How wide should my website go?

After conceptualising a design and creating a mock-up, in Photoshop, we are in the custom to save a jpeg copy of the homepage and load it as a background image to a secret url.  We then email the link to the client, for them to view the preview in their browser. We have a great designer with some ninja skills, so 95% of the time we get a positive response. But sometimes we get a response that goes something like this…

“I Love it… But… Can we make it a bit smaller? It does not fit on my screen and I do not like the ‘scrolly’ bars on the bottom!’

This is no train smash. After chatting to the client we 9 times out of 10 we find out that they are viewing the mock-up on an archaic analogue monitor, with a screen resolution of less than 1000 pixels wide. Our reaction is to reassure them that what they are seeing is not ‘normal’ and direct them to log on to view the mock-up on a monitor or computer no older than 10 years old. In some rare instances we tweak the design to be narrower. But not that often!

It boils down to a simple question: How wide must my website be? Which led us to do a quick blog on the subject.

Today, the reality is, if you have a screen resolution of less than 1024 pixels, you are in the minority. In 2000AD the most common screen resolution was 800pixels wide. 56% to be exact. 25% were on a screen resolution of 1024pixels wide. Fast forward to 2012 and the most common screen resolution is over and above 1024pixels wide. Over 85%! Only 2% are on a resolution of 800pixels or lower (Not counting cellphone screen resolution). You can view some interesting timeline stats on this page.

Any self-respecting web designer will be in the practical habit of conceptualising a design to fit the common popular spec of the day. We are no different. And, with the majority of internet audience browsing on a screen resolution above 1024pixels we want to fill the whole screen with all that pixelated goodness.  More often than not we do this by pushing the width of our new designs out to around 1200pixels wide. The most common screen resolution at the moment is around 1300 pixels.

Up to a few year ago the standard in web design was to not breach the 960pixels mark. It was a happy medium between the old and new old, in screen resolution. But with the advent of more powerful processors, more Ram, Plasma and Liquid Crystal (LED) displays, we can design and build websites big and beautiful, without concern of the minority of the web audience having to use a bottom scrolly bar.

Another small point to consider is that most of our loyal clients think about getting a website re-design every three years. With this in mind we want our clients sites to look good to the day they decide to go ahead with a makeover.

So to end, and answer the question: How wide must my website be? We recommend keeping it current, between 1000 and 1200pixels. It SHOULD suit you just fine until 2015.

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