If you "optimize" your site for a particular Browser, this really means it is "optimized" for a particular Browser with a particular setup. In order to give you an idea of how diverse users and their setups are out there, I will describe some of my own browser configurations here. If you think you already know that this is a wide world, just skip it.
The configuration that many so-called "Web-Designers" assume is: Latest version Netscape on a 800x600 true-colour screen under Windows 95 with ShockWave, TrueAudio, Video for Windows and Quicktime VR installed, font size 12 for Times New Roman and 10 for Courier New, image loading enabled, accepting cookies, connected via a T1 line. What they usually say is "This site best viewed with Netscape and 800x600". Note that my first configuration fits this description.
My second configuration is: Lynx 2.4.2 on an AIX rs/6000 system, connected via a vt220 emulation, black text on white background, vi keys enabled.
I do not install browser software myself on any of those systems, so I simply can not "download a REAL browser [tm]". There are sites where I do load images and accept their colour settings, but I have seen sites where you'd better not do that (see examples section).
Like me, many people customize their font sizes to fit their needs. Usually, the standard font sizes are just to small. Therefore, saying a page is "optimized for 800x600" is absolutely pointless if the page consists mostly of text or if image loading is disabled.
People either change their font size to be well readable in a fully maximized window, or they change it to be well readable in their normal window size, which is 400x600 for me. Your page can look totally different with different font sizes and different window sizes. Your information can become unreadable.
The customized font size will especially lead to problems if you uses frames or tables with absolute width or height: If these contain text, it will not be readable. There are sites that have frames with absolute dimensions that are not scrollable and contain text. Now, if my standard text size is bigger than assumed, I will not be able to read that text. This leads to the conclusion that you should at most specify one dimension in terms of pixels if the table or the frame contain text. Every frame that contains text should be scrollable. Even then, long words lead to problems.
Images take time to load. Most images on the WWW are not worth
it. Therefore, many users disable image autoloading. (If they
want to wait, they'll go to the bus stop, not to your site, because
waiting for the bus does not cost them money.) Your wonderfully
looking site may look like crap then. Or it may still look good.
It depends on you, and there is no reason to stick with the crap.
To start with, it is usually a bad idea to put text into images.
"index page" are only a few bytes, but if you put it
into an image, it's a few KB, and the
IMG tag is
a few bytes. If you choose to do it in spite of my advise, at
least include an
ALT attribute. It's easy, and maybe
you make some of your potential customers happy by doing so.
If you provide no
ALT attributes for images, you
are not only hurting lynx users who can not display inline images.
You are hurting yourself: Those who have image loading disabled
will now need to load the image, because there is no
attribute. The time they spend waiting could be spent better looking
at the information that you provide. This is OK if the image is
part of that information. But if the image is only your logo or
some text put into GIF, an
ALT attribute would have
made better use of customer time.
Additional to the
ALT text, for users that have image
loading disabled, you should also provide a background colour
in your body tag that is close to the colour of your background
image (if any).
Yes, there are users out there that stick to their own colours for viewing your page. And yes, they do have good reasons to do so: They might be using a B/W screen, or they might be frequently visiting sites that use blue colour for normal text (you don't, do you?), or they might be colour blind, e.g. they can not distinguish green from red, or they are tired of background images that make the text hard to read (like I am). They are still your visitors, your customers, and you should make your pages delightful for them, because you want their attention, their money, their feedback. This means:
<FONT COLOR=...>tags, because this might accidentally be their background colour, or may not be distinguishable from that on a B/W screen or to a colour blind eye.
BODYtag, you have to provide all colours: Background, link, followed link, active link, foreground text. You also have to provide all colours if you mention a background image in your
BODYtag. Your background colour should be close to the colour of your background image. You have to specify both in case the user has disabled image autoloading.
This is not a matter of display, but of functionality: There are
not only browsers that don't support cookies, there are also users
with browsers that support cookies who disable them. There are
several ways to do so. One way is (for Netscape under UNIX) to
link the cookies file to
/dev/null. Users might also
configure their Proxy server to strip all cookies. So if your
shopping cart application depends on cookies, perhaps I should
switch to your competitor who uses CGI with GET methods, validates
his HTML according to the HTML 3.2 DTD and supports even lynx.
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