Web Design

I am in the process of designing a new “skin” for this website. The new appearance of the website will keep the fundamental content, but update the look and feel, and incorporate new functionality.

One question I’m asking myself is What screen resolution should we design for?

This site currently uses a principle called liquid layout, that is to say it stretches to fit the viewer’s own screen width. The layout isn’t frozen, but adjusts to fit whether the user views the page on a super widescreen monitor, or on a small screen Blackberry handheld device.

The new design will continue to use liquid layout, but which resolution should we be optimising for?

It has been interesting looking back on visitor data, and to see the march of computer screen inexorably towards the rectangular wide screen monitor with a resolution of 1280 x 1024.

Our visitors most common resolution is 1024 x 768 (35%) and indeed this is the resolution that usability gurus like Jakob Nielsen recommends.

However, more than 37% are viewing on some variation of SXGA, meaning a 17″ or 19″ monitor with a resolution of 1280 x 1024 or a close variation.

Indeed, only 3% of visitors used the traditional 800 x 600, often used by web designers as the lowest common denominator for screen resolution.

And there are significantly more visitors using very high resolutions, which might translate into 20″ or 30″ monitors.

Now, I know I have dumbed the screen resolution issue down a bit in the post (and I’m sure I’ll get in the neck from web designers) but it is worth interpreting the data, and planning the new design around the most common, and increasingly popular, high resolution monitors.

0 responses to “What Screen Resolution Should you Design a Website For?”

  1. Tom says:

    While we usually design to fixed width layouts rather than fluid ones (less planning and coding involved), we design to 1024×768 (well ~ 999×600 taking into account toolbars etc). We’ve noticed an average of around 3% as well have 800×600 but we still try and fit the most important content of the site in this area.

    For a fluid layout, I would be tempted to optimise the design for 1280×800 since 1024×768 is now on the decline and greater resolutions on the rise, providing it degrades nicely to 1024×768

  2. Karl Craig-West says:

    Thanks Susan.
    Yet another gem from my favourite web marketing expert. Confirms what I believed to be good practice anyway.
    I always use the 1024×768 resolution anyway since that’s the default setting on my laptop.

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