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Patterns for Personal Web Sites

Open To All

The World Wide Web was invented to disseminate information. One of the ways it did this was by establishing a simple, standard document format. Deciding how to render it for viewing was left to whatever browser a person chose to use. Diversity was encouraged. From this came Lynx, a text-only browser, and the first widely popular graphic browser, Mosaic.

The ascendancy of Netscape Navigator, and later Internet Explorer, brought proprietary extensions to HTML. The result was pages optimized for specific browsers. Diversity languished, and unusable or partly broken sites became common. Sites created to share information ended up hiding it.

Therefore, make your site open to all visitors by supporting all browsers.

There are several audiences to consider, each with their own requirements:

  • people using older browsers or alternative browsers (e.g., text or PDA browsers) might not be able to use all the latest data formats, so choose an Appropriate Format. If you choose a format that isn't widely supported, design for Graceful Failure.

  • people using future browsers -- you can't guess what new browsers will allow, so write Valid Markup.

  • people reading your site offline -- make it easy for them to do so by ensuring Offline Readability.

While designing for a particular browser might seem the best choice now, it might cause problems later. The browser could lose popularity, or later versions of the same browser might break browser-specific code (e.g., Netscape versions 3 & 4).

Last updated 8 July 2003
All contents ©2002-2003 Mark L. Irons