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How Wide Is Your Web Page?
by William Szczepanek

Article 7: December 12, 2007

The standard is dead.  Long live the new standard.  Web design standards are changing at a fast pace, and resources that are more than a year old can point you in the wrong direction. Screen size of 800 pixels x 600 pixels has been the standard since the turn of the century.  Many people with old monitors and older computers would need to scroll if pages were provided in a larger format, and those with newer, widescreen monitors have viewed websites with a narrow 800 pixel wide swath down the middle of their screen.  Viewing narrow websites really wasn’t too bad, but since most websites try to cram as much info into as little space as possible, small text was used to accommodate the massive amount of information being pushed to the consumer.

MSN has finally made the move to 1024 x 768 screen size for their famed home page, which reads like a telephone book of links.  Finally they have moved to a standard that satisfies most users.  Now the race will be on to revise websites to the new standard. But, how long will this standard last, and what do you do to accommodate the new mobile browsers?

Mobile browsers are optimized so Web pages are presented effectively for small screens. Mobile browser software handles many simple page presentations with relative ease.  More complex pages can result in images and site information that require scrolling, which is much more cumbersome on a mobile browser.  So, it is worthwhile to test your designs on mobile device browsers as well as other PC browsers.

MSN actually determines the size of your monitor and presents their site in the best way possible.  The cost of checking monitor sizes must be weighed against the overall gain in ease of presentation to your audience.  For most, 1024 x 768 will be usable and will delight people with newer computers and monitors.  For those with older equipment, the need to scroll will become more prevalent.

Widescreen is excellent for graphics, movies and games.  Remember your audience and the application. Good design techniques will keep content to a manageable area so widescreen monitors will not become crammed with words and links.