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Web Design with AOL and WebTV in Mind

Aug 17, 2007
Will it be important to your business to include AOL and WebTV in your web design strategy? If you believe so, then you will find the following web design points very handy when designing for each one.

Designing for AOL users:

- By default, all AOL clients are provided with Internet Explorer. Therefore, that will be the browser that your design will need to cater to. You'll need to make sure that everything on your site is IE compatible.

- AOL utilizes a proxy cache in order to accomplish traffic reduction. This means that whenever the first AOL user accesses your website, AOL will save a copy of your page. Then, the next time another AOL user attempts to access this same page - within the same twenty four hours - AOL will provide them with the cached version, not necessarily the most recent version on your server. If you have changed your page within the last day, then all subsequent visitors within that twenty-four hour period will not see the most recent version. To compensate for this issue, you'll need to include HTTP cache-control headers in your coding to create expiration dates for each of the pages on your website.

- AOL's default setting is to compress images. To work around this, be sure to encourage your AOL-using visitors to turn off their image compression options. This is quite simple to accomplish in AOL, by going to the Internet Properties dialog box.

- Your pages should be kept simple so that minimal scrolling is required on your website. Also, make certain that your sites aren't any wider than 625 pixels so that your users won't be required to scroll horizontally, either.

Designing for WebTV users:

- A WebTV screen is 544 pixels wide, while its height is 372 pixels. Though vertical scrolling is possible, any pages that are over 544 pixels wide will be automatically scaled to fit the screen. In order to accommodate an automatic reduction in resolution, you should specify your table widths in terms of percentages, instead of pixels. Fixed tables will be restricted by WebTV by either compressing or wrapping them to a size that it can use. This includes any graphics on your page. Furthermore, because of the reformatting of tables by WebTV, image slicing may not display correctly at all.

- The WebTV additionally automatically converts any frames into tables. This means that any static elements of a frame that are seen in a browser will not stay static if a scrollbar is present. Furthermore, the "back" buttons won't work properly.

- Users of WebTV browsers are capable of changing their font sizes to the way they like them by using their preferences to choose from small, medium, or large. The only font types they'll be able to see, though, are Helvetica and Monaco. When viewed on television, website backgrounds usually work best when they're dark colors with light colored text.

- Some navigation issues faced by WebTV users are that they don't use a mouse to navigate. Their links are surrounded by selection boxes which may be selected by using the arrows on the remote control, or with a keyboard.

- The title of the page, located in the title bar, will be shortened to a maximum of 35 total characters. Therefore, to avoid having essential parts of your title cut off, keep its character total to 35 or less.

- As the technology for television screens is different from that of a computer monitor, when it comes to generating images, the result will be less sharpness and clarity on the TV screen. White backgrounds and any areas with a great deal of yellow or red will result in distortion or blotchiness on the page.

- Forms can work with WebTV as long as they're kept simple, using clean HTML code. Flash 1 and ColdFusion will also work well, but you will likely run into problems if you try to use SSL, CCI, ASP, and other server-based technologies. PDF files and Java applets are a write-off for WebTV users.
About the Author
Mark is the director and face behind 15Degrees-North , One of UK's most successfull Affordable Web Design companies. Where you will find articles and resources to help with Search Engine Optimisation, Marketing and Web design.
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