A Plea for Open, Accommodating, and Adaptive Web Sites
By Richard Wiggins
wo truisms will always apply to the Internet:
Consumers of information will have client applications and appliances
with widely varying capabilities, and
publishers of information will always be tempted to use the latest whiz-bang, high-falutin' format du jour.
We've all experienced the displeasure of connecting to a web site only to find that
you don't happen to have the right plugin or player Â or browser Â to handle a particular format of information. The consumer has only one choice: either go get the needed piece of software (which may take time, fiddling around, and maybe even restarting the Web browser) or give up on getting information from that particular corner of the Web.
The problem is as old as the Web Â older, in fact. Internet designers always worked towards the goal of accommodating a multiplicity of client capabilities. The venerable Telnet, or virtual terminal, protocol was invented to allow a wide variety of physical terminals to negotiate with remote hosts running Telnet server applications. You could connect to an Internet host using just about any type of terminal in existence and carry on an interactive session.
A simple idea, then: no matter what kind of appliance I bring to an Internet session, I ought to be able to connect to the information resource you offer and enjoy as productive and informative a dialogue as my client software can possibly offer.
Format incompatibility is only one piece of the puzzle. There are other potential barriers for publishers to consider:
Are today's Web developers thinking about these issues? (For instance, do
you think Nokia's web site could be viewed intelligibly on Nokia's web-capable
- What if my user is connecting at 28.8 kilobits/second and I've tuned my pages for delivery to T1-connected links?
- What if my user is connecting using WebTV, or an information kiosk at an airport that doesn't support features of the latest browsers, and can't be upgraded by the user?
- What if my user has a hand-held device such as an Internet cell phone, with a 280 character black and white screen?