The design of an HTML page is truly user dependent. End user factors such as operating system, browser, coding elements, speeds, security settings, etc. regularly affect the design of webpages. Taking this into account how can you truly assure that the user or learner is receiving the intended message or instruction? I would like to say that you can’t… unless the instruction is an image or PDF that is easily viewable by the end user. Although something as simple as a PDF can have its issues as well.
Can a needs analysis even be conducted to obtain such user information for your web content? The problem is not getting some stats it is how you would obtain the stats before you put the content out on the web because these stats are specific to your user. But it is these stats that should influence your design!
You can look at resources like http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/ but again, this is stats for their site. And think about the users who would be going to a site such as this.
So what can we do? I believe we can in theory apply the following principles to the pages we design but also assume an ideal learner or common user. The design of a page is dependent on importance, specificity, order, and inheritance.
- Importance depends on the source or the design e.g., the design for a specific page, browser customizations, and a browser’s default.
- Specificity deals with how specific a rule in the CSS selector is. These need to be specific.
- Order has to do with conflicts between two or more declarations which apply to the same element in the code. When this happens the browser must select source order.
- Inheritance is where code inherits properties from their “parent” tags, but these can also be overwritten.
But seriously, what can we do? Hope for unified browsers and HTML5 compatibility. In a better world, HTML5 can make the coding simpler and easier to read which can help designers hopefully assure the messages or instruction that their end users receive.