Should Web Developers Support 800×600?

Posted September 30th, 2008 by Mike Cherim

That question is hot on the mailing list run by the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS) right now. Specifically Accessites has been called on to explain why it is has one submission criterion demanding support for an 800×600 monitor resolution — meaning that it must be viewable without side-scrolling. Apparently more than a handful of developers at GAWDS feel that 800×600 support is a bit out-dated and no longer needed as it once was. I’ll answer this, not for Accessites, but rather for myself. I’ll explain why I feel it’s important to support that smaller resolution — or maybe I should say window size, since not everyone computes or browses with their windows maximized.

It’s Personal

My wife uses a 15" workstation monitor set to an 800×600 display resolution. She’s running Windows XP and the native resolution was set to 1024×768 (that’s what I use), but she asked me to change it. I asked her why and she replied that it makes everything bigger. Her vision isn’t that great so everything being bigger is helpful to her. She’s not a computer guru, and frankly I was surprised she knew this trick and requested it — even though she had no idea how to make it so. My 19-year-old daughter also uses this resolution. Her vision is sharp, but she says she likes it that way, everything is bigger. Each to their own.

It’s personal, and this is a great reason to apply it to my sites and hope that others do too, for the sake of some of my family members, but this is hardly a reason to write about it and suggest others adopt (or don’t forgo) that type of support. I can certainly empathize with those who object and want to put it all behind them — it’s like having to support some crappy old browser. Please, put us out of our misery. It’s not always easy to work with such a small resolution when so much more space is commonly available.

So Challenging

I generally make some sites have a fixed-width layout, like this one, while others are liquid or fluid, like my hosting site. My fixed-width sites are pretty easy to make while providing support for 800×600; I just set their width to no greater than 760 pixel wide unless elements are allowed to properly overlap. The liquid layouts are a bit trickier if I want them to look good in a range of 800 to 1280 pixels without breaking or becoming congested.

Mitigating horizontal scroll bars, maintaining readable line-lengths (<80 characters), and other considerations all come into play. These are definite and often aggravation-inducing challenges, then add cross-browser compatibility to the mix, and the reason why a developer would want to avoid these hassles becomes abundantly clear. I truly understand. After all, besides my wife and daughter, who the hell uses an 800×600 resolution in these wide-web days?

Stats Schmats

Okay. That’s a fair question. Who does use that resolution? Well, I don’t know. I don’t monitor that, though some do and can offer statistics. According to the W3Schools 800×600 accounts for 8% as of January, 2008. Wikipedia agrees. And so does The Counter. It stands to reason that these aren’t independent studies but rather just recycled figures. Can these stats be relied on? I doubt it. Stats only show a cross-section and can be skewed greatly if the test group isn’t a good representative of the whole. Who came up with these numbers originally? They were probably obtained via a passive script during a set period of time involving X-number of typical sites with typical visitors. Or should be. This isn’t the case, though, as Wikipedia disclaims:

These statistics were gathered from visitors to a website dedicated to web technologies, so there may be an over-representation of both higher resolution monitors and lower resolution handheld devices. — Wikipedia

In other words this 8% may be meaningless. Stats are often lacking in details, completely missing whole groups during sampling. The general unreliability of stats is well-known (no, I don’t have stats to back this up). In other words you shouldn’t rely on stats. I find common sense and sometimes erring on the side of caution is best. It is stats that tell me that hardly anyone comes to this site using Internet Explorer (IE), let alone IE version 6. About 30% of the people who flock to my company’s site, though, still use it (over 51% use IE versions). I guess I’ll have to support IE, including version 6, for a while since the bigger number is probably more accurate to what’s typical.

I don’t want to be negative, though. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the 8% is dead nuts, balls-on accurate. The pollsters used unerring methods, scoured all global locales, and accounted for those using a reduced window size, not just a monitor size. Let’s say that after all that the number is still 8%. Then 8% it is.

Is 8% Insignificant?

If we were to put this into business terms losing 8% of your customers could be catastrophic and you’d be scared to not provide support, but it’s not like that. This isn’t even a real accessibility issue since the content is still accessible (just inconveniently presented). But a user’s convenience counts, right? Call it usability.

