Tutorial and Practicum
Selecting the proper monitor and browser settings for your computer are probably the most important things you can do to get the most out of your internet viewing experience ... and yet, improper settings are probably the leading cause of misunderstandings between internet developer and customer.
The customer wants to have text, graphic placement and style on his pages exact ... just as is the case with print media. While the developer does his or her best to comply with the customer's wishes, they never seem to get it "exactly" right. Why is this? Well ... in part, here's where you find out. We're going to give you a little background on the problem and then we'll give you the standards we use. If both customer and developer adopt (or match) the same "standards" and "settings" they should both see the same thing on their computer systems. If not, they won't.
What style sheets and templates in word processors provide that HTML doesn't is the appearance of each part of the document on the page or screen. With some exceptions, HTML (or CFM) does very little to allow you to specify the exact placement or appearance of any element on the page. The designers of HTML did this on purpose. Why? Because you don't know the capabilities of the platform (computer system) where the document is going to be viewed, the size of the screen, the monitor's resolution, the fonts that are installed, or if there are any fonts at all. By separating the stucture of the document and its appearance, a program that reads and understands HTML can make formatting decisions based on the capabilities of the individual platform.
Web browsers, in addition to providing the networking functions to retrieve documents over the Net, are also HTML formatters. When you load an HTML document into a browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape, the browser reads or parses, the HTML information and formats the text and images on the screen. If you use different browsers, you may notice that the same document may appear differently in each browser. This puts a wrinkle in how you write and design web documents and may frustrate you. Most professional designers DON'T design documents based on what they look like in one browser. They focus, instead, on providing clear, well-structured content that is easily read and understood.
Working in a text-only markup language, with little control over the appearance of the text and a limited set of tags seems frustratingly archaic in this age of fully-WYSIWYIG desktop publishing. But for the kind of environment the Web provides, HTML does have significant advantages over other forms of document publishing that would include more features and control. For example:
There are a number of issues that must be addressed if you wish to see the same thing on your computer system that your designer sees on his. They are: display resolution, screen size, color palette, system font size, browser font settings and type. And to make matters more complicated, you won't know what these settings are unless you ask. That's why we have adopted "development standards". Use 'em and you'll see what we see when we develop your site. Ignore 'em and you'll see what your system and browser allow you to see ... it's that simple.
We've adopted the following standard settings for monitor and browser. Although each presentation is checked on mulitple browsers and mulitple platforms, best viewing results for our sites will be obtained when using these "standards". Deviation from these standards may result in viewing irregularities. If your system is so old it doesn't allow you to select these settings, we urge you to upgrade to a newer monitor, to Windows 2000 (at least, Windows 98, 2000 or XP preferred) and to Internet Explorer 5.5 or greater if you are going to actively participate in the design and maintenance of your internet site. Most new systems come configured with these (or similar) settings.
Procedures for Setting Development Standards in Windows 2000 or XP
A Final Word ... About Assumptions
Technology changes rapidly. No better example of this exists than that of Monitor Resolution (expressed in pixels). Just a few years ago, most computer systems contained rather basic monitors ... the VGA variety ... containing no more than 640 X 480 pixels of viewable desktop area. There were so many systems on the market with this low resolution that we, along with most other designers, assumed that most people would be using this type of system and therefore used it as one of our "development standards". We don't do that today. Why not?
Firstly, it is rare today for a computer manufacturer to ship a product with less than a viewable desktop area of 800 X 600 pixels (many ship with 1024 X 768 pixels as the default setting) . The trend has been toward higher resolution monitors with more "colors" for the past several years.
There is another, more important reason for our switch ... our target audience. We have always prepared our internet presentations to appeal to upper income professionals. These "target customers" have a profile that indicates not only earnings in the top income brackets but it includes daily usage of upscale systems at work and at home. Many, for instance, not only have newer systems on their desks at work but also use laptops with lots of RAM, high resolution monitors, high speed modems and even network cards while traveling and at home.
While there may be some discussion (and validity) regarding continued high usage of 640 X 480 monitors in the overall internet market, it seems clear (at least to us) that most of our target audience uses upscale equipment.
Thus, our adoption of the 1024 X 768 pixel standard.
Unleashing the Power of the Internet