Every time a new web site is to be designed; every time I open a magazine about building web pages; every customer I meet. It’s always there, the ridiculous question:
How big monitors do people have nowadays?
The question comes up in regard to how wide, in fixed pixels, the designer dares to make the web site, but this couldn’t be further from the correct way to approach it. So, let me kill off some common myths:
“It’s all about how big monitors people have”
No! A monitor’s size has no correlation whatsoever to the resolution used on it. Let me give you an example: my PC laptop screen at work is 15.4″ and I have a resolution of 1920 * 1200 pixels. My MacBook Pro laptop screen at home is 15.4″ and the resolution is 1440 * 900. So, please, don’t try to label me by measuring my monitor!
“Well, ok then, it’s all about the resolution then”
No! Maybe 50% of the world’s web surfers use maximized windows; the rest use a size to their liking. No connection exists between web browser window sizes and the maximum resolution available on a monitor.
“So, eh, what should we check for?”
If anything, make sure you have reliable statistics of the actual web browser window sizes used on the web.
But, my main point is to not design for a specific resolution, and to instead use elastic layouts. What I mean with that is to create web sites whose width will adapt to the area available in the visitor’s window. Take this web site for example: The layout I use is flexible with a maximum width of 1200 pixels, if available, and a minimum width of 420 pixels to cater to those with very small web browser windows. The columns will automatically resize themselves, through the magic of CSS, to their given space.
Remember: your design and how it works for various visitor’s is your problem, not theirs! Create elastic layouts when possible to meet the demands of as many end users as possible
To round off: my pet hate customer/designer demand
Ever been in a meeting where the requirement is that the web site (or the start page of the web site) should fit within a web browser window without scroll bars? And as a result of that, you have designers running around to find anyone using the default toolbars and initial size of toolbar button icons in Internet Explorer, to find some kind of golden value to go by?
Are you fucking kidding me? We’re not creating a poster here, nor a frickin’ mural! It’s the web! It’s a living medium where we never, ever can control what the end user chooses to use, and neither are we entitled to do so.
Do you know how many web browsers, devices, platforms and settings there are out there? So please, look to yourself and your design flexibility options instead of trying to label your visitors.
Now I please ask you to stand up in the next meeting. Explain to designers and decision makers how the web really works.