We’ve just updated our website to incorporate a new header and a wider overall design. Why? And should you do so too? (One of these days we really must get around to bringing our overall design into the 21st century, but there are never enough hours in the day!)
Up until now we’ve always advised people that they set the width of their web design so that it fits within the bounds of an 800×600 screen. That’s why, if you have a fairly modern machine, you’ll see a lot of websites squeezed into a central column with a wide margin on either side. A lot of people, even if their machine has the capability, had their screens set to this resolution, and so the only way to prevent them from having to scroll pages left to right to read all the content on the page (very frustrating and a sure way to put off potential customers) was to ‘design down’ to this size.
However, as technology has advanced, a smaller and smaller percentage of people are using such screens. How can we tell? From the Google analytics code installed on the sites we work with and from industry-wide available statistics. So, industry-wide the figures show that 4% of the market are using 800×600 screens (down from 40% in 2004) as compared to 2% measured from visitors to our own site. This has reached a low enough level that we think that now is the time to take advantage of the extra screen ‘real estate’ and plan for the new ‘minimum screen size’ of 1024×768. And we’re in good company, John Lewis, Play, Tesco and even the BBC have all led the way.
So, if your are setting out to design or redesign your website, we now would recommend in most circumstances to work within a screen size of 1024×768 (allowing for the browser ‘framework’). Of course – if you want something a little different – you have always been able to go for the option of an elastic (stretching) design (ideally with a maximum width so it doesn’t stretch beyond recognition), but these put their own limitiations on the design of the site itself.