Visitors experience your site in different ways depending on their browsers, connection speed, and preferences. Don't let hastily published content ruin their experience. This checklist will help you ensure that new changes to your site don't change it for the worse.

Inspect your graphics

Look at each page with graphics turned ON and with graphics turned OFF (available through the Options menu of your browser). Can you easily determine how to navigate in either mode? Are the pages effective in either format? Do what you can to play to both kinds of Web user.

Inspect your images again

Images mean bandwidth, and bandwidth means time. Have you done everything you can to optimize your images? Leaner images don't necessarily mean lower quality or smaller size. Use these tools available online for ensuring lean and effective images:

  • GIF Optimizer
    Online utility that will optimize your GIF- and JPEG-format images, often reducing them 30%-50% in file size without loss of image quality
  • Webreference: Optimizing Web Graphics
    A tutorial on optimizing images for the Web - providing high image quality using smaller file size and bandwidth needs. Includes discussion about dithering, "safe colors," and more.

Check how your site looks in all browsers

Many users swear by Netscape 3.04, though it's out of date; others use Internet Explorer 3.02. Some techno-rebels might be using Opera, Lynx, or Mosaic. It's important that your Web site look as expected in all browsers. If you can, install multiple browsers on your computer, or use a friend's computer to test how your pages look and function for all browsers, and fix what doesn't work (you may have to abandon the fancy stuff).

Check how your site looks at all monitor resolutions

Not all monitors are the same, and plenty of Web users are still using older screens that display only at a 640 x 480 resolution (640 pixels wide and 480 pixels high). In fact, this may include you! Examine your pages using a variety of screen resolutions to see how your visitors might experience your site. These are the most common resolutions:

640 x 480 Older monitors, usually no more than 14"
800 x 600 Older monitors, 14" to 17"
1,024 x 768 Newer monitors, 15" to 19"
1,280 x 1,024 High-end monitors, 17"+ (uncommon)

You can set the resolution of your monitor lower, but generally you cannot set the resolution higher - attempting to do so can cause problems. In Windows 95 or 98, choose "Settings" from the start menu and then choose "Display" to adjust your screen resolution. On a Mac, choose "Monitors" from the Control Panel on your Apple Menu.

Check how your site looks on several types of computer operating systems

Not everyone uses Windows (close, but not all). If you have the opportunity, take a look at your pages on an Apple Mac if you developed your content on a PC, or on a PC if you usually use a Mac. Cross-platform issues are especially important if your pages use any elements beyond standard HTML; CGI scripts, Java, databases, and other dynamic elements can cause serious problems across platforms. And these operating systems are not alone - Unix, Linux, and other operating systems may matter to your business; college students using their campus mainframe computers often arrive at your site in a Unix "X-Window" browser.

Check the functionality of your behind-the-scenes structure

If you've installed programming bells and whistles on your site, test them thoroughly. Scripting and programming bugs can not only fail to work, they can prevent visitors from seeing anything else on your site as well.

  • Programs and Scripts
    Triple-check your CGI, JavaScript, VBScript, and any other dynamic elements, using different browsers and, if possible, operating systems.
  • Image Maps
    Check each link in your image maps. Under certain circumstances, they may break at different screen resolutions.
  • Tables
    Check how your tables affect other content, especially as the browser window is resized. In certain circumstances, tables hide adjacent text.
  • MAILTO: Links
    If you have installed "MAILTO:" links, remember that not everyone can use them. Include the email address in the text as well.

Check the fit and finish of your Web site

Ask yourself what "little" things might hurt your users' experience. What will they find irritating? What might cause them to leave prematurely or deter them from going more deeply? Little mistakes send users surfing somewhere else. If you can see a problem, it will probably annoy others.

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