WPDFD Issue #13 - April 01, 1999

Some very interesting facts emerged from the Web Page Design for Designers Survey. With well over five thousand responses so far, it shows that readers of this site are predominantly graphics designers, a disproportionate number of them use Macintosh computers and they prefer Netscape as their primary browser. However, general Web surfers tend to use Windows machines and recent figures show that Microsoft Internet Explorer has overtaken Netscape in the browser market.


By far, the most obvious difference between Mac and Windows Web page is the size of fonts. Any font size specified on a Mac will turn out at least 33% bigger on a Windows machine, but the GIFs and JPEGs stay the same size. When the font size increases by 33% the lines wrap differently and blocks of text take up more room on the page. Unlike print design, where 10 point type is always 10 point type, a Web surfer has the option to set whatever default size and font they like, so Mac/PC differences apart, it is not a good idea to assume that the type size that you see on your machine is what your reader will be seeing.


You may have been told that graphics appear darker on a PC than on a Mac. This is only a half-truth. The colors in the Web palette are 20% steps of Red, Green and Blue and are shown in the chart opposite. Ideally, you should see five shades of each color, the sixth, (0%) is black in each case. If the 20% shade of each colour looks black too, then the monitor is not responding in a visibly linear fashion.

Browser Differences

With the ability to change default font sizes in a browser and to change the gamma with GammaToggleFKEY, it is fairly easy to simulate a PC browsing environment on a Mac screen, but wait, the differences between Mac and PC versions of Netscape and MsIE are even more of a headache and you can't so easily simulate those. You either need to have a real PC or a Windows emulator like SoftWindows or VirtualPC.

If the browser differences are not bad enough, when it comes to extending them with JavaScript, Java, DHTML, CSS and various plug-ins, the gap widens even further. JavaScript implementation in the version 3 browsers is quite different. Not just the previously mentioned rollovers but all kinds of things to do with basic form handling can work in one browser and not the other. Java is just about unusable on the Mac, it's not too hot with Windows NT either.

Gamma Toggle FKEY

Usually, I try to keep reviews non-platform specific but as this month's editorial is biased towards Mac users anyway, this review will be of more interest to them. If anyone knows of a similar product for PCs, please let me know. If you work in both print and Web design you need to adjust your monitor gamma differently for each situation. The default Mac gamma of 1.8 gives a fairly accurate preview of how a picture will look on a printed page and assumes that there will be a slight 'dot gain' as the ink spreads a little on each halftone dot.