When I opened Jacob Nielsen’s Alertbox newsletter yesterday, it only confirmed what we’ve been noticing now for a year. Screen sizes are getting larger. And yet, an increasing number of smaller mobile devices are springing up on a yearly basis. So what's a designer to do?
When I began designing for the web back in 1999 screen sizes were transitioning from 640x480 to 800x600. The 800x600 screen resolution was the standard until 2004, when a larger 1024x768 screen resolution became the standard. Fast forward to 2012, when Nielsen suggests “the new guideline is to optimize for widescreen monitors around 1440 pixels wide.”
Note: you can see a chart of screen resolution usage from 1999-2012 if you're interested.
In 2010 it became apparent that we needed to design for both large screens and small screens as web analytics revealed a critical mass of people browsing websites with mobile devices. Of course, each mobile device has a different screen resolution as well (iPhone, Android, iPad, other tablets, etc.).
I’ve been a stickler for usability since my career started. I want to design websites that function properly on any screen size. The goal is that the website not “get in the way” of finding information that is important to visitors.
You can see the web designer’s job is fairly difficult with the many screen resolutions and sizes, ranging from large widescreen monitors to the iPhone (or smaller). Today a good web design is one that scales to fit the screen that it's being viewed on.
Just recently we started showing clients web designs as they will look on the screen and on a smartphone. As we develop these designs, we allow the design to “collapse” to best fit the screen that the site is viewed on.
How does your website look on different screen sizes? Are you planning for future sizes as you design and develop your website?