Prompted by a discussion (hopefully my last comment will appear soon enough) I had on another website regarding web design (specifically, one I did not care for), I began to think about screen resolution. I remember months ago when some bloggers started talking about dropping support for smaller screen sizes because they just weren’t showing up in the logs enough. And while I can appreciate here in the mid-aughts that 640 pixels is a ridiculously small width for anything short of specialized usage (e.g. PDAs, cell phones, or visually impaired users), it seemed strange to me that 800 pixel-wide designs were also under threat of dismissal simply because 1024×768 had become the most dominant screen size.
I’m sitting here at my desk at work with my laptop screen set at 1400×1050 and my secondary one running 1680×1050, so what’s my problem? Well, my problem is that I’m also running the Google Desktop Sidebar, Outlook, Winamp, a couple Active Directory utilities, and multiple explorer windows. In other words, I don’t run my browsers full screen – I actually multitask. Sure, I could easily just bump the size of my windows a little bit as I have in the past, but why would I want to? I can’t think of many sites that actually benefit from going all the way up to a width 1024px. When I look at the new designs at the New York Times and CNN, I can’t help but notice that there’s a lot of crap that pushes them out that wide. Keeping my browser 50-75 pixels narrower loses almost no content. So why not just shrink that silly video player or drop one of the excessive “other news”-type columns to get the page back down to a more practical 800-900 pixels wide?
Of course the response would probably be, because they don’t see a need anymore than I see a need to increase my width. But I will once again submit that the content doesn’t need the extra width and even tends to be hurt by it. Those pages tear my eyes in different directions and make it difficult to focus on what’s important. Granted, a newspaper is not nearly as focused as a blog is and doesn’t have the luxury of using the narrow one column design Michael at Binary Bonsai finally settled on (for now). But there is a balance that can be struck – one in which 3 or 4 well-sized columns are used to place content appropriately, and bells and whistles are axed if they don’t truly add to site.
It’s not like I have any definitive answers – heck, I didn’t even do this design – but that doesn’t mean I can’t question these decisions. Afterall, I am the user. Personally I think the fluid-to-a-point method works best (once IE7 is out with real support), but that obviously won’t fit every situation and will be impractical for others. But, in the meantime, please try to remember that some of us with high resolution monitors don’t feel like reading paragraphs stretched across 1200 pixels – my eyes are bad enough as it stands.