What Is the Real World, Anyway?
You're probably most familiar with surfing the Internet on a computer that runs a specific operating system, such as Windows, Mac OS X, or something similar. You may think you have a pretty good idea of what web pages look like to everyone.
Throughout this book, you've learned that the view you typically see on the Web isn't the view that everyone else sees. The real world has many different computers with many different operating systems. Even if you try to design your pages for the most common operating system and the most common browsers, there's another factor that you can't anticipate: user preference. Consider the following family, for example:
Bill's wife, Susan, has never used a computer before, but she has always wanted to learn. She's a genealogist by hobby and has learned that the Internet has many resources in that field. She also wants to publish her family history on the Web. When she and her husband got their cable modem hooked up, she was thrilled. But soon she was asking questions such as, "Can we fit more on the screen? Those letters are a bit too small...can we make them larger? Where are the pictures? How come you have the music turned off? It says that there's sound on this page!" She already wanted to see the Internet much differently than what her husband was used to seeing.
Bill and Susan have a son, Tom, who's in high school. He's an avid gamer and wants to see special effectsglitz, multimedia! He pumps up the volume as loud as he can and pushes the capacities of their new computer to the max. He also thinks "Browser X" is better than "Browser Y" because it supports lots of cutting-edge features. He wants to design a website that provides hints, tips, and tricks for one of his favorite online games.
Tom's older sister, Jill, is an art major in college, studying to be a commercial artist. She has a keen interest in sculpture and photography. She plans to use her new computer for homework assignments, so she'll be looking at the Web with a keen visual interest. She wants to view her pages in true color, in the highest resolution possible.
Then there are the senior members 533 the family, Susan's aging parents, who have recently moved in with the family after years of living in a rural town. Their experience with computers is minimalthey've only seen them in stores. They're interested in learning so that they can view family photos online and exchange email with out of town relatives, but Dad's eyes aren't quite as sharp as they used to be. He needs a special browser so that he can hear the text as well as see it.
All these people are using the same computer and operating system to view the Web. In all cases but one (young Tom), they're also using the same browser. This example illustrates one of the other things that you need to think about when you design your website: the needs of the users themselves. Some of these needs are easier to accommodate than others. The following section describes some of the considerations you saw in the previous example.