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Lesson 4. Elements of Page Design > Designing for Computer Screens

Designing for Computer Screens

In the print world, a designer creates pages to be viewed in final form at a fixed size. The paper stock, printing quality, and size are all controlled. A Web designer, on the other hand, has to account for a greater number of possibilities. You have to consider not only the variety of browsers users might have, but also the size and resolution of their monitors. The kinds of screens on which users are viewing Web pages have increased and will continue to do so. It is now possible to view Web pages on a cell phone or on palm-type PDAs.

If you have only text on a page, the text reflows within the page based on the size of the browser window. As a Web designer, you then have no control of the look of the page. The user can maximize the window, making long, hard-to-read lines. If you want to control the flow of the text on the page, you can place your text within a table to limit line length for text in a cell.

When you design with fixed table widths, you may want to design to the lowest common denominator of monitor sizes that your audience will be using. If you think most of your users have 13-inch monitors, you should use that size. Remember that the browser takes up some room to the left and right of the screen, even if the user maximizes the window. There is no set rule for the amount of room a browser uses, so you should allow for the browser. For 13-inch monitors, for example, make the maximum table size 600 pixels. To determine the maximum table size, refer to the following chart.

Resolution (in pixels) Device
160×160 Palm-type device
240×320 Pocket PC
544×372 Web TV
640×240 Windows CE
640×480 13-inch monitor
800×600 15- to 17-inch monitor
1024×768 17-to 19-inch monitor
1200×1024 21-inch monitor


The visitor's need to be able to print Web pages is important to consider. It is particularly important to make your pages printable, or provide printer-friendly versions, for pages with a great deal of text or pages that viewers will be likely to need to print. The dimension for a printable page is 535 pixels.

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