Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Analyzing the Future - Part 2 - Page Dimensions

Looking at page dimensions of newly redesigned college/university home pages.

In my last post, I selected 18 newly redesigned college or university home pages to analyze, looking for trends, best practices, etc.

So what first?

Well, one of my pet peeves are pages that are too wide to fit on my 640x480 monitor.

OK, OK, I have two 1280x1024 monitors on my desk, but in general, I find that a browser window width of about 900-960 is the most comfortable for me. I HATE having to blow my browser up to full screen to see a whole page. Other people on campus have different, less correct, opinions on the matter. But hey, that's just my personal opinion.

So, the first thing I looked at were page sizes, both minimum width (the point at which horizontal scroll bars appear) and total height.

Site Min Width Height
Rocky Mt. College of Art+Design 795 1619
Skidmore College 805 1105
IUPUI 825 1022
Our Lady of Holy Cross College 825 920
University of St. Thomas 829 812
Biola University 839 1309
Imperial College 875 766
Rice University 925 1084
North Carolina State University 927 1103
Loyola Marymount 950 1052
Portland State University 984 798
Notre Dame University 985 1075
University of Tennessee - Knoxville 985 1085
Cornell College 1006 905
Saxion Universities
1015 950
Denver Seminary 1015 1050
Ball State University 1025 846
Carnegie Mellon University 1029 981
924.4 1026.8

This chart shows things a bit more visually:

Given an average of 20 pixels of horizontal chrome and 120 vertical pixels of browser chrome, effective viewport sizes are about 1000x650 (for 1024x768) and 1260x900 (for 1280x1024).

You can see that there are two width clusters, one around 800 pixels wide, and another around 1000 pixels. You would think that this reflects people designing pages for 800 pixel and 1024 pixel monitors, but all but one of the pages in the ~800 pixel width group are actually more than 800 pixels wide. So, something besides monitor size is driving that width decision.

Also note that with two exceptions, page heights are clustered between 750 and 1100 pixels, which, with browser chrome, is generally more than a screen tall on a 1280x1024 monitor.

At Chico State, Google Analytics show over 40% of users are using monitors of 1024 or fewer pixels width.

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