FAS Help Documents: Knowledge Is Power
Websites, Computers, and What You Need to Know!
- Overview: The content you see when visiting a website is sent to your computer from the requested website server, however, what you see and how it's displayed is largely dependent on your computer, monitor, operating system, browser, and installed fonts. This is why many people with different computers visiting the same website will see different things, how different depends a lot on the website and the computer viewing it.
- Special Fonts: Ever wonder why websites often have special fancy fonts in a title or in their logo but the main body of the page has something basic? It's simple, those fancy fonts are actually part of an image or you have the font on your computer. Websites don't transmit font files with page requests as a general rule, in stead they rely on you having the special font already installed on your computer, you seeing the web page with whatever default font is specified in your browser, or creating images of special font text and displaying that. Everyone has different fonts installed on their computers so most web pages use one of the handful of standard fonts most people have to insure the web page will look the way the designer wants it too. Alternatively you can set a series of default fonts as the fonts of choice like: Times New Roman or Times or any Serif font. Ultimately though, if the person viewing the page doesn't have any of the fonts you've listed the page will default to whatever default font is set in their browser.
- The Display: Aside from fonts, monitors are probably the single biggest reason for websites appearing differently on different computers. There are many different size monitors available and the size of the monitor has a lot to do with how the information appears on it, how much white space is in the page, the exact color things appear, the size images and fonts are rendered at, where blocks of content appear on the page, etc.
- The Browser: There are several major browsers out there, and although they render many things very similar, they have their differences and this too will affect how a website looks and feels.
- Conclusion: Website designers can not control all these factors, so they simply must understand the limitations and work within them the best they can.
Website Design Conventions
Internet, the structure:
- Glossary of Terms
- Ah, the magical mystery of the internet. You have a computer, an internet access provider, and a website address to visit but how does it all work? You don't care so long as you get what you came for, I get that, but there are some basics you should know that affect your ability to get to websites and how vulnerable you are to viruses, trojans, spyware, hackers, and more.
- First things first, many people think when you visit a website you are seeing information "Out There Somewhere" and to a certain degree this is true, but in reality you are requesting information from "Out There Somewhere" be delivered to your computer, yes the one you are sitting in front of. Really you say, really? Yes, this is both one of the single most powerful aspects of the internet and its biggest weakness. Powerful because it relies on your computer to do the work of displaying the page, but weak because somewhere along the way communications can break down and information gets lost or rogue programs like trojans and hacker software can intercept the information you requested and ride it all the way to your hard drive and presto whammo, your computer is corrupted.
- The Anatomy of a request:
- You have a computer, on that computer is installed software called a Website Browser (i.e. Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Firefox, etc), and you have a website address, let's get some information. You type the website address http://www.functionalart.us/ (i.e. the domain name) in your browser address bar and hit enter, here's what happens:
- Your computer doesn't know where to find http://www.functionalart.us/, it needs a physical address much like that of a house address called an Internet Protocol address or IP for short (an IP looks something like 192.168.0.0). Your browser requests the IP address for the domain www.functionalart.us on a Domain Name Server or DNS for short (the telephone white pages of the internet).
- The DNS returns the IP address to your browser.
- Your browser has the IP address now, so it submits a request for information to the IP associated with the Domain name and waits to see what happens.
- "Out There Somewhere" a computer attached to the internet with the assigned IP address you just looked up and an always on connection running a program called a Website Server, receives your request for the website http://www.functionalart.us/. It looks for a website and content associated with your request in it's files, if it finds the content you requested, it gathers all the images, documents, and or files associated with that request and sends them back to the requesting IP (i.e. the computer you are sitting in front of).
- Your browser receives the information sent by the Web Server and reconstructs the content documents into a viewable page and displays it on your computer screen. At the same time your anti-virus program and or router has blocked any un requested data such as rogue programs and trojans from entering your computer and ultimately corrupting your computer's function or stealing data like personal information.
- The request is over an you have the information displayed in front of you on your computer.
- If for any reason there is a communications breakdown at any point along this sequence, you will get that ugly "Page Not Found" error we all hate.