As I mentioned, this discussion was/is taking place on the GAWDS mailing list. This is a group of web developers who feel strongly about supporting the disabled and other minority users who benefit from our web accessibility practices. For those not in the know, this includes all sorts of bizarre stuff such as supporting folks who don’t use JavaScript (5% according to W3Schools), supporting those who don’t download images (no stats found but I know two), supporting those who don’t use styles (no stats found), and supporting text browser and screen reader users (no stats found for either of these). JavaScript being turned off, as an example, while more critical to users than having to deal with a horizontal scroll bar, is a smaller number, yet we strive to support these people. I imagine screen reader and text browser user numbers are so small (and difficult to collect), that they almost fall off the chart. Yet, as accessible web developers, we support these folks. Why are some so seemingly keen on moving on as it concerns 800×600 users? Is it because it’s not critical but rather a matter of convenience and usability? If so, that seems out of character for GAWDS members. Is that how we roll, meeting minimum requirements? I thought the classiest, savviest developers were into going the extra mile.

Fortunately, offering support is easy.

Have Your Cake…

As developers we should create a primary style sheet, a print style sheet if the content might be printed, and a handheld style sheet (support for palm-top displays shouldn’t be confused with small scale desktop and laptop displays, it’s another subject altogether). I say this primary style sheet should support users who prefer 800×600 resolutions or surf in smaller windows. And while this can be challenging, it’s not the end of the world. A well-crafted liquid, adaptable, layout can solve the issue. And offering a clean, uncluttered 760 pixel fixed-width resolution can also serve users well. Yes, some with wide displays will have lots of wasted area, but they can’t see it all at the same time anyway so I don’t see that as a legitimate issue. I’d rather offer narrow than too wide.

There is also the option of offering a selectable alternative style sheet featuring support for 800×600 users. There are a few style changing scripts out there that can make this an easy alternative if you simply must pack ten-pounds of stuff in each of your five-pound, four column web pages. If you want to take that route, I offer such a script, as does Roger Johansson, and SitePoint and A List Apart offer them as well. Use one of those and keep everyone happy.

Turnabout is Fair Play

With these options, in this day and age of essential graphics and Web 2.0 scripts, it seems offering 800×600 support pales in a complexity comparison. I will continue to offer support for those who choose that window size or resolution, and you will do what you want to do or what you feel is right and justified in your eyes. I have tried my best to answer the question asked of Accessites, from my own standpoint as a developer (I guess we could say it is unofficially Accessites’ response as well). Now, since turnabout is fair play, and since there seems to be an unusual amount of resistance to offering 800×600 support, I will ask you, why not? Why shouldn’t developers support 800×600? What reason or reasons do you find most compelling?

41 Responses to: “Should Web Developers Support 800×600?”

  1. Leo Ludwig responds:
    Posted: September 30th, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    - fellow GAWDS member here -

    While I recommend using 800 by 600 for most sites I create, more and more clients ask about a larger screen resolution. I stop them at 1024 by 768. Most also don’t like / want the fluid approach because it look ‘different’ in smaller screen resolutions. They want their site to look the same no matter what.

    But enough of that.

    My comment on GAWDS - it was rather a question - as to why dismissed websites that were not 800 by 600 from their accessibility appraisal took the opposite approach than yours. Rather than saying 800 by 600 is more accessible, I wanted to know why you decided that 1024 by 768 wasn’t?

    My arguments in favour of the ‘larger’ screen resolution to be appraised by are that:
    1. larger screen resolution allows for more breathing space and white space in a design which has been found to improve accessibility or rather readability;

    2. if a visually-impaired tech-savvy visitor uses a 1024 by 768 screen resolution with user-defined settings on the font-size making it 1.5 or 2 times bigger, I believe that it may also offer better readability than being squashed in a 800px wide fixed site - or having to horizontal scroll for more that 5 screen worth of text;

    3. still on the space issue, 1024 by 600 could allow larger size and spacing of a set of button for example that motor impaired users could find easier to target with their mouse;

    As with many of the accessibility issues there are two - or more - sides to this issue. I take your arguments in favour of the 800 by 600 but would say that visual impairment is the ‘only’ argument you had, and that making a site more accessible to visually impaired user isn’t equal to making a site accessible - to hard of hearing or motor impaired users :-)

  2. Sarah Bourne responds:
    Posted: September 30th, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Isn’t it all about users? Designers will never be able to force users to do what they want, they just have the opportunity to make them unhappy. As you suggest, the question becomes, how many of your customers are you willing to make unhappy?

