Most common screen resolution(s) and best size for web design: A 100,000 visitor analysis

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screen resolution

The most common screen resolution, screen size and best practices when it comes to size for web design are common topics of discussion among web designers. Opinions are divided on what size is best, but luckily there is plenty of cold, hard data to help you decide.

In days gone by, when screen technology was in its toddler stage, fewer screen sizes were available and larger (considered large at the time anyway…), higher resolution screens came with a hefty price tag attached, typically limiting their use to specialised fields.

640×480, 800×600 and 1024×768 screen resolutions where the only options and catering for smaller sizes made sense as they were widely used. While many still argue it’s best to cater for these smaller sizes, the data just isn’t there to support this decision now-a-days.

Note: For the less tech-savvy out there, the most common screen resolution is not to be confused with the most common screen size. While 2 screens may be the same inches, the screen ratio, available resolutions and actual resolution in use will differ.

What follows is a breakdown of the last 100,000 visitors to www.andrewkeir.com and their screen resolutions. This data is provided by Google Analytics for the 3 day period of November 2nd, 2011 to November 4th, 2011.

On to the data. First off, we have the top 10 resolutions.

Rank Resolution # of visitors Percentage
1 1280 x 800 17,952 17.93%
2 1440 x 900 13,346 13.33%
3 1680 x 1050 11,398 11.38%
4 1024 x 768 9,425 9.41%
5 1366 x 768 8,719 8.71%
6 1280 x 1024 7,602 7.59%
7 1920 x 1080 7,072 7.06%
8 1920 x 1200 6,427 6.42%
9 2560 x 1440 2,726 2.72%
10 1600 x 900 2,394 2.39%

To save you doing the math, 77,636 visitors had screen resolutions over 1024×768, with 9,425 of visitors using 1024×768 screen resolution. 87% of visitors accounted for with no sign of anything lower. On to ranks 10 – 20.

Rank Resolution # of visitors Percentage
11 1152 x 864 1,132 1.13%
12 1360 x 768 1,020 1.02%
13 320 x 480 1,014 1.01%
14 1280 x 768 939 0.94%
15 1024 x 600 777 0.78%
16 1600 x 1200 653 0.65%
17 1280 x 720 577 0.58%
18 1280 x 960 561 0.56%
19 768 x 1024 467 0.47%
20 800 x 600 353 0.35%

As you can see, 800×600 barely scrapes in with a measly 353 visitors out of 100,000. Nearly 95,000 visitors accounted now. The remaining few percent of visitors were made up of a mix of tablets, mobile phones and other devices. Individually none had more than a hundred visits, if not a lot less, including 640×480.

So what is the minimum resolution you should cater for?

Designing a website no wider than 1024 still had as lot of merit, with nearly 10% of visitors running 1024×768. Having said that, you really can do a lot with a few hundred extra pixels.

If you do go wider, yours won’t be the first website people running 1024×768 have seen that was too wide for their screen and the extra space can let you do more for the majority of your visitors.

Final note: Over the next few years these figures will no doubt shift, but will be reasonably accurate for some time to come. I will publish a follow up article in the future once the figures have changed significantly.

What screen resolution to you design for? Leave a comment and let me know.


11 thoughtful comments on “Most common screen resolution(s) and best size for web design: A 100,000 visitor analysis”

  1. Ben Racicot says:

    I use a 17″ laptop extended with a 24″ BenqFW (1920 x 1080) so it’s widescreen. Developing on this setup I feel is perfect and here’s why: You get large sized laptop views which matches your average sized monitors. This laptop is a 1680×1050 (the number 3 resolution) this is perfect because it is just beyond your number one spot. For larger views on projects including widescreen video, CSS tricks and full width websites I feel need to be seen on a 1920.

  2. Ewan says:

    I keep a close eye on the stats over at W3Schools, and whenever I’m looking to design a new site I check out current screen resolutions, and to be quite honest, I haven’t designed a site in anything less than 1280px wide for quite some time now, but I guess it can be argued that depending on the demographics of potential visitors there is still room for designing in smaller resolutions.

