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Nurturing Military Visitors

1:44 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm in the Navy, deployed on a ship for months at a time. The way I, and my fellow shipmates experience the internet is completely different than the way civilians do. My experiences have made me change some aspects of my site, and just wanted to share my notes if this demographic is important to you.

First, the internet onboard ship is terribly slow, terribly. This is especially true during the day when more people are awake, sharing the same pipe. Sites that have been optimized for speed are much appreciated. If the site loads too slow, we'll just find another.

Second, I don't know if this is just my ship, or other ships too, but .js files are blocked. I think this is an ill advised attempt towards achieving internet security. This makes many of the websites out there either not work at all, or renders them almost useless. I worked around this by incorporating my javascript inside my .html files. Other files that are blocked include .mp3, and streaming media files.

Third, the internet servers are periodically turned off completely, sometimes for several days in a row. The email servers typically are still up and running though. What I did for my website is to incorporate a newsletter mailed out each day, summarizing the new content on the site. This keeps me informed when I'm not able to visit the site. Beware though of html formatting in the email, as any files on the internet like pictures won't come through.

Fourth, our computers are hand-me-down rejects, and for the most part we use old browser versions. Don't hate us, we have no choice. We all have our own laptops, but we can't access the internet with them. We're stuck on DOD computers for web browsing.

And fifth, many sites are blocked. You Tube, Facebook, MySpace, and the like. If you incorporate aspects of these domains on your site, we won't be able to access them.

2:25 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Question: I use .php files to deliver most of my Javascript (The PHP optimizes the JS).

<script src="js_file.php" type="text/javascript" />

Are these also blocked?

Other than that, you'd probably be OK with the sites I do.

4:29 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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ntbgl. Two thanks: one for the insight, the other for your service. I have a relative in the Navy and he has never mentioned this, but maybe being Captain has it privileges.

While many of my sites are niche type, like cmarshall, I doubt you would have a problem with mine. But all too often too many designers assume people have high speed access. I have a client in Germany who, many years ago, told me the connection problems they have. I think this is an appropriate time and place to remind people never to assume and accessibility does not necessarily mean accommodating visually impaired users.


4:32 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I worked as a contractor for the military overseas for over 3 years and I can tell you that it's not just ships that have bandwidth problems, it's most military installations. (At least if you are on land, you might have the option of living off-post and getting commercial Internet access with your own computer.)

I'll add a 6th issue, related to e-commerce sites: military people stationed overseas (and at sea) can not generally accept FedEx/UPS/etc. packages. They can generally only get packages through the USPS.

So refusing to ship to APO/FPO addresses or not having USPS as a shipping option is going to lose you a lot of sales from the military, overseas government employees, and overseas military/government contractors, and their family members living with them.

10:06 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks LifeinAsia, that's very true. I also want to add that if you have a form on your site to obtain a mailing address, make sure you allow for the following "states":

AA - Armed Forces Americas (except Canada)
AE - Armed Forces Africa, Armed Forces Canada, Armed Forces Europe, Armed Forces Middle East
AP - Armed Forces Pacific


They're treated like any other state.

There have been times when I tried to order something online, only being stopped because it wouldn't accept my state.

Also, if you mail out any media or electronics, like cds, dvds or laptops, at some locations we are prohibited from receiving them unless they are sent via registered mail which are redirected to a different pickup location.

cmarshall, on my ship only .js files are blocked. A .php file serving javascript content would slip through.

3:33 pm on Aug 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Please try to convince the appropriate people that blocking .js files is a bad thing. As already pointed out, it's fairly easy to get around the block, so the blocking doesn't really work. And .js files are often separated from the html so that the scripts can be used in multiple pages without reloading them for every page; this is a lot more efficient.

As long as you're putting in the AA, AE, and AP "state" codes, do a better job by adding DC for "District of Columbia", the codes (like PR, GU, FM...) for our posessions, and the Canadian Province codes because our postal service recognizes those, also. There is a problem if you try to add the Mexican state codes because two of them conflict with Canadian codes and three conflict with US codes.