The evolution of width in photography websites
Over the years we’ve built hundreds of websites for photographers. When we started building photographic sites in around 2004-2005, most home users had smaller screen sizes than today usually 800 or 1024 pixels wide, usually CRT (Cathode Ray Tubes) rather than the LCD screens that we have today.
In those days the difference in screen sizes was quite minimal. The largest screens were used by only a few top end photographers and software developers and had a maximum resolution of 1600 pixels in the horizontal plane.
There were a couple of methods that we used to fill this area:
- Fixed width: The width of the website was fixed to a set amount of pixels.
- Stretch: The width of the site expanded or contracted to fill the width of the browser window.
The “Stretch” method of displaying a site soon dropped out of favour due to problems with displaying text and images. For example, if the window was expanded and there was only a small amount of text on the page (or short paragraphs), it would no longer fill the main space allocated for page content and the text would lack coherence. The sentences also become very long across the screen and less legible.
As a company we generally build all our photography sites using HTML rather than Flash. This gives our sites a massive advantage in the search engines. We build many websites for photographers who have had Flash “template” sites in the past, these can fill the entire screen and show very large images, but they have hardly any text on the pages and don’t really impart any relevant information about the photographer to the customer.
We constantly look at browser statistics that are published on the web and from our servers to see what size of screens and the percentage of users that are currently using them. Currently, in January 2011, 99% of people browsing the web using computers (not including mobile devices) are now using screens larger than 800 pixels wide . This is why we now set the screen width for our websites at around 960 pixels. This allows virtually all devices to view the site correctly, including mobile devices which will scale accordingly.
But what about the space on either side of the site? This can be a solid colour, a pattern or we can even put some extra buttons or a menu within this area for linking to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn etc.
We’ve seen some examples recently of websites that break these rules by both professional designers and “my next door neighbour did it for me” sites that have obviously been created to try and appease the photographer without thinking of their clientele. The simple answer is: Don’t!