    As screens have gotten bigger, I use that real estate to have more windows open and visible, not to make my browser window bigger. My usual browser size is (1680/2 =) about 840. ( Full size is way too big: I get whiplash trying to read.) It’s astonishing how many sites don’t fit. I just did a random sample on my floor, and found nobody using a full window in a high resolution.

    So how unhappy am I? Not very. Most of what gets cut off are ads. It can be a tad annoying if it’s something I’m looking for. But mostly, I’m oblivious as long as the content I want fits in my window, and some sites are actually easier to use that way. The only really annoying thing is when the primary content exceeds 800 or so, and frankly the annoyance doesn’t go away if I make the window bigger: it’s just to hard to read text that wide.

    So based on the highly statistical relevance ;-) of my own behavior and the other folks in my office, plus 2 out 3 people in your house, I would surmise:
    1. There are more people using smaller windows than might be thought.
    2. If people can find and use what they’re looking for, they don’t care about what they don’t see.
    3. It’s not just a disability issue.

    I suspect the “optimum width” will vary for different sites and what users are trying to do at them, and usability testing - with demographic variability - will be the only way to determine what it is.

  3. David Zemens - 1955 Design responds:
    Posted: September 30th, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I agree that it’s probaby best not to alientate 8% of your customers. That’s not a smart move. However, I have to believe that many of the 800×600 users are not actually alientated when they visit a wider page, simply because they must be fairly used to having to do some horizontal scrolling due to the large number of sites that are coded for a wider screen display.

    That being said, it’s still my personal preference to design for 800px. I guess old habits die hard and I am used to that width and prefer it visually. It just looks right to me. But I never considered myself to be normal. :-)

    However, he who pays the piper calls the tune, as they say, and a good percentage of my clients tell me that they want a specific screen width as part of the project specs. When I suggest to them that they might lose some site visitors who use smaller resolution settings, not one of them has been concerned about it.

    I think the trend is certainly shifted and the days of 800×600 are numbered…but not quite yet.

  4. Steven Clark responds:
    Posted: September 30th, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    The most compelling reason to support 800 x 600 is that we should be thinking “device independence” because the simple reality of our work involves having zero control over the user’s environment. And its unfair, from a usability perspective (if that counts in this conversation) to push technical issues back to the user - whether it’s IE6, or resolution or whether they have a hand held device. The better we get at supplying solutions that work transparently (ideally) the better we’ll be doing our job as web developers.

    But you know that already and I’m preaching to the converted.

    In a way we’ve been spoiled by a past with two main resolutions to handle and a play-off between 2 browsers. Big news - better browsers released in fast iteration didn’t empty the horizon of difficulties, it’s even more complex (which verison of safari, opera or firefox?). And it’s a reality we have to deal with that vast differences occur now between handheld device screens and 24 inch flat monitors using the latest graphics cards / highest resolutions.

    So, if we’ve got no control over the environment - mmm what did the motor industry do? Hey it made cars that worked on dirt roads as well as highways. Great idea. The absolute worst thing we can do as professionals is to just flick it back at the user (or our client’s bottom line) by not caring about any significant usability / accessibility factor.

    Bottom line - I want sales and conversions and bums on seats. As a client. So should the people I hire to achieve those outcomes.

    Just my 2 cents from the colonies.

  5. Steven Clark responds:
    Posted: September 30th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I would also point out the days of 800 x 600 are not numbered - unless we’re producing bionic eyes for everyone and pre-programming them with a set “personal” choice. That’s like saying that people will stop using bicycles when we show them the motor scooter.

    That would be 4 cents worth now so I’ll shut up. Sorry Mike.

