The easiest solution to support diverse content formats for various browser types is to offer hyperlinks to the other content formats of a web page. If your web site's visitor has retrieved a web page in the wrong format, (s)he may select a hyperlink to retrieve the appropriate format.
Even if it is an easy solution, a wrong format with unusual rendering may irritate a visitor or may lead to unnecessary costs.
A visitor has requested an XHTML Basic web page in an Internet Explorer for Pocket PC, because he has found this web page via a search engine. The browser presents the XML declaration at the top of the page. A visitor may not be familiarized with these data.
A visitor has requested a full-featured HTML 4.01 Strict web page using a Palmscape browser. The web page comprises a lot of elements and attributes that the Palmscape cannot render. Since the web page has been transmitted over a wireless packet network with volume-based charges, the visitor must pay for unnecessary data. In order to browse through the web site's low-volume and textual version, the visitor needs to send a second request to retrieve the text version.
Another disadvantage of the manual selection method is its advanced maintenance expenditure keeping the hyperlinks between the diverse versions up to date. If you would provide only two versions like one for full-featured browsers and one text version for all other browser types, then you can reduce the expenditure to a minimum. The version for full-featured browsers over high-speed communication links would fulfil a conservative marketing department's and the designers' necessities. The text version fulfils the guidelines for mobile browsers and at least the Single-A W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
However, if your web host does not allow to run your own applications like Perl scripts or Java Servlets on your server, you can either look for another web host or cannot avoid the disadvantages as mentioned above.
Your web site's visitors should find the hyperlinks to the other formats in the first screen window without scrolling.
Copyright © 2001-2003 by Rainer Hillebrand and Thomas Wierlemann