I have a bright idea that I don't have the resources to try. [Yeah, and who doesn't?] What's the funnest thing about web design? Seeing your work go to hell on different OS/browser combinations.

Who here hasn't popped a neck muscle stressing out on that one? If your hand isn't raised, then leave now -- you're not a designer and you don't care about the rest of this column.

The bright idea: Make a computer farm of all the popular OS/browser combinations, attach them to a darn good server, then put a form on the web with an entry field for URL and a bunch of check boxes. So when I'm working on a site, I can load in the address, click some options, and bing: I get screenshots of all the OS/browser/resolution combinations I asked for. Sweet!

So... good hosts for something like this [ie, an outfit that cares] tend not to have money. A List Apart, for example. Even though such a site could run designer-specific banner ads, that's not going to do more than pay the net connection. This needs serious corporate sponsorship. Apple, perhaps? They did give the Fashionable Young Men at k10k those nice G3s in exchange for an icon. And k10k is the exactly the sort of respectable independent who could endorse the initial set-up, while the hardware would sit as part of the benevolent-megacorporation's own server farm, and so utilize existing admin staff.

Can we get some discussion on this idea? Not here: I don't get the traffic. Take it home to your preferred designers' coven and toss it around.

My detailed thoughts are: Set a minimum market-use percentage for an OS, browser, or resolution to be included. I'd love to have everything but there are actually a hell of a lot of combinations once you start looking. Keep the minimum just low enough to embrace emerging systems. Like Linux/Mozilla should be included, certainly, but not Lynx on a Mac Classic. New web systems like WAP should be considered, and WebTV, and a number of Transmeta-type portables we're probably going to start seeing within a year.

And when I say all combinations above that minimum, I mean all combinations. Here's an odd thing I did not believe: Win95 and Win98, on the same machine, with the same font file, using the same version of MSIE 5.01, had different interpretations of font sizing. When I last upgraded I found my morning blog reads had a much wider range from small to large. Suddenly Zeldman had the too-tiny-to-read look that so many people had complained about ...what the heck? I really don't want to know why this is. But now that I do know yet another Ugly Little Problem exists, I suggest the farm doesn't just run a "WinX" choice, but the full 95/98/00. Let's be thorough. Evidently there are more bugs between heaven and earth than dreamt of even in Redmond.

This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 10 June 2000