Best of the Banter: Monitor sizes
by Donna Stryk, Moderator of the Online Ads Discussion List
In the race to make everything bigger, faster and better we sometimes lose sight of the people behind us. There is no better place to witness the effects of this mentality than on the Internet. Havah Hope told the members of Online Ads that the most common monitor used was 12" set at a 640x480 resolution. Why is this important? Designers have to know how the page will look to the people that visit the site. The debate that spawned from this bit of information has taken on a life of its own and now, it is time to recap and move on. Here's a synopsis of what we learned about the size of monitors used by the viewing public.
The first issue that came up was where this statistic came from. Havah didn't have the article that she read this in, but some of the other list members provided some interesting links to sites offering information of this sort. Some places to look if you're interested in this type of data are http://www.gvu.gatech.edu, http://www.thecounter.com/stats/, and http://www.statmarket.com/. According to the members that let us know about these links, the average monitor size is actually larger than what Havah had read. Most of them reported that users have their resolution set to 800x600.
Now that we have the debate over resolution out of the way, let's get to the real issue. Who is viewing the page and what do they see? Jorge said, "When dealing with the issue on monitor sizes, you should take into account specifically, your target market." He then mentioned a site that he runs that targets attorneys in South America. Because people in this region do not tend to have the caliber of equipment that we do here in the U.S., he would not design that site assuming that they will be using a 17" monitor. You have to understand your market and tailor your efforts to what's best for them.
James Carlini brought up the point of speed versus size. He said, "How fast the page fills up is much more important ... Too many designers design for glitz rather than speed. Not everyone has a T1 access." This is an excellent point. We've all clicked on a link and left a site before the Java script finished loading. Fast loading pages are essential to any quality site. Once again, you have to know your market, if they're using a 28.8K modem, then you had better consider that fact when designing the page.
Another reason that speed is so important is because of the expense associated with upgrade. Shane Sacobie said that, "One thing to note is that upgrading the resolution is much less hassle than upgrading to a faster net connection, which won't happen overnight (unlike resolution adjustments, which take seconds)."
"Where the rubber meets the pavement is 'readability, usability and intent of content,' regardless of monitor," said Fred Showker. He then went into a thorough discussion of Optimum Line Length and how that affects the readability of a site as well as the ability to print pages of the site. Hal Pawluk defined this length as, "a line … between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 (English) alphabets long. That's between 39 and 65 characters." He also said that "not so coincidentally, that works out to about 640 pixels max, which is why monitors were designed that size in the first place."
As always, a complete understanding of your market is vital to your success. If you know that 95% of your visitors are accessing your site via a T1 line with a 17" monitor, then go ahead and design to heart's content. However, if half of your site's following is sitting at home with a 12" monitor struggling with a slow connection speed, keep it simple. It seems obvious, but all you have to do is spend ten minutes surfing the Web to see that a lot of designers have not grasped this concept.
To read these posts in their entirety go to http://www.adbanter.com/wordsearch/monitor.shtml.
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