Oct 12, 2006

What is the Common Browser Resolution These Days

I'm sure you've heard that a web site should be designed for the lowest common denominator,. That way you maximise the potential audience that can view your site easily.

Of course 14 inch monitors died out years ago along with Windows95 so designing for 640x480 is silly. But 15 inch screens (800x600) are almost impossible to buy new these days and I've been wondering how many of these are still in use and why people still design sites for that resolution (or for IE 5.x and Netscape 4 for that matter).

I use sitemeter to check visitor patterns for the blog and one of the things they have is a way of checking resolution of screens. Here's what I saw when I checked recently...

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.com

As you can see, almost everyone has a resolution of 1024x768 or higher. The 800x600 resolution is a paltry 3%.

Similarly, colour depth is at 32-bit for 94% of the visitors as well.

I guess the days of designing for limited colours and small resolutions are over. 1024x768 resolutions at full colour can now be treated as the lowest common denominator.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, IE 5.x made up a whopping 1% of the visitors. It's all IE 6+ and Firefox these days. No Safari, Camino or Konqeuror and very little Opera.


  1. Richard, you've got to remember that people who read blogs aren't a representative cross-section of all computer (or even Internet) users. Those who blog (and view blogs) tend to be those into the tech/online culture - who I imagine wouldn't persist with a 15" monitor for too long.

    Again, it comes down to your audience. If you're looking at government departments or major corporations, many of those organisations are slow to upgrade hardware and software and tend to operate an SOE. For example, Suncorp only recently upgraded from Windows 95, and most of their standard monitors are still 15" CRTs. And that's a company with a lot of money.

  2. This page indicates that about 17% of people still have 800x600 and the interesting thing they say is that it's probably not their hardware that's the limiting factor, but rather that they're using the default Windows settings. By the way 15" monitors can quite happily run at 1024x768.

    Browser share can be seen at Market Share.

    As for Suncorp, any company that waits 10 years to update their SOE is one that will have a massive problem in keeping up to date, and the resolution of a site is probably the last of their worries. But being a bank I doubt that they were running anything more than terminal emulation on those machines in any case.

    If I'm doing a tech blog then should I care what a government department uses? I'm not talking about a LOB application here.

    By the way, have you tried Yahoo in 800x600 mode? It defaults to 1024x768 unless you can find the little button to switch resolutions. CNN is no better.

  3. The way you phrased your post was not about designing for your blog readers, but what guidelines web designers should follow when designing in general. Which is why I mentioned that it's important to consider your audience and purpose of communication.

    If 17% of people are using 800x600 and it's a news website, that might be acceptable. If 17% of people are using that resolution with a mission critical web-application, that is unacceptable.

    Similarly, if your target audience is a government organisation (e.g. schools), it's worth grabbing stats for that audience. I'm fairly confident that in organisations with controlled environments, small budgets and little tech savvy you'll find a greater percentage of people with low monitor resolutions and out of date applications (such as IE5). And then you've also got a larger proportion of Mac users within different audiences groups too which would increase usage of Camino and Safari.

    When designing a website, it makes a lot of sense to let audience be your guiding design factor. If your organisation sells dental equipment, it makes sense to find out what configuration most dentists use (undoubtedly the Oral B computer). There's little point in saying that web users generally have high resolutions if a large proportion of your target audience doesn't fall under that banner.

    But having said that, I generally agree with you in that you cannot design for the lowest common denominator. It's simply impractical and you spend more time designing specifically for vast minority. A cost v benefit analysis would show that it's just not worth it. But audience should always be your main driver.