May 30, 2006, 4:38 PM — Web design in the early days was full of potential pitfalls. You couldn't make pages too wide, or people would have to figure out how to scroll left and right. You couldn't make pages too long - people would miss information that fell "below the fold". You had to limit the colors you used, or what you thought was blue might show up as red on a user's screen. And creating multimedia was often a waste of effort, because most people had slow web connections.
As technology has evolved, the guidelines that many of us learned to deal with the Web's early limitations are becoming less important, and in some cases, even liabilities. Here are three aspects of old-school Web design that it's time to put to rest.
Limited Screen Resolution: Fagetaboutit!
If you had a computer ten years ago, you probably had a VGA monitor with a massive 640 x 480 screen resolution. If you were really lucky, you might have had an 800 x 600 pixel screen. This meant that Web sites had to be significantly limited in width, or users would have to scroll around. A user with a tiny screen could even get lost scrolling around a big Web page!
Many sites and web builders are still working with these old-school resolutions in mind. Unless you're building pages for your local Windows 95 user group, it's probably time to move on to designing for bigger and better resolutions.
The majority of Web surfers now use screen resolutions 1024 x 768 or higher. At most Web sites, less than 10-20% of the visitors use lower screen resolutions. It's time to make life easy for most of your users, and take advantage of the bigger screen resolutions that they are using.
A high-profile example of this happening is the recent redesign of the New York Times' site. The layout is built for 1024 x 768 screen resolution, putting an index of the major site sections along the left and using four columns to provide news highlights. The most important content fits in an 800 x 600 pixel area, but the design basically assumes that users are running at higher screen resolutions.
The Browser-Safe Color Palette: Fagetaboutit!
Along with low screen resolutions, those VGA monitors gave us limited color depths, dithering and the dreaded Browser-Safe Color Palette.
The Browser-Safe Color Palette was a collection of 216 colors that were supported by early browsers. You could organize them by hue! You could organize them by color! But, no matter how you organized them, they were 216 colors that never seemed to include the colors you needed, like the colors of your company's logo.