  6. Georg responds:
    Posted: September 30th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I can’t see why one shouldn’t design for a wider range and cater for narrow windows, but I only create fixed-width layouts when clients ask, and pay, for it, and then they usually decide size.

    Personally I prefer to design fluid in the around 600 to 1200 range, and use CSS to adjust content, including images, to work well within that range. Apart from in old browsers like IE6 there’s usually no problems.

    As support for media queries grows, the need for style-switchers to tune layouts to available space diminishes. This makes it easier to cater for most devices and needs without introducing design-compromises, but full support across browser-land is of course still a dream.

  7. Ahmad Alfy responds:
    Posted: October 1st, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Well, I do my best to support 800×600 by using fluid layouts and paying attention to the contents width!
    Sometimes designers beat the developers and make their life difficult with graphics-dependent websites!

  8. Will Haven responds:
    Posted: October 1st, 2008 at 9:12 am

    People aren’t forced to have their browser maximised and can’t even be assumed to keep it maximised for 100% of the time they spend using it.

    I don’t believe that we should be building sites to the lowest monitor standard. It is not a major problem. Having only 760px of the width of a larger monitor can also be an irritant for users with larger screen. I have family working in a large media company that is kitted out with widescreen macs…they are constantly complaining about narrow sites relegated to a small slither of their screen.

    However, since I consider both concerns to be valid, I build the majority of sites to require no horizontal scrolling between 760px and 960px with the option for them to scale indefinitely (without horizontal scrollbars appearing, i.e., to the limits of the browser window’s width) if text size is increased. Alternatively, there is the “floated box” fixed width design that will also negate horizontal scrolling at 800px widths. These solutions are perhaps not always possible with every design or client request, but (in my case) the majority of the time it is, and I feel it covers the most bases.

    In most cases, sites can be built to make best use of what is available to the majority of users but without disadvantaging users with reduced browser resolution.

  9. peter responds:
    Posted: October 2nd, 2008 at 4:24 am

    I agree with Will Haven

  10. Mel Pedley responds:
    Posted: October 2nd, 2008 at 8:50 am

    I can really only echo most of what has already been said above.

    We should be producing designs that are device independent. Just as the days of designing for Internet Explorer are now well and truly gone, so should the idea of designing for a particular resolution or screen width. I’m also currently sitting next to someone with a 1280+ screen and- guess what - the browser is windowed. Which bears out my own straw poll results over the past few years. To whit, the bigger the screen, the more likely the user will work almost exclusively with windowed applications - including their web browser. Some find 1024 screens too large or, as Mike pointed out, find the text too small.

    And let’s not forget smaller children. Kids today are on computers as soon as they can read (if not earlier). Homework is often set that includes research with ‘The Internet’ being as normal a source as the local library. Children’s books use larger type for a good reason. Kids will shy away from any text that they consider ’small’. So it’s not surprising that, given the opportunity, many pre-teen kids will chose screen resolution that is lower than 1024. For them, it’s simply easier to read or ‘more friendly’. Whilst this may not be an accessibility issue if you apply the rigid definition of ensuring access for the disabled, I fail to see why we cannot try to also accommodate their needs. After all, it could be argued that they are an incredibly important group - even commercially.

    I have to agree that there is nothing intrinsically accessible about a design that works at 800 x 600 pixels but a design that is elastic enough to accommodate a slightly smaller screen suggests that other areas may also have received the same attention to detail. And all of this attention to small detail can significantly enhance site accessibility. So, as I see it, this is more about the principle of elastic design than any adherence to a magic screen resolution number. If cross-browser designs are important, why not cross-screens too? After all, once you take windowing into account, there are a lot more potential screen sizes out there than there are user agents.

    I’d also like to wait a while before declaring that 800 x 600 is dead, long live 1024. There’s a new breed of sub-12inch screen devices coming onto the market. Given that I spotted one of these in my local (grocery) supermarket last week, it might be reasonable to assume that they’re likely to be popular. Whilst the more expensive models boast screen resolutions around 1024, using these resolutions when you have anything less than perfect eyesight is more than a little difficult. So I actually prefer using my Asus 901 at a resolution of 800 pixels - despite the fact that I only normally wear glasses for reading. I wonder how many, otherwise non-disabled users, might feel the same?

