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No t e s    w e    d i e    f o r   .   .   . 

    Since how any web site or web page (this one included) ultimately looks to the end-user depends on the browser and the computer system displaying it, creating web pages is a balance of loading speed, beauty, and effectiveness.

    And, from the viewer's point of view, the way their browser and system are configured has a lot to do with whether what they are seeing is anything like what the designer intended.

    OK, So here's our essay . . .


   Some Thoughts on Web Page Standards

    Here at C-NPR, we've spent a lot of time reviewing popular sites, and we have developed a series of standards we believe create the most useful mix on the largest number of browsers.

    In other words (like with darts), we go for the big middle.

    That said, here are some of the standards we (and a lot of other web page designers) tend to start with  -

    • Monitor Resolution / Screen Size - 800 x 600 resolution or greater
    • Number of Colors - 65,536 colors or 16 bit color
    • Font Sizes - Windows - Smallest you're comfortable using

    •                       Macintosh - 12 pt. for Netscape and either
                                                   Small or Smallest for Explorer
    • Windows Taskbar - Set it to cover the smallest amount of screen space possible
    Of course, one could accuse us of being a bit elitist - high color counts and a minimum 
    of 800 pixels wide for the screen design. "Where does that leave all of us with rudimentary systems still running 640 pixel wide screens?" they could say.

    Well, they're right;  web pages designed to our standards will be tough to see on a minimal or incorrectly configured system - graphics will run off the screen or not load right, word wrap will clunk up text, and the page won't look very pretty, certainly not much like the designer intended.  Our decision is a simple one - try to be backwardly compatible but assume that more and more people will have appropriate systems as time goes by. And the truth is, these are conservative standards that will be OK for the next couple of years, but they'll be obsolete too.

    Like we said at the top, here, we shoot for the big middle - where most of us are.

Some Browser Set-Up Suggestions
First, if you're (still) running Windows 3.x, click your System Setup icon, click on Options, and see what video driver you are using. If it's 600x800 (or more) and 16-bit color (Hi-color"), Great.  If it's something like 640x480 with just 16 or 256 colors, then scroll through the list of possible drivers and see if there is one with a higher resolution and/or color depth.  If there is, click on it and see if it's already in your system (it often is).  If it's there, load it.  And - MAGIC! - when you restart Windows, you'll have more screen acreage and a better-looking browser.

The process is similar in Windows 95/98. Click the START button and select Settings and then Control Panel. Once you get to the Control Panel, click on the Display icon and then to the Settings tab (whew!).

Once there you should make sure the the Desktop Area slider is set to at least to 800x600 or more. If it's not, do so. And set the color pallette to at least 256 colors - and preferable more. Once you do that, click OK and restart Win95/98. Your browser will now display pages better than before.  (If the slider won't "stay" where you put it or the and other higher resolutions nare "greyed out," your video card does not support these resolutions.  Sorry!) 

Second, open your browser's Preferences box (it's in different places and may have different names in different brand browsers) and make sure that you click whatever buttons allow the browser to display the web page as received.  And unclick any buttons that force the browser to use your colors or some other default color-set when displaying pages.  After all, what you want to see is what the designer wanted you to see - not some pre-set collection of hues.

(P.S.   If you got here from the Soho Center's Home Page for information about setting your screen drivers, CLICK HERE to get back to the Soho Center's Home Page. 

Or. stay awhile and take a look at what we're doing here at C-NPR.

Animation - or "Time is Money"

    We love movement, we love animation. After all, C-NPR's principals come from the corporate and broadcast video world.  We usually get antsy whenever we produce a video where a scene goes more than 5 or 6 seconds without a cut-away.  So why do our web pages typically avoid dancing ants, buttons that vibrate and move about, large graphic backgrounds, or other such popular items?

    There are a couple of reasons -

  F I R S T    R E A S O N :
Dancing buttons and a lot of the other stuff we see on the Web rarely have much to do with the content of the web site (like, what, really now, do those silly little flashing green LEDs over to the left have to do with this otherwise serious discussion?).  In the video world there's a bad habit (much used by novice clients) that we call "playing switcher games."  That's where someone sees how many video effects they can pack and layer into a show - regardless of whether they help understanding or not.  Logos fly in, letters extrude, images flash and whirl.  Oh, my.

