Text Only Web Browsers
Text-only versions of web sites are crucial, if you have information on your site that you deem important. I feel that most webmasters make a terrible mistake when they assume every web browsing environment is the same as theirs. Certainly, you can try to test out many web browsing environments, such as IE and Netscape on PCs and Macintoshes, however there are countless other environments one could never test within limited time. There are many new web browsers entering the market, and gaining popularity, such as "Opera," which has a very different "look and feel" in web browsing, and also interprets sites in very different ways than Netscape or IE. On the other hand, there are countless users of legacy systems, who have no access to graphically based web browsers. Lynx is text-only browser which is still under development. Newer versions are being released, therefore there are many users who still rely on this browser. For many UNIX platform users, more than half of the system software they need are only available on the web. In the unfortunate case that their computers crash, and they need to recover important system software, the only base web browser they can use is Lynx (it comes standard with the operating system, and requires minimal system resources). Other important topics within the realm of hardware include: system resources. Many web surfers do not have the newest technology. They may have slower than 14.4 kBPS connections, 8 MEGS of RAM (or less), and processor speeds well under 100 MHz. However, designers of web sites often have technology well beyond the above mentioned minimum. Therefore, a graphically intense site will take 10 minutes or more to display! The average user would halt the transfer before waiting this long. A VERY common compromise for these users is to change the settings of their browser to NOT download images. If your opening site has only a bitmapped image (which is currently very popular), then you have excluded a large percentage of your visitors. In the corporate race for the "most popular web browser" title, Netscape and Microsoft release new HTML abilities in attempt to mutually obsolete eachother. One example is the ability for IE to interpret background graphics within tables, while Netscape can currently only interpret colored backgrounds in tables (not graphics). Because of this current corporate culture, we will not see a commonly enforced standard on web site design in the near future. For web designers who expect income from their sites, it is in their best interest to not exclude any potential visitors. Therefore, the only common denominator to expect in web design is the text only site. Successful webmasters are smart to consider a wide range of potential visitors to their sites. Any design that could potentially exclude visitors is usually a bad design. The best compromise is to have a text-only version of every page on your site.