The Web Design Absolutist Revolution

April 29, 2009

For too long, web designers have been subject to an infinite number of variables. Browser, operating system, mobiles, screen size, toolbars. Now, I’m all about semantic markup to make sure things are readable anywhere. But when it comes to the point that we can’t even decide how big a screen might be, we’ve gone too far.

So I’ve decided upon a revisionist view of the web. Say hello to absolutes. As of today, every user has exactly the same configuration:

  • Windows XP
  • IE6
  • 1024×768
  • One-row taskbar
  • Showing menubar, standard buttons, address bar, and status bar.

As a result, the user has exactly 593 pixels of screen height:

(Ssh, don’t tell anyone, but there is one subset of users who also has one additional toolbar, like Google or Yahoo. Those users have 566 pixels of height.)

Okay, okay, so obviously this isn’t unrealistic. But this is by far the most common configuration on the web. So if you’re concerned about screen height (or “the fold,” as I despise the fact that it’s called), 593 pixels should be the starting point of the conversation, or 566 if you absolutely need to have everything display. Start from there, and then if you need to have conversations about variables, go for it.