    If you’re designing a senior citizens community club website or something I can’t imagine they would appreciate a high resolution related design. I might be wrong but anyway…

    You can access the browser stats and screen resolutions for the past 10 or so years at http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_display.asp

  3. Nicola says:

    There’s something wrong in the stats… Monitors with a resolution of 1280×800 don’t exist. I think they are tablets.

  4. Andrew Keir says:

    Ben, Ewan,
    Thank you for your input.

    Nicola,
    I’m afraid you’re mistaken. 1280×800 is for a 16:10 ratio wide screen monitor, other resolutions of the 16:10 ratio are 1440×900, 1680×1050 and 1920×1200. In fact the Samsung 2053BW monitors which I use support 1280×800, though I use it at it’s native 1680×1050 resolution.

    The data is correct. I believe you’ll find 1280×800 is a very common resolution for laptop computers.

    Regarding your last point, even if it was a resolution exclusive to tablets, if 18% of users visiting your site were using them, it would obviously be a resolution worth considering when designing your website.

  5. Andrew,

    Someone brought up your chart in a discussion about typical screen resolutions. I found it quite peculiar at the first sight and after some thinking I have come to realize that it provides very wrong data.

    The culprit is the top 3 resolutions, which account for over 42% of your total visits, and which are not very common in general. There is only 1 brand that offers them as standard (not upgrades) on its devices: Apple. Your No. 1 is standard on 13″ MacBooks, No. 2 is on 15″ MacBook Pro, and No. 3 is on either 15″ MBP or older 17″ MBP. Meanwhile, all those devices account for 20% of worldwide market at most.

    That being said, your chart proves one important point: the majority of modern screens are wide with the aspect ratio either 16:10 or 16:9. The most common current resolution for laptops is 1366×768 and for desktops it varies for screens under 20″ (anything more than 20″ is 1920×1080).

  6. Andrew Keir says:

    Hi Denis,

    I don’t know how to write this without sounding combative – which is not my intention – but nearly everything you have said is simply wrong. To address your comments directly:

    “The culprit is the top 3 resolutions, which account for over 42% of your total visits, and which are not very common in general.”

    My data obviously says otherwise. I’d be happy to see yours? What are you basing your comment that they’re “not very common” on?

    “There is only 1 brand that offers them as standard (not upgrades) on its devices: Apple.”

    That’s completely wrong, there are many, many others that do. See the examples below from a quick Google search I did.

    “Your No. 1 [1280x800] is standard on 13″ MacBooks”

    To quote just a few brands and models of laptop that use 1280×800 resolution:
    – Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550
    – Lenovo Thinkpad T410 2519
    – HP Pavilion DV4-2155DX
    – Toshiba Satellite A305-S6916
    – Loads more using WXGA screens.

    “No. 2 [1440x900] is on 15″ MacBook Pro”

    The following laptop examples use 1440×900 resolution:
    – HP Pavilion DV7-1285DX
    – Toshiba Satellite L355D-s7901
    – Sony Vaio A600B
    – Panasonic Toughbook F9
    – Lenovo Thinkpad T410 2522
    – Loads more using WXGA+ screens.

    “No. 3 [1680x1050] is on either 15″ MBP or older 17″ MBP.”

    A few examples of LCD screens with a native resolution of 1680×1050 are:
    – Acer V223 WBD
    – HP L2245W
    – Dell Professional P2210
    – Lenovo ThinkVision L2251X Wide
    – NEC MultiSync P221W
    – Samsung 2053BW (which I mentioned earlier as one that I own, and that supports the resolution).
    – Loads more using WSXGA+ screens.

    That’s 9 major brands right there, and I could go on and on…

    “That being said, your chart proves one important point: the majority of modern screens are wide with the aspect ratio either 16:10 or 16:9.”

