A resolution for Webmasters to follow

If the e-mail comments I receive are an indicator, many people are still

using small monitors and don't appreciate having to scroll left and right

to view information on a Web page.

As their frustration level rises, some users take advantage of the handy

"Contact Us" e-mail link and unload on the Webmaster.

The simple message: Use the 640 by 480 resolution.

Government technicians often use a higher-resolution setting — 600 by

800 resolution is a popular choice. Although that and higher settings can

satisfy specialized needs, it doesn't always accommodate the general user.

One of the best things Webmasters and designers can do is provide a

public-use site structured for 640 by 480 resolution. It can reduce user

frustration and encourage them to return to your site again. The 640 by

480 setting also provides for a larger print size, helpful to those whose

eyesight may need a boost.

Even as technology usage continues to balloon, Web designers must keep

in mind that not everyone uses a computer to its full capabilities.

A case in point is the basic search engine. Some members of the public

have told me that such a feature is too complicated to use. So asking people

to change their screen resolution setting may be way beyond what they want

to do — or are able to figure out.

Most people have a very focused interest and use computers to acquire

a limited set of information. Government Web designers should understand

and accommodate the utilitarian nature of users' needs.

As people become more familiar with computers and the Internet, they

will likely develop the desire to experiment and to expand their abilities.

But new users continue to enter the system and need help.

Powell is the Agriculture Department's Internet and intranet Webmaster.


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