I have just been reading the LinuxWorld Community blog which seems to be mostly Don Marti’s personal blog (currently there seems to be no-one else blogging on that site).
One thing that disappointed me is that the theme designer made it look good at a width of 1000 pixels and no other size. At a smaller width the adverts on the right are cut off (more of a problem for the site owner than for the readers) and at a larger width you have a thin column of text in the middle of the screen. A quick test revealed that while my own blog looks good in wide windows it doesn’t work too well in 800 pixel width and gets very bad at lower widths – my blog would be essentially unusable at 640×480 resolution as the text column in the middle (the most important column) is the one that reduces in size. The LinuxWorld blog has a minimum size of 1000 pixels for the scaling so it allows horizontal scrolling in 640 pixel width and remains quite readable.
The top entry in a google search for web size stats is Browser News which claims that 12% of web browsers are on 800 pixel wide screens. The next link I found claims that as of January 2007 there are 26% of web users with screens that have higher than 1024×768 resolution and 14% with 800×600.
Apart from the first couple of months of blogging my blog has always looked good in screens greater than 1000 pixels wide, but not having it work at 800×600 is a problem. The first thing I did was alter the style.css file for the Blueline theme for WordPress to use 100% of the display width (not 86%). Wasting 14% of the screen width is not a good thing when using a width-intensive three-column theme. This change made my blog work well in 800 pixel width and be bearable in 640 pixel width.
The other change was to use min-width: 700px; in the style.css sections blogtitle, container, and navigation. This means that at 640 pixel width the text column will take more than 1/3 of the screen and should be quite readable (unless the reader has an unusually large font setting). The down-side to this is that if your window width is less than 700 pixels then you will have some horizontal scrolling, but I think that this is an acceptable trade-off.
I was forced to confront this issue when talking to a prospective client about the potential for blogs to be used in his business, he loaded up my blog on an ancient windows machine and it didn’t look very good at all, this coincidentally happened a few hours after I had been reading the LinuxWorld blog on a big screen.