    I’d like to see how this market pans out over the next 12 months or so first.

  11. Jen Rohrig responds:
    Posted: October 3rd, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Makes sense to me, Mike. My second most recent blog post is all about captioning for online videos and how I used to not expect them to be captioned for exactly the reasons you talked about.

  12. Stevie D responds:
    Posted: October 9th, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Websites should be designed to fit widthways onto the screen at the very least a quarter of people have a typical viewport width of substantially less than 1000px.

    If a web page is wider than the viewport, (a) people have to scroll horizontally, which can be a right pain, but (b) some page elements can be completely hidden from view and people often won’t know they are there at all.

    For web designers to assert that the beauty of their page (or the expediency to get it written without bothering to spend time making it accessible and usable) is more important than the ease of use of a quarter of their readers is unbelievably arrogant. And yes, A List Apart, I’m talking to you!

    I hope that the day will come soon when we can use media queries to set a different layout according to the viewport width, but I suspect it will take a long time before that is sufficiently widespread and reliable that we can make it a key design feature.

  13. Cindy responds:
    Posted: October 9th, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Allowing the 800×600 resolution should not, as an option, be removed. There are many users out there with poor vision who need that boost in size to easily surf the internet. Just because some designers feel it is outdated does not mean it is outdated for users. Designers tend to be forward thinking in regards to technology, but they have to remember that most of your average internet users cannot keep up with them with knowledge about the internet. Besides which, it is obviously something still being utilized by many people, and it’s probably also helpful when browsing the internet on a cell phone or mini laptop.

  14. Anthony responds:
    Posted: October 14th, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Couldnt agree more Mike, My site Designbit has 8% Safari users, to suggest i dont support them is the same as your 800 x 600 plight - just ludicrous not too. However on client projects its not always that straight forward, alot of clients now want very wide websites and often the designs are too complicated to warrant going stretchy.

  15. Tyler responds:
    Posted: November 1st, 2008 at 2:57 am

    With modern browsers, I really don’t understand why people with poor vision require 800 x 600 because “it’s bigger.” Using CTRL+, you can enlarge the font of almost any website (except those relying on Flash, and, sometimes, javascript). In Firefox, you can easily set the minimum size font you’d like to have displayed. Neither of these actions are difficult even for users with very basic computer skills.

    And now, with zoom supported by both IE7 and Firefox 3, you can also easily zoom up the size of the entire website if you wanted to see larger pictures.

    But I imagine the main problem that bothers users with poor vision is reading text. It seems to me that simply educating such users about the simple ability to zoom in on text or to set minimum size fonts is more productive than trying to constrain designers to support screen-sizes that are quickly becoming obsolete — adding to design man-hours and limiting creative possibilities.

    Which also brings up a question I’ve long wondered about usability issues — why do screen-readers for the blind bother to read style-sheets? In a properly designed website, CSS controls the presentation — which is (in every instance that I know of) *visual* information. I am specifically thinking of the common CSS trick of hiding text (display: none;) and replacing it with background images. That’s the easiest way to do it, but designers are encouraged to use more roundabout methods such as shrinking the display size of the replaced text to 1 pixel, or moving it 9999px to the left, etc. because screen-readers will interpret “display: none;” by not reading the text. But I don’t understand why these applications are reading the stylesheet at all — the CSS doesn’t contain any information that would change the text content, so I can’t see how it’s of any use in reading text and should simply be ignored. Isn’t that one of the major advantages of separating content (HTML) from presentation (CSS)?

  16. Vzit responds:
    Posted: November 3rd, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    It’s very good question. I think it’s almost impossible to support 600X800 and huge resolutions of new LCD screens at the same time. For me, best possibility is to use script that checks user resolution.

  17. Alex responds:
    Posted: November 6th, 2008 at 9:41 am

    You made some very valid points but I believe it really goes back to the the target audience you’re trying to meet. I news blog is best suited in 800×600 because many people who read the news daily still use that screen resolution. But a blog that deals with computer graphics or video games would be better suited in 1056×768 because the target audience is more likely to have that screen resolution.

