An interesting topic where everybody will have their own opinion. Now the modern age of digital technology, enables many different sized devices to view internet web pages. From a small Smartphone, Tablet to a basic Desktop screen to an extra-large one.
What I want to cover in this article is how to think what is the best width for a website and not dictating you one 🙂
I believe in education and not just telling people what is right. Because in the end there is no right or wrong, only opinions.
Lets start by saying that whatever you do, if your building a new site, or modifying an existing one. Always think in a responsive design. When I’m talking about responsive design I don’t mean making it 100% width wise, there are environments where this is a good idea, but not always the case for certain mainstream websites.
A responsive website does not have to be full width.
You can have a website that is set to a max-width of 960 pixels but once the screen becomes smaller you can change into a full screen adaptable website. There is no necessary obligation to have a full width website, other than some pointers that I will cover below.
So why do I mention 960 pixels?
A website designed to be 960 pixels wide is easily divisible by 2 and 3, and covers that if your on a desktop computer to not have an over sized website. Now certain tablets with a high-resolution will than not have a full width experience. If you’re using CSS media queries. You can however swap CSS style sheets via a server-side detection. I have already written an article about this.
Target your audience
Another topic worth thinking about is your audience, as much as I would suggest to keep your width at 960 pixels. Your audience could enjoy a different design. For example you will see lots of fashion brands have full width websites. But the problem is that most of these sites have an extremely bad navigational feature and sometimes can feel overwhelming with information.
The trend of your market could help you decide what width is good, but don’t be fooled by following trends, sometimes being different will give you a better appeal.
Basing of analytic data
If your working on an existing website than it is worth noting to have a look at your analytic data. Checking what the most common screen resolution is will help you understand what the best options can be. It does not mean that you can ignore certain sizes. I would recommend to optimize the website for the top 3 resolutions. and then work your way down or up.
Having your website to adapt to all or a selected resolutions can be very tricky to ensure that each resolution has all the elements perfectly positioned. But at least this way you can focus on the most popular sizes.
The demise of desktop computers
There is a clear sign that desktop computers and laptops are reserved for a selected few. With over 40% of the main traffic being smartphones and tablets. Meaning that a set width will be obsolete for these devices, as you should enable a full width adaptive website in this case.
This goes hand in hand with your target audience, such as this site SmileyWar is all about web development and related articles. I’m targeting around more than 90% to desktop or laptop users. There will be a very low percentage for any other device. Purely because this is a technology information site, not an eCommerce, SaaS, gaming site etc…
So I’m very confident that the desktop computers are reserved for working people, meaning people who have to build things.
There is no right or wrong, the width of your website depends on your target audience, regardless within 2 years you will notice that you will have to go full width as the demise of desktops is near.