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Trends in browser resolutions and usage statistics

By: Rick Vidallon at Visionefx

Submitted on Mon, Nov 20th, 2006 12:00 am

Staying on top of the ever-changing browser world is not easy, but it's key to outstanding web site design. That's why Visionefx puts the time and effort into understanding the latest developments. Following is an update on the state of the browser, and some important information to consider when designing a web site or hiring a web designer.

Currently, Internet Explorer 6 is the dominating browser, XP is the most popular operating system, and most users are using a display with 1024x768 pixels or more. We brave few have migrated to the IE7 Beta release which is quirky at best. Dont install this release unless you are a PC guru. The install embeds itself into your system files and is difficult at best to fully uninstall.

Web design professionals have long debated over whether to design web sites for smaller screen resolutions of 800x600 or 1024x768. As of 2006 most users are viewing at 1024x768 and higher, but a large minority are still viewing at 800x600. These users include the crowd who just cant let go of their 20-pound laptop or their 13" CTR monitor.

Just recently Yahoo.com adopted the 1024px display for their homepage. Thats good news for designers advocating a larger, robust display.

Following are some specific graphic examples of how 800px versus 1024px can effect the overall look and display of a web design. Here is a client's design built for full-screen, with no horizontal scrolling at 800x600; 65.36.227.70/baycapital/main1.htm. Here is the same design built for 1024x768; 65.36.227.70/baycapital/main6.htm. You can see there is quite a difference in the right-side screen overflow.

Multiple Browser Types and Versions
The browser type and version used by web surfers affects web usability in several ways. Screen resolution and computer type also affect usability as follows:

1) Your web pages may or may not be viewable by users

2) If they are viewable, they may not look as you intended. The colors may be wrong, the text may be too big or small, users may have to scroll too much, or certain features may not work.

When designing a web site, you must also consider user operating systems (PC, Mac) and the most popular browsers used by web surfers today. The most popular PC browsers for Windows include Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape and Opera. The most popular for Mac OS (Operating Sysytem) include Firefox, IE, Mozilla, Opera, Safari, Linux (Fedora Core 3), Epiphany, Firefox and Konqueror.

Good web references for current browser usage statistics include W3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp, Upsdell.com/BrowserNews, Thecounter.com/stats and Webreference.com/stats/browser.html

Layout and Browser Real Estate
The biggest challenge for designers today is designing a web site that takes this unused browser real estate into consideration. Some designers leave blank space or incorporate the background or surrounding space into the design.

I call this the full-screen fake! An experienced designer uses shapes, elements and colors to blend or connect the web site to the remaining portion of the browser. Another way to utilize the entire browser is to use divs or tables that expand or contract to the users browser/screen resolution. This is referred to as a resolution dependent layout.

Some web sites may use the extra browser space to place advertisements off to the right of the screen. This method is often used by popular web sites like espn.com. The main body of the web site containing news, links, images and video are designed to display comfortably at 800x600. Advertisements are placed in the 224px over flow, which adds up to a horizontal display of 1024px.

Clean Design is Good Design
Sometimes its the hardest thing in the world to convince a client that you do not have to fill every nook and cranny on the screen. Web layout follows the same rules as print design. Text and graphics are aligned to create a natural reading flow or eye flow. An experienced designer will strategically use white space to facilitate a good read or flow.

You Decide
In the end, you have to decide what works best for you or your client. Different sites attract different audiences. Dont let technology constrain or dictate the final design of your web site. Consider how your visitors will interact with your web site content and navigation, and design from there.

About the Author

Rick Vidallon
Visionefx
Rick Vidallon is President of Visionefx, a Web design company based in Virginia Beach, Va. They provide services to national companies as well as small to medium businesses throughout the United States. Rick can be reached at (757) 619-6456 or rick@visionefx.net.

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