  18. Dhillon responds:
    Posted: November 18th, 2008 at 3:42 am

    The classic recommendation has been to create all websites so they show completely within a 800 x 600 pixel screen resolution. This means, that if viewers use a 1024 x 768 resolution or bigger, your site is going to look quite tiny on the screen. So, how do we please everyone?

    But today, many viewers have large monitors on their computers which accommodate resolutions much higher than even the biggest common web design dimensions of 1024 x 768 pixels. So, designers have to find ways that can allow all viewers to view the site in an appealing way. There is nothing more frustrating than having to scroll horizontally just to see the page (and this is considered a sin in web design circles, unless the designer is using the method to provide an interesting horizontal sort of panoptican effect). Yet, it is also frustruating for viewers who have high screen resolution to have to squint to view the site, since it looks so tiny on their screen.

    The best way to accommodate as many screen resolutions as possible is to avoid specifying width in absolute pixels. For instance, if using a table based approach, use the percent parameter rather than the pixel one. So, if you want a table to fit either a 800 x 600 and a 1024 x 768 (or larger) specify that the table is 80% of the screen size, rather than say, 800 pixels wide.

  19. Margarito responds:
    Posted: November 30th, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    This is a tough question for anyone involved with professional web design. When I began my career in web design 800 x 600 was still very much a standard resolution on many of the monitors of that day and the preferred resolution of all but hard core users. These days with monitors getting bigger and bigger the question should be asked again. I’m actually in favor of creating sites that reside in an 800 x 600 table as it just looks nice and neat and keeps things in line.

  20. Aaron responds:
    Posted: January 4th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    This article has shed light on my current dilemma, but not in the way the author might wish. I am designing a photo gallery. The photographs are all displayed within a 1000 × 500-pixel area; horizontal scrolling is neither inappropriate nor inconvenient in this situation. When the thumbnails are clicked on, a new window opens. Now I thought to myself, “Self, shouldn’t this window be no taller than, say, 540 pixels? But that would make the lovely, high-resolution photographs rather small.”

    This article points out that nowadays the most common reason for selecting 800 × 600 is that “it makes things bigger.” If I choose a larger size for the picture viewer, some people will not have the previous/next buttons (which are not essential, as they can close the window and select another photo). But if I attempt to accommodate these people by shrinking the whole thing, I will deliver to them a smaller image, thus defeating their intent to see things bigger! Meanwhile, everyone else sees an even smaller image. By this reasoning, it is paradoxically a lose-lose situation.

    (A wise designer might suggest that I move the buttons to the side, but the shape of the viewer is important.)

    P.S. I found the W3Schools page very interesting; thank you. It does actually state the basis of the statistics: members of W3Schools. That’s what Wikipedia was referring to.

  21. Dean responds:
    Posted: January 19th, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree 100% about designing for 800×600 being a necessity. By doing so you aren’t leaving out the 8%? What about the other 92% that have larger screens and would rather use them? They don’t want a thin line of content down the middle of their screen. What about the pepole that spend money on their computer equipment and want to move with technology advances? They want to see what is possible NOW! 800×600 users will be used to side scrolling and if they choose that resolution, they will be aware of the pitfalls. If they want bigger text, they can always enlarge the text on a higher res monitor.
    Liquid layouts aren’t always an option when it comes to aesthetics and meeting other w3c standards when getting a liquid layout across several browsers. Accessibility means coding for all browsers and all version that are still very much in use but don’t support min-width and max-width and handle %, px, em differently etc…
    It’s also like saying all cars should go from 0-60 in 2 seconds so that everyone can get up to 60 as fast as each other. But some people don’t want such a powerful car. You design for resolutions to suit the websites users and your customer. My clients wouldn’t be too happy if I were to charge them more because it was going to take me longer to code alternate resolution style sheets so that their non-potential customers can access the site. If I was to create a css gallery I would expect almost all my visitors to be on good browsers with high resolutions and would design for them. If I were to design a site that caters for renewing your pensioners buspass online, I would probably go for the lower res, larger text option to accommodate the older folk that have their grandsons old hand-me-down pentium 100.

