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Is WebSafe Still Important?

Tuesday, 24 October 2006 rant webdev websafe

I’ve just started work in a WebDev thread on Experts Exchange over the importance of using WebSafe colours.

If you haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about, the WebSafe colour palette was designed as a standard set of 256 colours that would be displayed exactly the same on all platforms as back then, computers had a very limited display range and rendering all colours was impossible.

So the question is: is it important to lock yourself down to a 256 colour-scheme or can you blow the wheels on this and use 32bit colours for everything?

3% of people are viewing webpages with 256 colours

Well something important to remember is that although most people don’t use 256 colours for their display, there are still some. According to W3Schools, there are still 3% of people viewing webpages with 256 colour-limited computers; a value that has fallen only 2% in 4 years. Considering how many more people hop on the internet each year, it looks like the actual number of people using 256 colours is increasing.

What you do, however should be completely up to you. You should take the time to monitor your own demographic. If, like me, you have a mainly tech-orientated crowd visiting your site, you should be fine with getting away with higher minimum requirements. If they’re anything else you should get a Google Analytics account and plug in the JavaScript they give you. This will (for the people that have JS enabled, at any rate) get their browser and operating system details and should tally them up nicely for you.

I’ve recently run in the face of a much larger statistic: screen resolution. According to W3Schools, 18% of people are still using 800*600 but if you try to view this new design (or the previous 2) in 800*600 you’ll have a vertical scroll bar to contend with. My stats however show more like 2% and I’m willing to anger 2000 users a month… Come to think about it, that’s way below my target. (Mental note: must try and make more people angry) Linux is rubbish by the way. (Bwa-ha-haa).

The fact is there are still a lot of people that either use browsers that don’t support or have JavaScript turned off. This doesn’t mean we don’t use JavaScript; we just have to accommodate for those users and try to make sure that everything degrades well.

One easy way to do this with a web design is output that design in the WebSafe palette and see if it makes you want to vomit. If dinner stays down, you’re good to go. You should also check to make sure you can still read everything as one problem when there’s a low-contrast between two non-safe overlapping colours is that they might snap to the same colour when they’re down-rendered. Here’s my beautiful site: