W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > October to December 1999

Re: Monitor Size

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Fri, 1 Oct 1999 15:30:28 -0700
Message-ID: <00a201bf0c5c$a6e7d900$0100007f@localhost>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
>Is there a suggested or recommended screen size that we should be designing
>for?  That is pixel  Height and Width.

One thing that I don't hear much about on this list but which I feel is
important is line length. For optimum readability, a line length of around
10-12 words is good.

I am always bothered when I go to sites (such as the W3C site) where the
author has made no attempt to set a reasonable line length. From personal
preference, I keep my browser window maximized. At the resolution I
typically run, this often results in line lengths of 20-30 words. Reading
text this way is like watching a tennis match from the net.

Sure, I could shrink my browser window (or write my own style-sheet), but
wouldn't it be easier to simply limit the line length?

I usually avoid columns because of problems with some screen readers. So a
10-12 word line at a typical screen font works out to about 360 pixels wide.
That ought to work with most screen magnifiers, too.

As for overall width, I limit my graphics to 540 pixels whenever possible.
For one thing, I think the default window size on many Macs is around 540
pixels, for another, WebTV forces page width to 560 (I leave a 20 pixel
margin for error).

To avoid excessive vertical scrolling, I keep things short. Reading on a
monitor is uncomfortable to begin with. My general rule of thumb is no more
than 2 to 2 1/2 screens worth of material. I would rather chop a long block
of text up into several pages than have an enormously long single page. For
important material, I offer a one page, unformatted, "printable" version (or
PDF occasionally, which has the benefits of page numbers and a table of
contents). Frankly, the current landscape orientation of most monitors is
not well suited to textual material. I liked the idea behind the old Radius
Pivot monitor (it could be turned sideways to a portrait format).

Although I have been known to use a simple table to reduce line length, this
doesn't work well because (on some browsers) the table width stays the same
no matter the font size. So if a user sets a large font size, the line
length can get pretty short (although even 6-7 words per line is still
readable). I prefer to use a stylesheet to set line length. Typically, I set
the text width to 25em, which works out well, and also keeps the same line
length no matter what the font size.

In my opinion, there is no perfect set-up. A web site may be accessed in so
many different ways by people with vastly different needs, that there can be
no single way to format a page. But for the average reader accessing the
page by visual means, I think that line length should not be overlooked.

Charles F. Munat,
Munat, Inc.
Seattle, Washington
Received on Friday, 1 October 1999 18:26:01 UTC

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