    And yes, stats are a waste of time. Unless of course you are designing a site for a particular business and you take the stats from another companies website in that exact same business.

    I have to say, I came across this site and was over the moon to find such a site until I read this. It is a disgrace that people can dictate what a standard should be with such generalization and opinion related judgements.

  22. Dean responds:
    Posted: January 19th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Of course it won’t stop me reading. I agree with a lot of what you say, and I disagree with loads of things other people say and still continue to talk to them. But I feel I need to get my point across to people that rely too much on statistics (which cannot really be accurate for this subject due to variations) and the technical side, rather than looking at the practicalities of real human visitors.

    I believe that it is an unfair criteria to be used by accessites. They are pretty much labelling sites which are more than 600px wide as inaccessible regardless of the purpose of the site. Would you put wheelchair access to a boxing ring? Probably not, because it’s extremely doubtful that someone that can’t walk is going to be getting in to a boxing ring. But if that disabled person decides they want to do boxing, they will be perfectly aware of the difficulties and wouldn’t expect every boxing ring to have that access.

    Sometimes you can overdo accessibility to the point where it lowers usability. e.g. access keys causing havoc because they conflict with browser keys. Yes new browsers are fixing this problem, but, like the still existent 800×600 users, there are still IE5 + 6 users etc…

    As I said before, I am happy to see people are dedicated to making the web accessible, but one persons word on the matter cannot be law. Accessibility criterion should really only be measured by the absolute right or wrong…e.g. not hiding important text in an img without alt tag etc.. and leave the opinion related parts to an independent human to consider along with common sense.

    Keep up the good work though…I like anything like this when it can spark a debate!

  23. Sue responds:
    Posted: February 16th, 2009 at 2:38 am

    I noticed a few of the comments in here seem to forget a few things about users, so here is my 2 cents on that part…

    I work in an office environment and I can tell you first hand most people do not have a clue how to use the browser other than back and forward buttons. So to expect everyone to understand the options available to them as far as resizing the screen or changing the font size is a lot to expect. A lot of them still link that the IE icon is the “WEB” and don’t get the Firefox icon gets you to the same place. This goes for young and old, some people just don’t get technology no matter how much you show them.

    The average user wants to turn the computer on do what they have to. Just like turning on their car they just want it to work. No hassles, no side scrolling (which I hate! no matter how well a site is designed or may have the info I need, if I have to side scroll I’m outa there!)No font resizing etc… go to the site and it looks good on their screen, easy to read and navigate that is what the average user wants.

    Designers and developers need to remember or be aware that most people don’t have a clue and some don’t have the time to learn something else when they have to get something done, they don’t want to play around with the programs they need or the browser they use. They don’t enjoy computers they are just means to the end. Just like getting in your car and driving it doesn’t mean you are a gear head!

    So Don’t forget you are designing for people that don’t know what you do!
    thanks for the rant…….

  24. Rafe responds:
    Posted: February 19th, 2009 at 12:08 am

    This subject seems to keep cropping up but without people taking into account any changes other than what they want to see and argue.

    I too have family who ‘must’ use a smaller screen size so they can perform the tasks they want to so am firmly on the side of the smaller resolution support. But that isn’t the only reason…

    Dean states “It’s also like saying all cars should go from 0-60 in 2 seconds so that everyone can get up to 60 as fast as each other. But some people don’t want such a powerful car.”

    So advocating that a less powerful car should be an option, yet is trying to argue that a less powerful screen resolution should ‘not’ be an option. You can’t argue both sides of this coin at the same time.

    The whole thing about accessibility is in ‘not disabling’ the user. If someone is in complete control of perfect faculties but you prevent them from doing something the way they want to, you are not ‘not enabling’ someone, you are in fact actively ‘disabling’ someone.

    Now the 800 pixel wide argument seems to be gathering weight because the average user is now using a 1024 resolution so drop the 800 support. Think about it, don’t just dribble the argument like you need someone to wipe your chin.

    If someone is using a brand spanking new machine, the likelihood is they will be using Windows Vista. Love it or loathe it, it’s the new kid on the block that is shoved down everybody’s throat.

