If you have surfed the web for any length of time, then I'm sure you've run into the infamous "red X" where a picture or other graphic was supposed to appear.
What is that? Why is it that some pages load fine but some pages just show a red X where you know a picture should be?
The red X rarely means there is something wrong with your machine (or web browser). That red X means the picture or graphic the web page is trying to display is not where the web page is telling the browser where it's supposed to be.
You see, every time a web page loads into your web browser there are a ton of things that are going on in the background that you don't actually see. What you see are the results of all of this behind the scenes "markup" either working properly or not (as in the case of the red X).
When you go to a website that has pictures (or any other content that isn't raw text, for that matter) there is a line of code embedded behind the scenes on that page that points to the location of whatever the page is trying to display.
Most of the time, the images are right where the web page thinks it is and it displays fine, but sometimes the picture isn't where the page thinks it is and that's when your browser displays the little red X as a place holder where the image is supposed to be on the page.
But how can this be? Don't web designers check their work to make sure the pages display properly?
Well, not always. One thing to remember is that these days, just about anybody can throw together a website and that means some web designers just don't know how to check their work properly.
For instance, back when I was first learning how to design websites, I set up a page, uploaded it to the web and then checked it with my browser to make sure it looked OK. I was pleased, everything appeared just as I had designed it but then when I had a friend look at the page he told me there was a problem; none of the pictures would load, just a bunch of little red Xs.
I took a look at the page's source code (the behind-the-scenes code that tells the browser where to put everything) and found that for each of my pictures, the page was looking for them on the browser's local c: drive and not the images folder I had uploaded when I created the site. And since the images were indeed in my c: drive, where the page was looking for them, they displayed just fine when I looked at the page in my browser. Since no one else had the images on their c: drives they failed to load.
In that example, even though I checked the page and all seemed well, it took someone else to discover the problem.
Another reason images may fail to load is sometimes a page is pointing to an image on another website altogether and if that image gets taken down or moved there will be nothing there when the page goes looking for it.
Sometimes images may fail to load because of heavy traffic. If the site you are accessing is too busy or has a ton of graphics, the images may time out when loading and you may have to refresh the page to get all the pictures to display.
Now keep in mind that these are just a few of the most common reasons why an image may fail to load when surfing the web and you may even see the same symptoms in email.
With email however, the problem may be resulting from your security settings being set too high. If you are using Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail for instance and you find that you never see images load in your email messages but you are seeing a ton of red X place holders check your security settings. Click tools, options then security and make sure that the "block images and external content" checkbox is not checked. If it is, uncheck it and you should then be able to see your email the way it was composed.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).