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21.5% of web visitors still want you to design for 800×600…

January 19, 2007

The subject of designing for screen resolutions has always been a point of contention, but the trend these days does seem to be designing web sites for 1024×768 and above, even with fluid layout sites. It’s almost de-facto and rarely questioned. But is it right?

Here at IPC we’ve always gone with a compromise – go wider, but still design for 800×600 in a way. The trick is to keep the core content within about 780px and have a few ‘non essential’ elements hanging off on the right – see NME.com as an example. It’s a balance between getting more space (and more ads!) above the fold, and catering for the lowest common denominator – my gut feeling has always been they’re not such a minority.

NME.com - degrades gracefully for those with sidebars open

So I thought i’d test my gut feeling and look at the stats for a range of our sites (Horse and Hound, Web User, NME, Wallpaper, Whats On TV, and Nuts),  and here are the results:

Only 12.5% of visitors have an 800×600 screen resolution – BUT 21.5% of visitors have an actual browser width of 800px or less.

My theory has been that a surprisingly large number of people surf with their sidebars open – eg their bookmarks or history – my Dad included. I would guesstimate this to be as high as 50% across the board.

So despite the vast majority now having a decent resolutionof 1024px and above (640×480 is practically zero these days, thank God), a size-able proportion – higher than FireFox’s market share – won’t appreciate any content being out wider than 800px. For example, the redesigned telegraph.co.uk homepage:
telegraph.co.uk - 21.5% of people will see this - it does not degrade gracefully

As with most things on t’interweb, it all comes down to graceful degradation, or even better progressive enhancement. Bare it in mind please!

2 Comments
  1. Deon permalink
    January 19, 2007 1:32 pm

    I’m running at 1440 x 900 and both the example web sites you have pictures of render exactly the same. My point is basically the following :
    Why should web design not move to 1024 as a de-facto standard?
    Do desktop software development companies still build software that is compatible with a Pentium I with 64MB ram and a 16MB video card?

    If software development continually takes advantage of the inevitable hardware and display options available to users should web developers not do the same ?

  2. January 19, 2007 1:37 pm

    Hi Deon,

    At 1440×900 they will indeed render the same – that’s a pretty wide resolution. Try changing your resolution to 1024×768 and opening your sidebar and you’ll see what i mean (or check the screengrabs)

    1024×768 does appear to be the de-facto standard for desktop resolutions, finally. But so many people have their sidebars open, as far as a website is concerned they only have 800 for their browser window width.

    Web developers should take advantage of new technology. But they should also ensure graceful degradation if they don’t want to piss off 20% of their visitors. Same reason you should make sure your site works on IE6, IE7 and Firefox for example…

    Check out the link to the wikipedia article on Progressive Enhancement.

    Cheers

    Paul

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