Less than 1%

7 May 2004


A Blue Perspective: Less than 1%

In my role as part of an awards body it's been my pleasure to award some great sites, and read the ensuing discussion from likeminded developers or detractors alike. But one thing I can't get over is how some people take delight in highlighting an error that occurs in less than 1% of browsing situations, and negatively react to a site because of it.

I don't know one site that I couldn't "break" if I really put my mind to it. Images on, images off; javascript on, javascript off; css on, css off; page width 300 pixels, page width 1,600 pixels. Introduce browser versions and operating systems and the number of different combinations that are possible reaches well into the thousands. The number of different combinations that are likely is much less. When developing a site – or anything for that matter – you always have to keep in mind who's going to be using it, and work accordingly.

As a general rule, I would say that a non-critical bug (something which does not prevent someone from using the site) that affects less than 1% of people who visit your site is not worth pulling your hair out over. Of course, if that particular 1% is the key demographic for which you're aiming, then you have problems, but that would be a matter for re-consideration of who your target group is, not a reason to change the rule.

With the real-life exigencies of time and budget, you have to pick your goals carefully, and the best way to do this is with real data. Find out the statistics, circle your targets, and move ahead.


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  1. 1/3

    Brad commented on 7 May 2004 @ 11:39

    Of course I agree, and think that some perspective is in order for the designers who think that total compliance and perfection are must-haves.

    The beauty of alot of the sites the Web Standards Awards present are that they are commercial sites which have been rendered with accessibility and web-standards in mind. That's not the problem. The problem to my mind is that people forget that these sites are working on a budget and to a deliverables date: they're commercial projects. Look what happened to Netscape when it tried to pursue a moving target such as perfection: it took 2 years to bring out one browser and had all but lost the browser wars.

    We need to remember that sometimes "good enough" is actually good enough. That the effort is being made speaks volumes for those evangelists trying to make the web a better place and their tireless efforts to re-educate the community.

    So I guess, in short, I agree with you. :P

  2. 2/3

    Mike P. commented on 7 May 2004 @ 18:46

    "With the real-life exigencies of time and budget, you have to pick your goals carefully, and the best way to do this is with real data. Find out the statistics, circle your targets, and move ahead."

    Nice to see someone acknowledging this!

    We all know it's true, but sometimes we're looking so hard at our own bb's that we forget this.

    As Brad says, commercial projects, on a budget, on a timeline.

    http://www.travelocity.com is a good example of a site that is trying to get it right. When they first launched, there were knocks given in some circles because the sites navigation failed in Opera and IE5 mac (failing to declare a width on a floated ul). It's since been fixed.

    This happens, I'm sure they didn't want it to, but more often it comes down to budgets, timelines and whims of those above us.

  3. 3/3

    Unearthed Ruminator commented on 7 May 2004 @ 21:45

    It always ends up coming down to what's good enough. For myself, if it looks acceptable in a Mozilla based browser, IE (Windows), Opera, and Safari, that's good enough for me (although I also test without stylesheets (in Opera and/or Firefox with the totally useful Web Developer extension) to make certain that the site structure works well and is usable).

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