Your Web Site, Is It Making the Most of the Available Screen Size?

Think of your monitor’s screen as a piece of paper. Some pieces of paper are bigger than others. Some printing is better than others. For example, think about a print newspaper and then think about a magazine. Different sizes, different images, different impact. The size and quality of your screen is referred to as “Screen Resolution.”

Screen resolutions are indicated by a set of two numbers such as 1024×768 – a screen with this resolution can display 1,024 distinct dots (or pixels) on each of 768 lines, which is about 780,000 pixels.  The more pixels you are able to display the more visual real estate you have on your screen.

With computer monitors, you can adjust your screen resolution from its factory default setting…

screen-resolution

As you can see in this example the screen resolution of my screen is 1440 by 900 pixels on a 17 inch laptop monitor, meaning my screen displays approximately 1,296,000 pixels of visual information.  All monitors come with a factory setting and statistics show that the vast majority are set to 1024×768 or higher.

According to http://www.tamingthebeast.net/, of 6 million visitors to the web site www.thecounter.com during February of 2008, the screen resolutions broke down like this:

screen-resolution-chart

As you can see in this example, of those 6 million visitors, 80% had screen resolutions of 1024×768 or higher.  What does this all mean?  It means that more people using computers (in other words, your target audience) have higher screen resolutions than even just a couple of years ago.

And these higher resolutions mean more visual real estate for your web site.  The question is, are you taking advantage of this effectively?

Web visitors want to know what they are looking at quickly, especially on homepages.  People “surf the web”, which is to say they tend to scan information rather than read it.  And studies have shown that you have somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 to 8 seconds to grab their attention.  If you can get their attention in the very first impression, you are in great shape!

Unfortunately, some web sites are still designed for an 800×600 screen resolution (480,000 pixels compared to the whopping 780,000+ or more of most screens).  They are not fully utilizing the resolution or screen space they have available.

If your web site is designed for 800×600, then it is not optimized for the majority of screens where it will be seen – you are limiting yourself to a smaller area when the visitor first opens your homepage.  And by limiting this space, your web site has less room to effectively display “scannable” content that will grab the visitor’s attention quickly.

You have to be careful.  In designing a site for a specific resolution, you want to be mindful that some of your viewers will be viewing it in alternative resolutions.  The best way to approach this is to optimize your site for 1024×768 so that it works best in this resolution and it can also expand to resolutions larger than 1024×768.

If you are still not sure about your target audience and what resolution they might have, you can always check your web stats or if you have a Google Analytics account you can check in there.  For example, in 2008, the vast majority of Wood Street’s visitors had resolutions of 1024×768 or higher as seen here…

google-analytics-resolution

You can see that the majority were 1024×768 and only 5.54% were 800×600

If you do not know how to access this information, your webmaster or hosting company should be able to help you.  We also have written a Wood Street Journal about web stats and analytics that may be helpful.

While this information may seem technical to some, it should be important to anyone trying to promote something on the web, whether it be a message, product, news, membership, etc.  As we’ve stated in previous articles, you only have so much time to capture the attention of a new viewer.

By utilizing all of the available space effectively, you stand an even better chance of having something in front of that visitor that will grab their attention.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

One Response to “Web Site Design and Screen Resolution
  • […] Screen resolution norms – according to most recent reports, the majority of users have a minimum resolution of 1026×768 but a lot of older sites were designed for an 800×600 resolution.  This means that these older sites are not making full use of the space available and on most of today’s monitors the site can appear to be small.  See our article on screen resolution. […]

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