Website Resolution … revisited again
In January, there was an interesting discussion at Jason Santa Maria's blog of the age-old quandary of what resolution(s) one should design for (at You Say You Want a Resolution). I tend to hang out at SEO sites and have done for years, so it's different to wander into "designer" territory.
Bear with me; if you design, this is worth it, I think. The discussion is interesting not for the usual fixed width versus fluid (and now versus elastic) arguments, but for statements like this from Anthoy Watts:
Wider screens don't make better web sites. You ever try to read a line of text that spans 1024 pixels? Design must serve content, not technology.
and this from Christian Watson:
As more people get larger monitors and start using higher
resolutions (say 1152×864 becomes the norm in the future) I'm not sure that they'll all be browsing with their browser windows maximized.
(to which I say, so what? Anyone with a large monitor can easily resize the window), and this from Jeff Croft:
As screen resolution increases, so too does the level of ambiguity in the size of the viewport.
In other words, it's a fairly safe assumption that people with lower-resolution screens are viewing maximized, and thus it's fairly easy for us web designers to guess what their viewport size is. As screen resolution increases, some people continue to browse maximized, some fit two apps on the screen at the same time, some fit three apps on the screen at the same time, and so on.
It's even reasonable to expect that some people, when they move from 800×600 to 1280×1024 will actually decrease the size of their browser window (because they ran maximized at 800px but now are running three browser windows on their 1280px screen).
Bottom line? Going forward, we're going to be less able to pick a target resolution that works for a very large percentage (95% plus) of our audience.
To deal with this, we have a two basic options:
1. Go with liquid layouts, or other technologies that scale to fit the browser window (read: Flash).
2. Just let users deal with it. Their browser have scrollbars and resizing widgets — they can use them!
Seriously, at some point we have to put this on the users. If someone decides to browse with 700px wide windows, then they are making the decision to scroll horizontally. Fine. If someone decides to browse maximized, then they are making the decision to see very long line lengths on some sites. Fine. In both cases, the content is perfectly accessible and usable.
I've been getting to that point — designing for
1280 1024 — with some of our newer web design projects because it's silly (in my opinion) to have to adhere to 800×600 when big sites like CNN have gone to 1024. There's more from Jeff Croft there; pretty interesting thoughts/observations that make me wonder if we (in adhering to smaller screen requirements) aren't assuming the user is entirely unable.
Anyway, it's an interesting discussion. If you're going back and forth deciding what resolution(s) to design for, there are some jewels in there, and it just might help.
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