Designing for the Web in 2010 & What to expect in 2011 (PART ONE)

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(Guest Post from Brandon Gasner)

Bg Brandon Gasner

 Today we (designers) are faced with a reoccurring dilemma when designing websites, and that is “What resolution should we be designing for?” Before I answer this question with my personal opinion, and some data to back it up, I’d like to take a look back to 1996.

1996 was the year Photoshop 4.0 was released. It was also the year my father bought me my first PC equipped with a 15” CRT monitor. At the time most resolutions were set to 640×480, but mine was set to 800×600 because I wanted to use as much of my monitor as possible while designing. A few years later I purchased a 17” monitor and bumped my resolution up to 1280 x 1024 while most were catching up to the 800×600 setting.

From 1996 to 2000 the web received a huge boost that triggered the Web Boom, welcoming sites like Ebay, Hotmail, Google, Amazon, AskJeeves, and About.com, amongst many others. The creation of Macromedia’s Flash had companies like Coca-Cola spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their websites, trying to be the first to integrate innovative and interactive flash components to their site to enhance the user experience.

While the web was growing, the standards for display resolutions began to come up in discussion. The same question we ask today was asked then “What resolution should we be designing for when visitors are viewing sites on anything from a 13” laptop to a 19” monitor with resolutions from 640×480 to 1024×768?”

Back in 2000 the average resolution was set to 800 x 600. This made the answer for most agencies very simple, “Design for 800×600!” By 2004 47% of visitors set their resolutions to 1024×768 and 10% were even higher.

It is now 2010 and people are still designing for 1024×768! There is something wrong about that when 76% of monitors are set to 1280×1024 and HIGHER. So why are we still designing for the 20% of users who haven’t got the memo? It’s not like their graphic cards won’t run 1280×1024 (or the equivalent for wide screen), which was actually the case in the 90’s. There was something wrong with designing websites in 2005 for people viewing at 800×600, so why is it okay now to design for the ever diminishing 1024×768? My opinion, its NOT! With more than three quarters of users viewing OVER 1024 x 768 and iMacs being sold with 24”+ screens, it’s time we moved to the next phase, 1280×1024 and up!

PART TWO to follow.

Brandon is a designer at Blend360

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6 thoughts on “Designing for the Web in 2010 & What to expect in 2011 (PART ONE)

  1. Eric Portelance

    I disagree. For one, I never browse fullscreen. I like keeping my browsers windowed so I can multitask and better make use of my screen real estate.
    That being said, I’m happy to admit that this could simply be because there’s no *need* for me to browse fullscreen (all web content fits nicely in a smaller window). I’d like to keep it this way, though.

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  2. Ehren Cheung

    Brandon, this is a common argument for designing for larger screens and while I think it has validity, however I think it’s important to identify your audience first and test. With most analytic tools, you can find out the wide range of screen resolutions that are being used by your site’s visitors and see how to best address your design issues.
    Eric also made a good point that not everyone uses a full window. Personally, I have a wide screen monitor but I often split the space with other items.

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