The very first thing you need to do when beginning the graphic design of a Website is to make two related decisions:
- Will the Website be a fixed size, or will it stretch (or shrink) to fit the visitor’s screen resolution and
- What screen resolution will you optimize for?
For a while, 800 x 600 at fixed resolution has been very popular. And for a while, 1024 x 768 has been the most common screen resolution used by Web surfers ’round these parts. Take a look at my stats from last week:
Screen Resolution Percent
1) 1024×768: 63.81%
2) 800×600: 10.81%
3) 1280×1024: 10.30%
4 ) 1280×800: 2.70%
5) 1152×864: 2.67%
6) 1440×900: 1.57%
7) 1680×1050: 1.17%
8) 1280×768: 1.17%
9) 1600×1200: 1.06%
10) 1280×960: 0.95%
So, if that is anywhere near typical, most of the visitors to those 800×600 fixed width Websites are seeing a lot of unused real estate on their screen. That probably accounts for the recent comeback of fancy page background patterns I’ve noticed over the past couple of years.
Just as 640×480 bit the dust, it looks like 800×600 could be nearing it’s demise in the next couple of years. Not yet though. Ten percent of potential customers is a lot of people to give the finger to by placing crucial content outside of their 800×600 comfort zone. Here are my recommendations:
- Use a page design that fills the screen at 1024×768, but has no crucial content outside of the 800×600 box.
- Look at the page design at the different screen resolutions listed above that have a visitor percentage of 2.5 or more.
- Optimize the page for 1024×768, but make sure it still looks good, and displays crucial content at 800×600 and 1280×1024.
- Make sure the page design doesn’t fall apart at 1280×800 or 1152×864.
I expect that all those people surfing with 1024×768 screen resolution are getting pretty bored of seeing that 800×600 stripe down the middle of their screen, no matter how pretty the background pattern is. Designing for 1024×768 will make your Websites stand out, and give at least the appearance of better use of screen real estate.