April 28, 1999
Television's basic technology, now over 100 years old, was never meant to display the finer details of Web graphics. Because of the relatively low resolution of a television screen, text in site navigation buttons is frequently difficult to read. This means that if your site uses navigation buttons with small embedded text, your site could be difficult to surf on a television.
What's Too Small?
Although we can highlight specific examples, we do not yet have a way to reliably demonstrate how specific Web graphics appear when viewed on a television. The clarity of Web graphics will depend on many factors, including the quality of the television, the size of the screen, and the colors used in the image.
The easiest way to ensure readability on television is to use large fonts in your navigational bars. In the examples below, the navigational bar on the bottom uses a large font and remains readable even on a low-resolution television screen (See Figure 2).
Figure 1 - Navigational Bars on a Computer Monitor
Figure 2 - Navigational Bars Displayed on a 17"
As a crude rule of thumb, try to keep graphical text over 16 points in size to ensure legibility on a television screen. Legibility is also enhanced by bold text and high contrast between text and background.
The status bar is prominent on the WebTV browser, and shows a page's title by default. The bar can hold approximately 35 characters and displays in the default Helvetica font.
While flashing text in the status bar may seem superfluous to users viewing your site on a computer monitor, WebTV-based users can find this information a crucial addition to your Web site. If your site relies on small graphics for navigation, simply putting the link's text in the status bar can make a huge difference when your site is viewed on television.
Adding Status Bar Messages to Your Site
Creating status bar messages is simple. The
onMouseOver function can be added to image links simply by inserting
a little bit of code in the anchor
(<a>) tag. The code is a bit weird, so it's best to always copy
it from somewhere rather than trying to recreate it each time.
For only about fifteen minutes of work, the usability of your site
on television can be dramatically improved by the inclusion of status
bar mouseovers. As cross-platform solutions go, you'll find it's worth
For only about fifteen minutes of work, the usability of your site on television can be dramatically improved by the inclusion of status bar mouseovers. As cross-platform solutions go, you'll find it's worth the effort.