Screen resolution and page layout

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox has a new article that answers that old question “what screen resolution should I design for?”

The headline, one-sentence answer is:

“Optimise web pages for 1024×768, but use a liquid layout that stretches well for any resolution, from 800×600 to 1280×1024”

Nielsen’s advice is generally sound. He does makes some odd comments, most notably “anyone who makes at least $50,000 per year ought to have at least 1600×1200 screen resolution” – based on what, Mr. Nielsen? Most people would agree that additional screen real estate is an aid to productivity, and as such makes financial sense, but the same applies to anybody regardless of income. Based on this logic, should those earning in excess of $250,000 per year have a five monitor rig? If not, are they failing to maximise their potential, from a productivity or earning perspective? He then admits “Apple and Microsoft have both published reports that attempt to quantify the productivity gains from bigger monitors. Sadly, the studies don’t provide credible numbers because of various methodological weaknesses.”

Jackob Nielsen’s writing is often provocative, sometimes downright wrong, but he does conclude the article with a great piece of advice: “optimise for 1024×768, but don’t design solely for this size. Your pages should work at any resolution, from 800×600 to 1280×1024 and beyond.”

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