Design Tips straight from the Design DeskDesigner's Corner

Designing with Screen Resolution in Mind

Whenever we are asked to design a Web page, A major consideration in the development of its look and feel is the display screen size that the Website visitor will be viewing the page with. There's a finite amount of screen real estate to work with because each Web page element takes up a specific portion of the real estate available to us. Web page development is a field filled with restrictive boundaries — and it's critical we understand the rules even before we begin laying out the actual Website.

I'm sorry to say that the major Browser makers have not always played fair in their race to out do each other, so the rules we are required to follow when designing a Website aren't always cut and dry. As a result, each Browser program has defined its own playing field, complete with its own rules and idiosyncrasies. Therefore, Website developers need to invest the time to learn the strange and sometimes annoying habits that each of the Browsers exhibit. If we don't, then the Web pages we create will, for the most part, look pretty shabby in one Browser or the other. Fortunately, one area that isn't Browser dependent is the display screen size on a Website visitors monitor.

Is Size Really Important?

I can tell you that when I set out to design an effective Website, I appreciate all the screen real estate I can get. The more screen area the better. Maximum screen sizes allow Website developers to layout pages which are more appealing, interactive, less-cluttered and visually pleasing. So, I keep a very close eye on what the developing trends are in today's rapidly shifting and ever-changing Web world.

Today's Internet user is more likely to be surfing at higher screen resolutions than ever before, according to Martin Goslar, principal analyst and V.P. of Research and Analysis at Until recently, most surfers were content to leave their screen resolution set to whatever the factory settings were when they took their computer out of the box. However, users today are becoming more aware of the control they have over their systems and and are beginning to take advantage of it.

For years, Website designers have been restricted to creating pages that would display properly using the lowest common denominator, namely monitor screens set 640 by 480 pixels resolution. The adventurous designer was walking close to the edge if s/he created a Website designed for display on a monitor set to 800 x 600 pixels. But now for the good news! The statistics for the last year reveal a trend toward increased user screen resolutions. This is important news for Website developers who design for the most basic screen resolutions. Developers should soon be able to design sites with additional content for users who are increasingly able to accommodate more information on screens set to 1024x768 pixels.

The numbers I am quoting are based on actual browser usage, which reveal that surfers with monitors set to 640x480 pixels fell from 17.83% on January 17, 1999 to not quite 15% at the beginning of July. From July to October of that same year, the number again dropped, to an astonishing 12.59%. The total drop for 1999 came to 29.3%. During the same period, Web surfers with monitors set to 800x600 pixels dropped only a bit, moving from a high of 55.88% at the end of February 1999 to a low of 53.84% in the first week of August 1999, maintaining a 54.77% average since the beginning of the year.

The highest resolution of 1280x1024 pixels, monitored since mid-March, rose from 1.61% in March 1999 to 2.20% in August 1999 — averaging 1.91% over the period. The most significant gain was with the 1024x768 pixel resolution, which is most often associated with monitors featuring 17-inch screens and larger. Users of 1024x768 pixel resolution jumped from 20.48% in January 1999 to 25.94% on in October 1999, reflecting an actual rise in usage of 26.6%.

What's In it for the Average Web User?

Cleaner, more attractive and appealing Websites are on the way. With the public shift in screen display resolution, we will see improved form and function in any well-designed Website. Of course, I am biased and would love to see all Web surfers using the maximum displayable resolution available to them. In time, with public education and online articles such as these, I believe we will see more and more users moving to the land of larger screen real estate, and in turn, really great interactive surfing experiences.

Happy Surfing!

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