We see a lot of the same lathering on of interesting but largely irrelevant visual elements on the Web.  And we don't much like it.  We assume that a person interested in a particular web site is there to gain information.  And the easier they can get that information, the better.  We feel our job is to build an effective site, not entertain the casual visitor who happens to stumble by.

  S E C O N D    R E A S O N :
The more graphics and animation there is on a web page, the slower the page loads - often a LOT slower.

Some of the problem comes from how pages get built.  You sit with a web designer and you watch your page grow on their screen. Make a change and - PRESTO - up pops the new version.  Trouble is, sitting there with the designer, you benefit from a direct link between the editor's screen, the computer's cache, and the keyboard or mouse. The way your page displays has NOTHING to do with the way it will load out in the real world when that page and all its complex graphics support files squeeze and ooze through even a 56k modem (to say nothing of what happens if the viewer is using 14.4k or even 9,600 baud modem.  And yes, there some of them still out there).

So, Never Any Animation?
    Well . . . No.   We do do what's needed (or what we're asked to do).  After all, it is the client's page.  And even our own On Location! page has a bit of animation (the "On-Air" sign).

    What we try to do in developing animations is to create an animation that is physically small or one that has as few steps in it as possible - or both.  Each of these considerations helps limit the file size of the finished element and that translates directly into how long it takes to download and display in some person's browser out there in what's laughingly referred to as cyber-space.

    The "On-Air" animation, for example, is a simple two-step animation.  We even created it with a master background (the un-lit sign w/box) and then built the second step with only the lit sign field (sans box) positioned properly over the first element.  That saved a few more bytes since the second step didn't have to download the part that the first element (the overall graphic) already put into the browser's cache.

    To see the "On-Air" animation box click here   (And remember to use your browser's BACK button to return!)

    To see yet one more interesting animation we created for one of our client, something we call Fill the Piggy-Bank, click here   (And, again, remember to use your browser's BACK button to return! )

    For the sake of this discussion, we also created a "sand-storm"animation out of the Soho Center's CHILD/2000 logo (which we designed for them).  The effect is somewhat trivial - a logo builds up out of random dots until the whole logo is complete. The effect happens in 20 discrete steps - each of which has to first get to you and your browser. The 20 steps take about 3 minutes to download if you have a 28.8 modem and a good server.  Once it's all loaded it runs repeatedly from your cache.

    To see the Sand Storm Animation effect (and see how much longer something like this to download), click here   (Like before, use your browser's BACK button to return. And, if you get sick of waiting for the whole thing to load, we won't be offended if you hit your browser's STOP Button and come back.)

    To give you a sense of the differences between these two examples, the "On-Air" animation is 29,061 bytes in size and the CHILD/2000 animation is 455,210 bytes.  That makes it about 15 times as big - and (as you now know from the wait) it will take about 15 times as long to download.

    Which gets us back to the point we're making  -  if you wanted a complex animation element on your page, it had better be worth (in this case) 15 times as much - because you're asking your viewer to hang around 15 times as long while your animation is making its way from your server to their browser.

    How We Test What We Do
    We upload everything to our server, clear our system cache, and call up the site we're building.  It's a sobering thing to see what the rest of the world has to put up with to get to the "jewels" - it's something more designers and more clients ought to do.

    Here at C-NPR we get to the web with a very standard Hewlett-Packard 266 mHz Pentium II machine with 64 MB of RAM, a 3Com 56k modem (that only runs at 45.3k because of our rural phone service), and both Netscape Communicator (Version 4.74) and Internet Explorer 5.x browsers.  There are sites whose home pages take over three minutes to load - and we have a fast server!   If that's the sort of site you want to build, OK - but you better hope your potential visitor REALLY wants to see what you have to say - and forget snagging the casual drop-by.

    More thoughts some time soon . . . 


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