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Writing for Multiple Resolutions

Site Design Optimization Recommendations

Author: Jim Stiles

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The Resolution Revolution.

What is a Designer to do?

The goal of any professional web designer is to achieve a website that looks and performs great in all screen resolutions and is cross-platform and cross-browser compatible. Largely due to W3C's tireless work, platform and browser compatabilities are becoming more compliant every day. However, the problem of different screen resolutions can not be solved as easily.

People will continue to use many varying screen resolutions to view websites, often resulting in your information being cropped off the edge of the users screen, or the content being enveloped by a large amount of white space. As neither of these results are preferable, most professional developers have tried a variety of methods for controlling the visual content of their layout designs while beginning and intermediate web developers simply design for 800x600 and let their visitors work it out for themselves.

Some developers have even started using Flash based web sites because of its ability to scale the site to different resolutions, resizing graphics, interface and fonts to suit the users monitor. However, this functionality is also available using DHTML and has the added benefit of not requiring Flash support.

Though, it is technically possible to achieve a scalable design using complicated interfaces, it is impracticle and much more difficult to implement. Keeping your site design as simple as possible should be a priority goal for any good web developer.

What resolution should I design for?

800x600 is widely accepted as the most popular screen resolution and would logically be the resolution of choice for your site. It is the default screen resolution for Windows and is generally not altered by PC users. Although 1024x768 is still only at 25 - 30 percent, it is on the rise and should not be readily dismissed.

Is it worth the pain?

The bottom line is that you need to weight the time it will take you to rewrite your web pages, (probably your entire site), against the need to keep your visitors with smaller screen resolutions. This largely depends on the type and purpose of your web site. If you are developing a personal site purely for information purposes only, then probably not. However, if you are developing a site that relies upon your visitors for profit, then it is very important to keep all of your visitors returning to your web site.

Viewer Statistics:

There are more than 40 different screen resolutions. 1024x768 is the most popular resolution used, followed by 1280x1024 and above, and 800x600. Most all users have at least a 800x600 resolution and can therefore be considered the minimum resolution your site should fit (unless you are writing for PDAs or cellphones).

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