Reaching your Audience

Creators of web sites constantly seek the right balance point in their use of HTML. Some sites take a lowest-common-denominator approach to ensure equal access even to users of Lynx, a text-mode browser. Others adventurously exploit dynamic HTML, catering to users of the latest browsers from Netscape or Microsoft (but not both at the same time!). The most advanced sites deploy browser-detection scripts that adapt to the capabilities of each client. It’s hard enough for professional webmasters to stay on top of this complex and fluid situation. Authors of informal newsgroup postings can’t afford to spend time thinking about this stuff. Here are some guidelines to help you use HTML in the most inclusive way:

The Lowest Common Denominator Is Pretty Good

Even if you set the bar fairly low—say at the level of the 3.x Netscape or Microsoft browsers—your postings can communicate far more effectively than if you reject HTML entirely and stick with line-oriented text. The lowest common denominator includes labeled hyperlinks, tables, font control, and attached images. In practice almost all the benefit of HTML messaging flows from the ability to use just these core features.

Pick a Standard Browser

On some intranets, either Netscape’s or Microsoft’s browser is considered the standard. It’s not necessary to choose one, especially if you stick to the lowest common denominator. But it can be helpful. HTML authoring is new to many people. With a standard newsreader/composer—and ...

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