A resolution to the worst of nightmares

Learn limitations, push it to the limit, but always keep an eye on the visitors

THERE IS one nightmare that will wake website designers wake up in a cold sweat screaming for their mothers. It's not browser incompatibility or browser safe colours, these issues are tricky but they have a certain reliability in their inconsistencies. No. The nightmare of which I speak is the dreaded screen resolution.

THERE IS one nightmare that will wake website designers wake up in a cold sweat screaming for their mothers. It's not browser incompatibility or browser safe colours, these issues are tricky but they have a certain reliability in their inconsistencies. No. The nightmare of which I speak is the dreaded screen resolution.

The problem is that there is no way of knowing what screen resolution (and what size display) the design will be viewed on. Too big, and lower resolutions will miss parts of it. Too small, and you waste valuable screen space. Learn the limitations of screen resolution, push them to the limit, but keep an eye on your audience.

What's it all about?

The "size" of screen is not so much limited by the physical dimensions of the display area but by the resolution at which that screen can display. Think of your screen as a grid made of tiny dots, called pixels. The more the screen can display, the higher the resolution.

But a monitor's resolution is not set in stone. Most can display at a variety of different resolutions, allowing the user to set it for their reading comfort. The physical dimension of the screen may be 15 inches but it might be able to display 640x480 or 800x600 pixels. A 21-inch monitor could also display 640x480 or 800x600 pixels but on a bigger monitor everything will look larger than with the same resolution on the smaller monitor. The higher the resolution, the more pixels get packed into the physical space accessible on screen so the larger monitor has more space and the size of each pixel is larger.

The resolutions that a computer screen can display depends on the type of monitor and the graphics capabilities.

Live screen space

For most web designers, height is not as vital as width. It's good to get the important information "above the fold" (the visible area of the screen when the page first loads), but vertical scrolling is okay but horizontal scrolling is taboo. Before beginning any web design decide which screen resolution the web page should fit comfortably (640x480 is the lowest common denominator and would ensure the widest audience). So, 640 pixels is the maximum width of the screen at that resolution, but this does not include the space taken up by the operating system and the browser window itself. The area you can use to display your site in the browser window is "the live space".

The Statistics

The visitor to your site can control the dimensions by resizing the browser window any way they want (unless you use JavaScript to force a width and/ or height). However, they are limited by the screen resolution which their monitor is set to.

StatMarket has been monitoring websites around the world and collecting data on screen resolutions (www.statmarket.com). It found just 13 per cent on 640x480, 54 per cent on 800x600 and 26 per cent on 1024x768. Seven per cent is either higher resolution monitors or lower resolution monitors, including PDAs and mobile phones.

StatMarket says that its data is based on a virtually random sampling of more than 32.5 million website users worldwide. Not only is 640x480 only a small part of the market, StatMarket says it has fallen almost 30 per cent in the past year, a downward trend that is likely to continue.

The writer is the author of 'DHTML For the World Wide Web'. If you have questions, you can find an archive of this column at www.webbedenvironments.com or send e-mails to: jason@webbedenvironments.com

News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Arts and Entertainment
film
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee