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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Screen resolution, page size and download time

July 2nd, 2007 by tamuwebmaster

In the past, Web design was geared around meeting fixed screen widths and resolutions. Current trends involve an understanding that the Web is fluid and not a piece of paper with boundaries. That being said, the graphic intensity and coding complexity for Web page complexity has grown along with bandwidth speeds.

Instead of specifying a screen size or a Kilobyte limit for file sizes, attention needs to be paid toward the user experience across the board. So in regards to page size and download times there are a few points to keep in mind.

  • Don’t use “best viewed at [screen resolution]” on pages. It’s not so much the screen size as it is the browser window size. Most people will not maximize their browser window out to its farthest reaches because they want to still be able to access the other windows easily. Consider a fluid design methodology that uses percentages to allow for browser resizing.
  • Don’t use “best viewed using [browser]” on pages. It should not ever fall back on the user to have to use a certain browser to access pages. While there are recommendations on standards-compliant browsers, design and development should entail cross-browser and cross-platform testing to ensure a consistent user experience.  When these things are in conflict, content is king.  With CSS it should be possible to gracefully degrade how the page looks without losing access to the whole content.
  • Don’t assume everyone has high-speed access. It is true that access to high bandwidth service has greatly increased, but there are still a large number of people with dial up or other slower connection speeds. Part of the university’s and System’s responsibilities is to provide education and outreach, especially to rural areas and underrepresented populations, so pages need to be optimized to minimize download time. This should include a discussion on the use or limit of images in relation to the page’s overall download time.
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