Audience Limitations

by Jason Vaughn

This lesson is designed to help you get a better understanding of audience limitations on the Internet. In this lesson, you will learn about audience monitor sizes, what type of browsers and plug-ins are being used and what problems exist. You will also learn about bandwidth and who may or may not have a high-speed connection.

Monitor sizes

Today's Web surfers have larger monitors ranging from 15-21 inches in size or larger. A few years ago, 14 inch monitors set at 640 x 480 resolution came with most computer systems, but today, most computer systems come standard with a 15-inch or 17-inch monitor set at 800 x 600 resolution or higher allowing a larger view area.

When designing your Web site, consider the range of audience you're targeting. For example, if you want those who have 14-inch monitors to be able to view your site as well as someone with a larger monitor. To do so, you would need to set your site goals to the smallest view area. This creates minimal scrolling to the left or right of your Web page as well as keeping most of your important information above the fold. "Above the fold" is a newspaper term that relates to all the information existing above the fold in the center of the page. Usually this information contains the top stories or hot information since it is what the audience sees first. Therefore your most valuable information should be as much above the fold as possible. However, 14-inch monitors set a 640 x 480 have a very limited view area. This is due mostly to the browser window. Most users have no idea how to adjust their browser window palettes, so most users settings are set at default allowing a limited view area (see graphic below).

640 x 480 (14-inch monitor)


Notice in the graphic above that the browser cuts off a quarter of the design and doesn't allow for much content to show above the fold. See the graphic below for a view of an 800 x 600 view of the same site.

To be able to target every single possible user, then you must design your site around these limitations. Even without the view problems, you may want to design your site with a smaller width in mind. Not every site has to be big and cover the entire screen.

800 x 600 (15-inch monitor)


Always keep in the back of your mind that you will not make every user happy. There are too many variables in users' settings. Stick with today's standards and adjust when necessary to fit your target audience.

Monitor View areas

Now that you understand monitor sizes, you will need to know the view area. The view area is the window that houses the design elements. For example, you have an 800 x 600 / 15-inch monitor; your browser will take up a portion of this window only allowing for a 760 x 420 page view. If you were working with a 14-inch monitor set a 640 x 480, your page view area is 600 x 300. The browser window really takes up a large area (see graphic below).



Types of Browsers and their problem

There are two major brands of browsers on the market, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Each browser views pages differently including font sizes as well as tables and frames. When designing a Web site, it is best to view your site with both browsers. Working with your HTML code, you can sometimes fix your problems that a WYSIWYG program may not automatically do for you. Some WYSIWYG programs such as Dreamweaver, allow you to check for errors in code on your site in older browsers and new browsers. Some browsers will not support certain tags and some will not support certain Java scripting. Most new browsers work fine with most design and programming issues. But it's always a good idea to preview in both browsers before getting too involved in your site.

Plug-ins and who has them

Over 80% of users worldwide have the Flash plug-in installed on their computer. When designing a Web site that is using Flash animation, keep in mind who has the most recent plug-in or who doesn't. Many of today's Web surfers have no problem downloading plug-ins, as long as its simple and easy for them.

Offer your audience a way to download the plug-in or offer them an alternative, such as an HTML site with no Flash. Be careful when doing this, you can give yourself a real headache when it comes time to update two sites instead of one.


Many Internet users have high-speed connections, but many users are using a dial-up account that is supporting speeds up to 56K. When designing your site you need to support those without high speed Internet access. If your site is supporting video and audio, more of your audience will be using DSL or cable to access your site.

If your graphics are too large then your visitors will leave your site. Optimize your images to the lowest possible size without sacrificing too much quality. Your average user will wait 10 to 12 seconds for the majority of the page to load. If the page is taking too long, they will leave.

Know your audience and understand their limitations. Design your site according to your users. Some may have a fast connection and others a slow connection. Research your audience carefully and know what you will have to sacrifice in order to reach your audience effectively.


Article posted with permission from:
Art Space Design