800×600 screens

When designing web pages, it is important to take into account the range of devices that people will be using to view your site with.

Fortunately, almost nobody uses 640×480 resolution anymore – so there’s no point trying to cater for that as a minumum. Which is good – because that really is very small on a 1400×1050 resolution laptop screen! In fact, many websites have banner ads that are nearly that size!!

So the next hurdle is 800×600. I took a stance a little while back that there are so few people running 800×600 screens now – almost all new hardware sold in the last few years has had a minimum resolution of 1024×768 – so we could start designing for 1024×768 as a minimum. Indeed many sites already do this.

But then I was talking to a friend who complained about one of my sites saying she had to scroll sideways to see the whole page. Horizontal scrolling is anathema to usability. Very bad. When I queried my friend about the problem – knowing that she had a new laptop that had a native resolution of 1024×768, she explained that since she was getting older, her eyesight was not as good anymore – and she found that she had to run at 800×600 to get everything large enough to read clearly. Fair point. I could spent time trying to show her how to increase the font sizes – but that’s really only a work-around, and doesn’t fix everything on a page (particularly graphics). So I went back and made a few tweaks (fortunately didn’t require a major re-work), and now my site supports 800×600 just as well as higher resolutions.

I’ve recently completed a redesign of several of my sites, and made sure that they work well at 800×600. The challenge is when designing web pages that will host advertising. Screen real estate starts to become precious when you need to show as much content as you can, while also showing adverts in well positioned locations on the page.

I noticed that the Sydney Morning Herald website is designed for 1024×768 minimum resolution. They also have large adverts, which is probably why that was a requirement.

I’ve been checking the logs and statistics from my site – I have a tool that captures basic information about the browsers that my site visitors use – including screen resolution. As little as 6 months ago I had up to 15% of my visitors using an 800×600 resolution screen. This month, I’m seeing less than 8% of visitors with that resolution. I really need to make a change at some point to focus on 1024×768 – there’s just too much lost real estate if I don’t. I think that once I am consistently getting less than 5% of my visitors using 800×600, I’ll redesign for 1024×768. I’ll try and do it in such a way that it won’t be horrible on 800×600, but there will probably be some minor horizontal scrolling required for the last of those low res users.

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