------------------------------------------------------

that's it after this week (and more) of thinking and research.  flame away,
but for goodness sake, please send more *practical* solutions

- pris
sears@vt.edu