10 12/2008Damien Buckley Choose your resolution

When dealing with web design, screen size and resolution is one of the most commonly mis-understood factors we come across. Many clients – especially those upgrading from older websites will generally ask for their new website to ‘fill the whole screen’.

Whilst their thinking in wanting to maximise the website to full effect and not have ‘wasted space’ around it, is understandable; what is often not considered is for who’s screen we’re talking?

Whilst this might seem obvious to others, most often people assume that their screen size is the only screen size and therefore if they have a 17” screen with a resolution set to 1024×768; what they often do not understand is that other website visitors may be using something very different indeed.

In fact there are currently a vast array of screen sizes and resolutions in use. Some commonly used screen resolutions are:

  • 800 × 600
  • 1024 × 768 (most common)
  • 1280 × 1024
  • 1680 × 1050
  • 1920 × 1200

and this is before we even start talking about mobile devices such as iPhone

When you take this into account and also discount the other assumption that everyone uses their browsers maximised to fill the screen – most don’t – then the issue becomes much murkier.

At Propeller, for the past two years and for the forseeable future, we favour a fixed width, centered layout designed to comfortably fit a 1024×768 screen resolution, typically with the content area set to a 960px wide grid. Using this resolution gives us a lot of flexibility; lending itself to either two, three or more column layouts.

Centering the content area ensures that users with maximised browsers or those with resolutions set larger than 1024×768, will have the content comfortably positioned in the center of their viewing area.

Furthermore, working within this width with two or more columns allows us to stay close to the ideal 66 character line length making for comfortable reading.

This article from Ben Buchanan walks us through the whys and where-fors of screen resolution selection in more detail.

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