1.4. Knowing Your Audience
As with most design challenges, making appropriate decisions
regarding which browsers to support and which new technologies to
adopt largely depends on knowing your audience. Before designing a
new site, be sure to spend plenty of time up front researching the
likely platforms, browsers,
technical savvy, and connection speeds of the users you are
targeting. If you are redesigning an existing site, spend time with
the server logs to analyze past site usage.
There are no browser-support guidelines that can anticipate every
design situation; however, the following scenarios should start you
If you are designing a scientific or academic site, you should
probably pay extra attention to how your site functions in Lynx (or
other graphics-free browsing environments), because Lynx is more
commonly used on academic and scientific networks than by the Web
community at large. In addition, since the academy tends to be more
Unix-oriented, Netscape figures more prominently than Internet
Explorer because it is better supported.
If your site is aimed at a consumer audience -- for instance, a
site that sells educational toys to a primarily parent
audience -- don't ignore your site's performance and
presentation in the AOL browsers or older browser versions.
If you are designing for a controlled environment, such as a
corporate intranet or, even better, a web-based kiosk, you've
got it made! Knowing exactly what browser and platform your viewers
are using means you can take full advantage of the bells and whistles
(and even proprietary features) appropriate to that browser. If you
are designing a standalone kiosk, you may even have the luxury of
loading the fonts you want to use. Just be sure your design
won't crash the browser since there won't be anyone there
to restart it for you immediately. In these situations, the
"current version design" strategy discussed earlier in
this chapter is entirely appropriate (just don't get spoiled)!
If your site is about the technology being used,
such as SVG graphics or Beatnik audio, you
have every right to expect users to use the appropriate browser or
plug-in to catch up with your content. (But it might be nice to at
least provide some screenshots or other alternative content to let
the others know what they're missing!)
If you are designing a government site, you are required by law under
Section 508 to make your pages accessible to all browsing devices.
For more information, see Chapter 6, "Accessibility".
For most multipurpose web sites, stick with the safer
"splitting the difference" approach to design, or if you
have the resources, create multiple versions and serve them
Copyright © 2002 O'Reilly & Associates. All rights reserved.