The other day I was going through eduStyle.net looking for site ideas and one thing that instantly stood out and annoyed me was sites that are left aligned. I realize this is a personal opinion and I totally respect other individuals who believe in a left aligned site, but I am still going to present my case. So I hope that you are ready for a little rant?
As monitor resolutions have gotten higher and able to easily display more pixels on a screen, web design have responded accordingly. Page widths have gone from 600 to 800 to 1000 and now sometimes 1200 people are able to stick more information on a page because they have more real estate. Think of it like the difference between a book, magazine, and finally a newspaper. Each is progressively wider and each is able to display more columns and ultimately more information on a page. Modern web pages read much more like a newspaper than a magazine and especially not like a book. One of the challenges with designing a website for universal browsers, operating systems, and physical setup is that each users experience is different. Besides computers rendering a page differently the resolution of a monitor also can effect what is viewable on a computer screen at a time. Where my resolution might be 1400 pixel width some users still have their setup set at 800 pixels.
The chart above is for wofford.edu over the past month. Notice 800×600 account for 2.76% of traffic. The top ten on this chart represent 96.7% of total traffic. Assuming the rest of the traffic was 800×600 or less we are still only talking about 6% of the total audience and that is an overestimate. I regularly hear that I report on lots of Google Analytics data, but what about actionable steps? The argument in the past has been that developers, designers, and tech people were the only individuals who had high resolution screens, but this just isn’t the case anymore.
So here it is, I’m saying it. Critical mass says that it is ok to design for 1000 pixel width. No I’m not talking about a site that is width 100% and adjust to a users monitor resolution because that can make your content layout look horrible. The data says it and I’m pushing it. Just as we now build sites for high speed connects because dial-up represents such a small population, designing for 1000 pixel width has also become ok.
Left Align… Why?
Back to my gripe here, I have a ridiculous monitor at work that resolves to 1680×1050 so sites simply look small on my browser and anything that is designed for 800 pixels simply looks small in my browser. I’m not so much upset at this as I am when I see a site designed for 800 pixels is also left aligned. This simply looks horrible. It’s a simple div tag guys get your stuff together! Wonder what I’m talking about? Instead of picking on another site I’ll just give you a visual image of what Wofford would like like left aligned and what it looks like center aligned on my monitor.
When a site is center aligned at least the extra space is evenly distributed. When it’s left aligned there is a TON of extra space on the right had side of the page that not only looks bad, but appears like an excessive waste of space. Bottom line, left align just looks stupid and like you have no idea what you’re doing.
- Going forward, think about how wide your next redesign should be and use the data to help you come to a decision.
- Applying a align center div tag to a template is a “low hanging fruit” type opportunity if you don’t do this already.
- It’s not about you it is about your user and their experience and our users have gotten to the point where high resolution is the norm not the exception.
I know the first thing you are going to say is that this blog is optimized for 800 width along with Wofford’s site. That is completely accurate and in upcoming redesigns this data will be extremely valuable in designing accordingly.
So that’s my rant. Feel free to slam me in the comments. That is why they are there and I’d love to hear compelling cases against this argument. Free speech is a great thing and I encourage you to use it.