Everything that I’ve learned over time about designing for online is founded on this fantastic article from June, 2000: Taming the Electronic Page by Joe Gillespie (http://www.wpdfd.com/issues/27/taming_the_electronic_page/)
My stint in Internet support instilled in me a strong affinity for accessibility, and viewing area is on the checklist. Admittedly, this is changed a bit over the last ten years. Screens got bigger then wider, and wider again.
I prefer to design for the lowest common denominator. Up until the last year, every page I designed was designed for the 800×600 crowd. Web analytics will tell you what your traffic is using for resolutions, and believe it or not, there’s still plenty of people out there who are using that very old, very small screen resolution. Their overall share of traffic is dwindled, but when you look at the straight totals, do you really want to ignore those few hundred people on your site?
But I’ve moved on to new markets since then, and finally admitted that catering to 100% of my visitors is not really necessary. The thing that finally broke me free of my teeny tiny little box … I’ve been tapped for layout template design advice on a dashboard reporting project.
It’s not that I haven’t already built pages for larger resolutions, but this time we’re designing for customers, not prospects – a much smaller pool. With prospects, there’s a bigger variable on where people are coming from, but we already know who our customers are – what kind of technology systems they have set up. It’s a beautiful thing to base decisions off of real numbers … truly knowing the answer instead of having to hedge bets. Boy oh boy, do I love analytics.
My recommendation was a real splurge. Based on the web analytics for customer access pages, we still went with the 4:3 ratio and designed for the 1280×1024 resolution. Not wild, I know, but by far the largest playing area I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. A real treat.