    Windows Vista happens to have a neat little application called Vista Sidebar (or Windows Sidebar or whatever else you want to call it) which can be permanently on the ’side’ of the screen. (can anyone see where this is going yet?)

    If a user starts with a 1024 wide screen and then has a permanent sidebar that takes up 150 (or whatever) pixels of screen real estate width… what are you left with?

    I hope that makes my views on the matter crystal and I apologise if it was a bit of a long post.

  25. Alfie Moon responds:
    Posted: February 27th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I set my screen resolution at 800 by 600 and viewed this page. I had my bookmarks toollbar/internet explorer favorites down the side as most people do. Side scrolling was imminent. I closed my bookmarks side bar and freed up the window, rather than maximizing it. I had to scroll side ways.

  26. Steve responds:
    Posted: June 20th, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Hi first time I have visitied your site.

    Interesting debate you have going on. I visit alot of our clients personally to see how they are getting on and so far I have yet to come accross a screen set up for 800×600, but what about their clients?

    I’m interested to discover what the truth is re this debate.

    I think a poll is in order when I get 5 mins.

    My gut feeling is you can’t please everyone it’s a bit like SEO who do you optimise for Google or Yahoo?

    Persoanlly I’d rather please the 92% quoted here, but who knows just maybe the money is in the 8%.

  27. Stephen Kiers responds:
    Posted: July 29th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I disagree with this article for the same reason Dean does. The reason so many clients ASK for wider layouts is because the standard computer screen sold now is at LEAST 1024×768. I personally have 2-24″ at work, a 30″ and 24″ at home so I am used to websites being tiny strips in the middle of the page, but the common user isn’t. They hate how their website is so small on their monitor, and think something is wrong.
    And liquid layout cannot be the only solutions. Liquid layouts have way to many negatives to be used 100% of the time. That is why many sites don’t anymore.

    In the end though it comes down to your target audience.
    When I design a photography or design site I ignore IE6, design at 1024×768 minimum, use a lot of graphics use javascript and try to make the site as accessible as possible without losing visual ‘prettiness’.
    When I design a private companies website targeted at other private companies I ask if IE6 is important to them, design at 1024×768 max, make it accessible and focus on google SEO.
    When I design for the government’s seniors ministry I use 800×600, fully support IE6, am as accessible as possible and some, and also follow all of their protocol about design requirements.

    You have to think of who is going to be visiting, and what your end goals are. 800×600 is just not usually practical, and fluid can be just as bad.

  28. Web Design Company Buckinghamshire responds:
    Posted: October 5th, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Technology moves on and the move away from small screen resolutions to allow for platforms like mobile means that we cannot hang on to the past. On average 800×600 makes up just about 3% of modern day screen resolutions and it’s a bit like the Microsoft who reach a certain point and then stop supporting old products. There comes a time when you just have to let go of the past and move on :)

  29. Frank responds:
    Posted: February 13th, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Facebook is around 960px wide. Even the least computer literate people in the world use facebook - some probably believe that facebook is the only thing their computer does! As a general rule I would say that matching facebooks width is a safe bet and anyone that can’t fit your site on their screen, can’t fit facebook on either - so they will be used to it and know it’s time they did something about it. I think it is very poor judgement to disallow gawd membership based on a site not being 800px or less and it makes me believe that anyone that has succeeded in becoming a member and staying a member, is a designer to stay well clear of - they obviously don’t know what they are doing and have an inability to move along with the rest of the world.

    Up until last year I still had a nokia 5210 phone. I couldn’t recieve photo messages and couldn’t do much more than call, text or use a calculator on it. Should the rest of the world stop sending photo messages because there are still people with old phones? Should app developers consider those that haven’t got a phone that is compatible with their apps? Should we be designing our websites so that they display correctly on a nokia 5210? GAWD is a dated organisation and unless it does something about this, it is labelling it’s members as idiots!

  30. Dick responds:
    Posted: March 9th, 2010 at 9:14 am

    I love 800/600.being over 60 ,i demand it lol
    I hope it will work when i get my new PC
    with Windows 7,if it don’t,i will format
    and install XP.nuff said

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