    This is the one point we agree on. It’s also evident by simply looking at the range of monitors available in any computer store, no Analytics data is really needed to support this conclusion.

    “The most common current resolution for laptops is 1366×768 and for desktops it varies for screens under 20″ (anything more than 20″ is 1920×1080).”

    Again, what information are you basing that comment on? As my Analytics data shows, for my website visitors your claim simply isn’t true. For other this will no doubt vary by a few percent here and there, they will need to analyse their own data obviously.

    I imagine you’re an Apple user, and probably a big fan of Apple? If I’m correct, it would seem your comments are based the presumption that everyone has the same preferences, and computing requirements as you. Obviously that isn’t the case. Of course, I’m only assuming that you’re an Apple user, I’m not stating it as a fact. I could be wrong, as I have no data to back my assumption up (see what I did there?).

    If you’re referencing any data from visitors to your own site, your comments suggests that every website is receiving the same traffic as you. Again, this obviously isn’t true.

    All the information I have published is for 3 day period from my Google Analytics account. It is not my opinion, nor is it gathered from a questionable source. No “thinking”, just cold, hard data.

    Contrary to what Apple fan-boys – not necessarily yourself – seem to believe, there’s a whole wide world of people out they who don’t use Apple, and no shortage of manufacturers supplying them with choice when it comes to hardware.

    Over the next few years all these figures will no doubt shift, when I do another post at some point we will see the results for my site (this conversation prompted me to add this to my original post, so thank you for that).

    All the best,
    Andrew.

  7. Ewan says:

    Denis,

    I have been heavily involved in the computer industry in one facet or another for the better part of 2 decades now and in this time I have been a designer, programmer, sales person, technician, teacher and more. The idea that Andrew’s top 3 resolutions are ‘not very common in general’ is completely false.

    As Andrew said, he has not needed to think about it, it is simply cold hard data provided by Google Analytics (pretty sure they know what they are talking about).

    When I worked in sales as well as a technician I became familiar with the resolutions of a large range of monitors and laptops. While not based on ‘data’, my experience makes me scratch my head again while reading your comment.

    Did you read my earlier comment? If so, did you have a look at W3Schools browser and OS statistics I linked to?

    Let me summarise something for you regarding the month of May just passed…
    Resolutions: 10.7% 1280×800, 8.1% 1440×900, 6.5% 1680×1050.

    These stats, for one month of one year alone, make your comments completely false. 9% of their visitors were on Mac but 10.7% of all their visitors used the supposed “Mac only” resolution of 1280×800? And remember, that is one resolution not all 3 combined.

  8. Thank you, Andrew, for this information. I have been in a 12 hour discussion with my web site designer/programmer who insists I have 1280 x 800 when I want 1680 x 1050.

    The rate of change to high retina displays is moving very fast. I want to show off my stunning, high tech, holiday apartments in the best way – and this is with images which take up as much real estate as possible.

    As Ewan commented it is about one’s demographics – our target market. I am targeting tech savvy people who want to experience high tech items whilst they are on holiday.

    Regardless of whether one is an Apple fan or not, the facts show it does not matter, anyway, when it comes to screen resolution.

    Thanks for writing something which is not the same old stuff everywhere on the internet. I have spent hours looking for factual data and you have it!

  9. Andrew Keir says:

    Glad to be of help, Judith.

    I’ll be publishing an update to this post at some point to see how things have changed.

    I suspect your preferred 1680×1050 resolution will only have grown in popularity.

  10. Andrew Newey says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for sharing your insights and visitor stats to help make this design decision. I agree that you can do a lot with the extra pixels.

    I am currently designing a B2B cloud solution, so in theory I could dictate a minimum or recommended screen resolution, but that may not always be suitable for companies running an SOE.

  11. Andrew Keir says:

    Hi Andrew,

    As you’ve mentioned, it’s tough to dictate what people should use… Better to design for what people are using.


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