Long, long ago in the late 20th century, the first websites were viewed on computer monitors only 14 inches wide (measured diagonally). Because virtually all screens were the same size, web designers had two easy choices: Create a site with a width of 100 percent, or create a fixed-width site set at approximately 640 pixels (or 8-3/4 inches). Either way, the site pretty much fit the screen of most monitors.
Over time, the size of monitors increased and designing a site became more complicated. Now, not everyone shares the same monitor size, not everyone has the same display settings, and not every website has expanded to fit the extra display area available on a larger screen. Businesses that didn’t update their sites to accommodate increasing screen “real estate” saw their sites literally shrink on their monitors.
Today, according to w3schools.com, 85.4 percent all users have a desktop monitor that displays between 17.75 to 26.66 inches wide (measured diagonally). At the very least, that doubles the amount of display space available at the time the first websites were built.
So does this increase in screen size mean that an upgrade is necessary? Not necessarily.
Recently, browser software has integrated a means of alleviating the sizing issue. Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome all offer a “zoom” feature that allows the user to enlarge the screen dimensions of a website.
In Chrome, click on the settings icon located in the upper right corner of the browser window. The dropdown menu shows the Zoom feature. You can also select Advanced Settings in order to change font sizing.
In Internet Explorer 7 or 8, click on the Zoom icon in the bottom right of the browser screen.
In Firefox, zoom options are available in the View menu. You can also adjust the text size.
Developers are already aware of the new Zoom features, but many users are not because typically they don’t poke around browser settings to learn what’s new. Nevertheless, this feature is just the kind of development that makes a big difference to business owners, who need to carefully manage web-related budgets. So, if the site has been upgraded within the last two to three years, chances are no real upgrade is needed just to improve the screen dimensions. Note: Mobile websites are an entirely different subject with different requirements that should be investigated independently.
Viewer control over page sizing in the browser is a relatively new feature that allows users to customize their experience with websites. Fortunately for site owners, it also will save substantial costs as users learn to adjust the size of websites to suit their own tastes by changing one simple browser setting.