Analyse the Demographic
Graphic-intensive sites with animation can certainly be attention-grabbing, but the benefit is lost on folks who need to wait for the delivery of those graphics. It is important to assess the capabilities of the delivery mechanism. Putting this another way -- can you expect the large majority of your visitors to have a broadband connection to the Internet? Even if the answer is "yes", you may still have to offer some fall-back to those less able.
More sites today are coming to rely on back-end facilities − e.g. Databases, Server-side scripting. For commercial sites, it is very important to have an in-depth understanding of the customer-base, and a means of communication with them. Blogs are quite popular at present as a means of assessing customer sentiment.
Server-side scripting is important from a security perspective. In this Spam-riddled environment, scripting provides a means to receive emails without actually exposing an email address. In addition, server-side scripting is essential when preparing data to load into the database. This should NOT be done on the client-side, as it is totally open to abuse and easily bypassed.
The delay in delivering content to a Browser has two main components − the rate of data transfer from the host, and the transfer rate from the ISP to the User. A web-site builder has full control over how the site-data is transferred to the Internet, and virtually no control between the Internet and User. For low-profile sites, the bandwidth and amount of traffic is of little concern. If you are creating a site that you intend to be popular, or with high-volume content, then the capabilities of the host come into play.
Adobe's Flash/Shockwave plug-in is the de facto standard for delivering animated graphics to the Browser. Over 90% of Browsers have Flash available, but some of the more canny web-surfers have figured out that a better experience is provided by just selectively enabling Flash. Over-use of animation will inevitably lead to visitor resistance − err on the side of caution when deciding on an animated site.
Benefiting from Standards
At Gendec Design, we code to W3C web-standards, and then apply Browser-specific CSS code to cater for variations across Browsers. In future, we expect to see these variations decreasing. The next version of the Internet-Explorer Browser is promising to include a switch that will distinguish between sites that support the open standard, and those legacy sites that rely on Browser specifics.
Ideally, the technology should be irrelevant to the design of a web-site. However, there are certain constraints that cannot be ignored, particularly when trying to target the whole spectrum of web users.
To build a web-site for viewing on ninety percent of the Browsers in use today, is relatively straight forward. Covering the rest can be a nightmare. In an earlier section, we stated "Bland is Best". When it comes to the technical aspects of a site, this is also applicable. The more simple a site is, the more likely it is to display on all Browsers without problems.