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Should You Optimize Content for Wide Screens?

I’d love a user experience expert to chime in on this post. I’ve been watching as more and more technology sites are maximizing the viewport (the viewable region of your device) and I’m not really that impressed. I don’t believe that, if you have more resolution that you need to use that resolution.

Here’s a breakdown of the top resolutions on the Marketing Technology Blog:
Resolutions

The most popular resolution, as you can see, is the 1366×768. This is pretty much the standard laptop resolution on the market right now. Proportionally, this is how that screen looks:
1366x768

As you can see the screen is very, very wide and a bit short. While it makes for a great screen that’s optimized to view HD videos, it’s not really a screen that’s optimized for websites and reading. And we view videos at a distance… not up close where we’re reading text and typing on the keyboard. A vertical screen would be a much better resolution for that, since websites vary more in length than they do in width.

So, I’m seeing this onslaught of websites that are designed to maximize the viewport and I’m not sold. Newspapers found a long time ago that people read in vertical strips, not long horizontal ones. Our focus tends to get lost as we move across the screen. Moving elements far to the left, or to the right puts them out of focus as I’m reading content, so secondary elements like sidebars are virtually ignored altogether.

With that, I’m not looking to redesign the Marketing Technology Blog screen to take up that horizontal real estate anytime soon. Our design on a monitor differs from the experience on a mobile device or tablet and we’ll continue to keep those experiences unique. Our width on the blog is great for reading top to bottom and seeing the sidebar as we view the key content. Our primary content is 640px wide to accomodate standard video sizes and a sidebar that’s 300px wide for standard advertising.

What do you think? Should we go the route of other sites? Or am I on the right track with our current layout?

About Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of The Marketing Technology Blog. Doug is the CMO of CircuPress and CEO of DK New Media, an agency specializing in assisting marketing technology companies with their inbound marketing - leveraging social media, blogging, search engine optimization, pay per click and public relations. Their clients include Angie's List, GoDaddy, Mindjet and many more. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

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2 comments

  1. I can’t say I’m a user experience expert, however I’ve been building sites for a long time, and I’m pushing everyone hard for at least a responsive design, if only to take care of the problems you’re facing.

    If you take a look at sites like Mashable, The Verge, and even NPR, you can tell they have switched to a much wider design like you said which I personally LOVE, as I work and read a lot of my work-related content on a 32″ screen.

    However, in my opinion when it comes to sites like yours, I have to wonder what is sacrificed and what type of budget you’ll need to convert.

    The developer in me would recommend testing with some wider designs on specific content, and using a redirect for specific viewports, then go from there.

    I find that with sites like The Verge and Mashable, a really great piece needs a good amount of room, and the wider design really helps that along.

    • Thanks for this great insight, Doug! We surely would invest if there’s evidence that wide, responsive formats are improving the readability and engagement on sites. Is there definitive evidence of this out there?
      Douglas Karr

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