How to design for a computer other than your own

When working on a multimedia project on one computer, it is easy to forget that are millions of different computers with a variety of browsers, screen sizes and connection speeds that will all access the same project. If the project’s screen size is too large, the computer color is not calibrated correctly, or even if it has one too many photos, it will cause many viewers to not access it correctly. Even if the project is designed perfectly and has been meticulously edited, remember the words of Douglas Adams:

“A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

Luckily there are some great web tools that will help turn out impeccably designed and well-coded projects that are accessible and viewable to as many internet visitors as possible. But first, here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

A lot of journalists/designers like to use Firefox for internet-related activities for a multitude of reasons, most notably because websites tend to look better on the browser. However only about 25 percent of total internet users use Firefox and an approximate 70 percent are using Internet Explorer, according to W3Counter. Anyone who has been designing online for any period of time, knows that the chances of IE highlighting every flaw in a project’s design are much higher than in Firefox. And even though the majority of internet users are using one of the two browsers, there is still that small percentage who may make up a larger percentage of your viewership.

That’s where Browsershots comes in. The site will display what your website looks like in different browsers, which is helpful in making sure nothing is awry. The site requires registration and charges a fee after 24 hours of free usage. Also interesting is this timeline of the rise and fall of various internet browsers.

Now about the screen you’re reading right now. Is the swatch below red or magenta? Rose maybe? Or how about garnet? If you’re selecting colors for your website, there’s one way to make sure the color you want is the color your visitor see. Use the color checker from to calibrate your screen and make sure all your colors and photos are looking their best (the color is crimson by the way).

So you’ve checked your browser and the site looks great. But are all those photos and video slowing down the load time? Most newsrooms are equipped with high-speed internet access so its easy to fall into the trap that every computer is as fast as the one you’re using, but often it’s not so.

A U.S. internet connectivity study shows that nearly 70 percent of internet users are equipped with broadband, but that still leaves 30 percent who are using modems or some other connection device. To make sure you aren’t bogging down millions of computers, try using Pingdom’s loading tool, which will measure how long its going take for your project or site to load, plus how many components make up the page. If the site is loading slowly, consider moving or removing large images and videos. For more information on internet connectivity, check out Internet World Stats.

The key to good design is to remember that you are not your only visitor and that be assured that no design is foolproof.