I have been meaning to write a post on this subject for some time now, and with each passing month the subject becomes more apt, read on to see why.
When designing websites, one of the first questions that gets considered is what resolution should the website be optimized for. Ask this same question across the web and you will almost certainly get the same answer: “Design it for a 1024px width resolution”. The reason for this is that it meets the requirements of most users. Designing for a size bigger than this would have meant a horizontal scrollbar appearing on the majority of users monitors (as little as ten years ago only 4% of users were using screens with a resolution bigger than 1024px)
However, times are changing. Since January 2000, the market share of larger screen resolutions has been rapidly increasing. So much so that at the time of writing this post (according to these figures published monthly by the World Wide Web Consortium) over 85% of users are using a screen resolution higher than 1024px, with only 1% of users using a resolution less than 1024px. That leaves us with a total of just over 14% of users still using a resolution of 1024px or less.
So what resolution should we be designing for?
Although the numbers are declining, and will continue to do so as people upgrade their machines, 14% is still a rather hefty chunk of the market to ignore. If you must design a fixed width website, 1024px is still the choice for now in my opinion. However, with the ever-increasing popularity of flexible and fluid width websites caused by the sheer amount of differing resolutions brought to the market by smartphones and tablets alike, will we even ask this question in the years to come?
The fluid approach is a growing trend in many of the new websites I see published today, and with Apple bringing out their retina display Macbook Pro with a resolution of no less than 2880px late last year, it seems it could be the way forward. We can expect screen resolutions to get bigger and bigger as technology advances and thus is it realistic to be designing for a 2880px resolution? Fluid width design gives us an unlimited canvas size to work with, within reason, and can only help us in giving each user a unique experience and actually help our job as designers.
For the moment though, 1024px is still the way to go.