Why not shift to 1200px minimum desktop/laptop screen resolution

12 Feb 2012 - 8:00pm
4 years ago
11 replies
4272 reads

Hi guys,

I've just been asked whether there's a downside to moving to 1200px as the minimum desktop/laptop screen resolution we design for.

As far as I can tell, there are two downsides:

  • iPad browsers in landscape mode will be forced to zoom out to fit the content within the screen
  • Some laptops will be forced into horizontal

What proportion of laptop users? I don't know. I've tried to search for statistics on laptop screen resolutions, without success.

Are there any other segments or gotchas we should keep in mind?

Note: I'm thinking only of a default state, ignoring for the moment, any responsive design or mobile first process. For those who are obsessed with this stuff, think of this as asking about the consequences of skipping any breakpoint around the 1024px mark, and going straight from portrait tablet to 1200px screen resolutions.


Justin (@brtrx)



12 Feb 2012 - 11:08pm

I think it's important to know what resolution the majority of your users/target audience is using. I do a lot of work for large companies and my biggest client still has a majority of employees using 1024--we recently built a prototype at 1200 for a usability study and then wound up with people having to scroll horizontally .

12 Feb 2012 - 11:43pm

I agree. It's imperative to know what your customers are using. We generally test on all browsers above 5% mark and expect to give our users exactly the SAME experience. There can be exceptions, for eg: even though IE6 is less than 5%, we still support it fully because we believe our enterprise customers use it and it's not worth the risk.

If you are designing for public at large, go with what Amazon does. They target 1024px and make sure all important areas fall on the inside of that line (930 or so). Ad content gets cut off and needs horizontal scroll to discover which is ok.

13 Feb 2012 - 4:50am

The iPad isn't the only tablet and there are many mobile devices, and even browser-based TV systems that might be worth considering.

The best solution might be to adopt a responsive layout - which would potentially be able to make use of any increase or decrease in space on a case-by-base basis.



13 Feb 2012 - 6:10am

What Luke said. Responsive design. But then we need to start thinking about what it means for something to be too wide. Do we want a responsive design that expands to fill the entire width of a 52-inch TV display? Well, it depends.

If it's a single column of text, probably not. You'll probably want to set a maximum width in that case. If it's a webapp that lets you view your media library, the answer may be yes—we don't want to arbitrarily limit the amount of screen space it uses.

It's whatever works for the thing that you're designing.


13 Feb 2012 - 7:27am
Yohan Creemers

According to StatCounter, 1024 x 768 is still the most used resolution, but what you really want to know is the size of the viewport (available space within the browser window). The bigger the screen, the less likely that people will open their browser full screen, so screen resolution isn't a useful measure.

- Yohan

13 Feb 2012 - 7:26pm

@Yohan, that's true globally with nearly 22%, but looking at the Australian market stats, where I am, resolutions below 1200 account for only about 7%.

Interestingly, the market share actually increases between May and July 2011, which is probably due to iPad2 uptake.

If we extrapolated from the first few months of 2011, to estimate the desktop market share (crude, but heh), we get something like 3.2%. That's below even @hersch's 5% limit.

Given these numbers, it seems like a shift to 1200px as the presumed desktop screen width used by the general public won't leave many people behind, assuming that tablets are kept in mind. (With appropriate et ceteris paribus clauses for constrained populations, like employees/enterprise users, where group-specific stats are needed)

- Justin

p.s. Just noticed a strange solution on Design Taxi - the homepage is 980px wide, while content pages are 1180px wide. I have no idea why they did that, do you?

14 Feb 2012 - 6:57am

Is it not possible to design for 1200 and allow it to scale down gracefully, where the template will still work in lower resolutions, that way you still get the design you want but with the knowledge that your users will not hate you too much :)

15 Feb 2012 - 9:00am

I agree with what's been mentioned above. First and foremost you've got to know who you're serving to. Beyond that you've got to look at that user base and determine which users you're willing to serve up a less than ideal experience to.

In cases where I decide not to go responsive (for budget or whatever reason) I shoot for the lower resolution on the majority user base, this tackles most users. Those above might see more white space, or those below might get scrolls, but that shouldn't be something that they're totally unfamiliar with.

In that case I also urge the build of a simplistic mobile / tablet landing page, at least somewhat trying to provide mobile users with a way to get into necessary content without initially dealing with a huge resolution site.


20 Feb 2012 - 11:39pm

Let me reiterate something I said at the top. I am talking about what resolution to consider as the norm for desktop viewing, regardless of responsive or other techniques used to accommodate smaller screen devices.

One of the benefits of shifting that norm from 1024px to 1200px is that it is possible to create a three column layout with a major 560px wide content pane in the middle, and two 320px columns on each side. This creates a lot of freedom if you've got to include standard MRec advertising formats into your design, and ensures your sub-navigation is given as much space as the primary ad.

This is just an artifact of that 300x250 ad taking up such a big % (>1/3) of the available width on a 1024px grid. 1200px means you have more room for your content and/or navigation.

Given the stats in Australia (and in many cases, who I am designing for is a very broad Australian consumer market), 1200px seems a reasonable norm, or to put it more clearly, it seems fair to treat a 1024px wide desktop screen as an exception. If I've understood correctly, this is roughly iPanic's point.

Of course, a 1024px wide tablet screen should not be treated as an exception, but the point is that's a different case / breakpoint.

6 Mar 2012 - 4:13am

Update: You know what I forgot about?


The standard format for netbooks is 1024x600, and for at least one client of mine, including them pushes the percentage of users operating below 1200px over 10%.

Moreover, since they are desktops, their browser's aren't designed (like the iPad's) to resize content to fit the screen (although there are some that do this at the OS level).


6 Mar 2012 - 1:43pm
Adam Korman

I just want to reiterate what Yohan mentioned about the viewport that seemed to get overlooked. When you're talking about desktop web browser usage, screen resolution is only part of the story. My experience has been that people tend to keep their browser windows at roughly the same width regardless of screen resolution. In other words, most people using 1024x768 use their browser fully maximized, but from 1280 up, most people stop maximizing the window and end up with roughly the same viewable width (while increasing the window height). They keep other apps (or browser windows, or part of the desktop) in view with the remaining width of the screen. So, just because you see browser statistics that indicate higher screen resolution, I wouldn't assume that it's devoted to the browser.


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