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      What kind of computer do you have? A Pentium III at 1 GHz, 512 MB of memory, a 21" screen and a T1 connection to the internet? Smoking! Such a computer is very useful to set up and test a web site. You can run several programs simultaneously. Everything will run swiftly. The colors will be bright and beautiful in 16.7 million colors or more. Photos will be razor sharp at 1600x1200 resolution.
    Few people may consider themselves very lucky to be able to work on such a machine. For the average user this is however not the case. It will be very costly to keep your system up to date. Most people don't have the money to do this. If they have it, they often will not waste it on this. Often they will have to content themselves with a system of a previous generation. Probably a second hand or a left-off from their employer.
    Keep this in mind while designing your site. The more advanced the computer you use to design it, the less people will have a similar system. The simpler you make your design, the less people will have problems viewing your site. Ask yourself what is more important. Your site looking perfect on a limited number of computers? Or as many people as possible seeing a somewhat less flashy site.
    This has major consequences. To reach as many people as possible, you will have to consider a basic system configuration. You'll have to consider the software running on such a system. Keep in mind other systems than yours. A kind of lowest common denominator. The more you digress from this, the less people will see your site the way you planned it.
    The majority of computers have a Windows operating system running on an Intel processor based hardware. Most of them will be able to display a standard VGA screen. This is an image of 640x480 pixels, at 256 colors. Macintosh screens may even be somewhat smaller. Most monitors have a tube measuring 14 or 15 inches. A higher resolution makes no sense on such a monitor: characters will be to small to be readable.
    Almost every internet connection will be via a modem. Most current computers will have a 56k modem, some ISDN, ADSL or cable modems. But several of your visitors may have older systems, with only 28k8 modems, or even a 14k4. Think about third world countries, or China, India, Russia. Do you want those visitors to be able to view your site? Or can you afford to live without them?
    Make sure your site will look well on a minimal configuration. If you have a better monitor, take the effort to set it to 256 colors at a 640x480 resolution. Microsoft made a free Quickres utility, which will enable you to do this without restarting your computer. If you have a faster connection, set to 14.400 bps. Or you could ask a friend to view your site with such a modem.
    You will regularly encounter Java applets on the Web. Several operating systems will not be able to use these, since there are no appropriate browsers. As we speak only Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer will be able to do this. And only Explorer will do ActiveX. Often limited to Windows 9x or NT. You may wonder if it's wise to use these applets. If you make your site partly dependent on them, you will exclude a part of your visitors from viewing your site..
    Not every plugin will work with every operating system. Only the browsers mentioned above will be able to use them. People may lack the knowledge to install them, or just don't want to use them. Don't make your site dependent on them. If you use plugins, at least make a link to enable your visitors to download them.
    Some browsers will not be able to display frames. If you use frames, make a set of pages without frames. Or use the NOFRAMES tag to enable frames challenged browsers. Always enable your visitors to choose both options on your home page. Add a menu to the sub pages in your frames. They will be a dead end for frameless browsers if you don't.
    When using large graphics, make a set of pages with less or smaller images. You could consider making a set of text only pages. Browsers like Lynx will only display text without graphics, tables or frames. If you want to show photographs to your visitors, make an index page with thumbnails of them, and mention their file size next to them.
    Don't just do everything that is possible, but keep general limitations in mind. Only then you will be able to design a good site. A site that will be accessible to anyone or at least almost everyone. How you do this is a major topic on this site.
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