Re. Nonstandard HTML

Subject: Re. Nonstandard HTML
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Fri, 19 Apr 1996 13:25:37 -0500

I've seen some criticism, here and in print, of products
that don't support specific Netscape extensions. I'm not
picking on Netscape specifically, though as a
self-appointed standards body they're an obvious target.
What intrigues me is the extent of the ignorance of our
audience that this criticism reveals.

HTML 2.0 is a well-accepted, well-supported standard: if
you code to this standard, you won't disappoint many (if
any) people. Your web page won't look as snazzy as the
various nonstandard HTML implementations, but isn't the
content more important than the appearance? (There are
exceptions... I'm assuming that we're talking functional
rather than aesthetic purposes; some situations require
both, or perhaps even an entirely aesthetic approach.)

HTML 3.X and various extensions are all very well, because
they _can_ lead us to more effective design, but what about
the portion of the audience that can't benefit from these
extensions? A simple calculation here (feel free to
substitute accurate numbers): give Netscape 90% of the
browser market, and assume that there are 1 million regular
web users. That leaves 100,000 who may be unable to use our
site at all, or who may miss most of the benefits that led
us to use the HTML extensions in the first place. In my
books, it's not a good strategy to ignore an audience of
this size. If you can guarantee that 100% of your audience
will use a specific browser, by all means design for that
browser, but that's a big assumption for most of us.

For another intriguing viewpoint on this issue, check out
the last page of the April '96 Byte, which discusses how to
keep your site accessible to blind users. Blind users on
the web? Hold up your hand (don't worry, nobody will see!)
if you'd never considered this possibility. For the record,
my hand's up too.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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