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Content last updated 1998
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An authoritative source of information on usage of the Internet is the GVU WWW User Survey, now on its 9th edition (from Virginia Tech at www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/). Users identified the following problems:
  • 65% of respondents found speed (slow download times) a problem
  • 47% stated that finding new information was a problem
  • 8% have problems locating known information
  • 53% reported leaving a web site because it was too slow
  • 57% found broken links to be a problem

And as the survey notes "As anyone who has spent any time on the web can tell you, the (speed) problem certainly seems to be getting worse". On a bad Net day, download speeds can drop to worse than 300 bytes per second.

What users hate about the Web today

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The consequences of this survey information?
  1. The content is the most important aspect of your Web site. If the content is not compelling, no amount of window dressing will make a difference.
  2. You need to offer some basic information about your company and your products as a matter of course.
  3. You need to offer easy navigation, search facilities and a site map for your web site
  4. You need to optimise for Speed, which means limiting the size of individual pages to about 30kb, unless there is a good reason for lots of images or other «cool stuff».
  5. You need to maintain and test you web site, which means for a site of any size using a test tool from companies such as Cyrano, Mercury, Rational or Segue. (In alphabetical order). There are some free tools suitable for small sites, for example www.netmechanic.com.
5 Consequences
Beyond these problems is the technology of Browsers.  At the moment there are basically 4 Web browsers in mainstream use, they are:
  • Internet Explorer versions 3 and 4
  • Netscape versions 3 and 4.

Estimates of share vary widely, but recent market research from Zona (www.zonaresearch.com) estimates about 20% of US Corporate users remain users of either IE v3 or Netscape v3. Many studies estimate that Microsoft and Netscape between them more or less split the market 50-50 at present.

Design for different Browser versions
For simple delivery of text using HTML, almost any version of a Netscape or Microsoft browser will suit.  Unfortunately support for more sophisticated technology such as Java, JavaScript, DHTML, Plug ins and CORBA by Netscape and Microsoft browsers cannot be assumed.  For example Internet Explorer 3 does not support some JavaScript commands, whilst Netscape 4 has only partial support for DHTML.  It is unlikely that Microsoft will support CORBA as this competes with their (proprietary) ActiveX technology.

Your Web Application must   work in all 4 of the commonly used browsers.  You should certainly not require users to use either a Netscape or Microsoft Browser unless there is a very compelling reason.

Be conservative in using Web features
The only way to check is to test, using a proper test tool. Test with a tool

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Copyright Khodes Consulting. Content as created 1998, site only 'maintained' in memory of David Singleton.