How Wide Should A Website Be?

Designers have a tendency to design websites to look the absolute best in a certain width. However, with browsers and monitors varying so widely from surfer to surfer, the truth is that a website designed with one width in mind may overrun one person's screen or be too small for another. The answer is to find a happy medium for a website that will look good in the maximum number of settings with the maximum number of users in mind.

How to Determine the Ideal Website Width?

Well you know you do not want your design to overrun the screen so you design a size that will fit within those. Fortunately, statistics for browser settings and screen sizes are readily available on the internet. The verdict on screen resolutions is that 1024x768 resolution is almost the standard now and even larger resolutions are coming up fast.

What this means is that except for a very small percentage of users, some 4% at the old 800 x 600 resolution 1024x768 is ideal. However, you should also realize that many users do not browse with their windows maximized so this cuts down the ideal website width.

To leave room for such variations the idea website should be smaller than the 1024. The magic number may well be 960px for several reasons.

  1. It is under the 1024 mark, which of course means it will not overrun the majority of the user's screens. Moreover, it allows for the browsers who are not surfing with maximized screens and scrollbars and title bars are less likely to be lost in these off size browser windows with this resolution.
  2. It is ideal for making grids (the basis of most website designs) as 960px is divisible by the numbers two, four, six, eight, ten and so on. This means the design can be as complex as necessary or as simple, as desired and still reach the maximum target audience.

There Still 800 x 600 Resolutions - Can They Be Included?

Though 800 x 600 is not as common as it was once, it still occurs and though not every design is ideal for every user there are solutions that can help the visitor at this resolution navigate without having to scroll excessively.

The 960px width can still be used but the navigation should go on the right hand side. By doing this, the content should be visible to the visitor with the 800x600 resolution without having to use the side scroll. It is not ideal but it can be done.

Design Control Is Not Possible For Every Visitor.

In a perfect world, the design and layout of a website would be completely in control of the designer. It would display exactly right in every browser and at every screen resolution. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world for designers, it is comprised of a multitude of machines and browser types and screen resolutions. The best solution is to serve as many of the target audience as possible. A 960px can do this and still preserve design integrity.

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