The Web Design Group presents:

"This page optimized for ..."
- arguing with customers -

You probably have seen it hundreds of times: You follow a link and and arrive at the opening page of the site. The people who have designed that page are probably paid for doing so, and one should expect that they try to raise your interest in their site and to have as wide a readership as possible.

And the first thing that renders on your screen is "Best viewed with Netscape Navigator and 800x600", in big, bright yellow letters on a white background. You can't read it, because you have disabled image loading, so you manually load images to read the message.

The first time this happens, you actually believe it: "There must be a reason why Netscape Navigator on 800x600 pixels is best for this site", you think, resizing your window. Usually, if you know a bit about HTML, the second time you don't believe it anymore.

There are some reasons why you should not optimize your site for a particular setup, let alone demand that your visitors adjust their setup.

Table of contents

Why this is a bad idea

There is a saying in marketing (at least in Germany): No one has ever won an argument with a customer. Visitors to your site are your customers, and if you tell them their configuration is not right, you are arguing.

Basically, you are telling people "you are using the wrong system". This is rude. People are using the systems they use for a good reason. If you demand the newest Netscape version, you are telling NextStep users to go play elsewhere. If you demand certain plug-ins, you are telling all people who are not using Microsoft Windows to bugger off. If you use extensive graphics without ALT tags, your site is not a pleasure at all to people connected via modem. Can you imagine what your boss will say if you are being rude to customers? Most of the time, the site owner is the customer of the site designer, and visitors are customers of the site owner, not of the site designer. Thus, there is no real need for the site designer to care for the visitors. He argues with other people's customers. For the customers, however, it looks like the site owner is arguing. And, as customers usually do, they will react accordingly.

Most of the time, the whole warning message is not really necessary. It seems as if so-called web designers think they are not being trendy if they don't use the latest extensions, and to show how cool they are, they put this warning on the front page. Some even put it on every page of the site. On many of these sites, there is nothing that could not be viewed with any other graphical browser. Others could even be viewed with lynx, if only the "designer" had not been too lazy to include ALT texts. To state this clearly: If you say "this site optimized for XYZ", this does not say "I am hip and use the latest in technology", but it says "I am either too lazy or too incompetent to design a proper site, but I think it looks cool with XYZ using my setup". I have seen lots of sites. Probably, you have seen lots of them, too. I have seen not a single site that says "for XYZ browsers only" or "you need XYZ for this site" where this made sense. Did you see such a site? There are sites that say "If you want to hear the audio (or view the video), you need XYZ", which makes sense, but sites that simply claim "you need" either are not worth visiting at all or could quite easily be changed to be enjoyable with other browsers.

Even if a site can only be viewed with a certain browser: The only thing this "XYZ only" warning can accomplish is to keep people off your site. This is not what you want, is it? If so, just shut down your site. Usually, people will not install the software that you demand just to view your site. If I visit your site, I will not even adjust my font size. You can argue that most other people are not like me, but you can't prove that, and, even more important, you are arguing with a potential customer.

Last but not least: If your site can not be viewed with text-only browsers, this means blind people can not read it. There are pages that simply can not prepared for text-only browsers. There is also information that can not be prepared for text-only browsers. (A city plan, for example.) But I bet your information is not of that type.


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