Technical Details

A Tale of Two Pixels

Like televisions, computer monitors display their images using hundreds and thousands of small picture elements called "pixels".  Pixels light up in different colours and shades to suit the image on screen at the time.  Each pixel is made up of three colour emitters, red, green, and blue that combine to give the colours we need.  It takes some high level technology to make these complex little pixels smaller and smaller.

Regardless of the physical size of the screen (14, 15, 17, or 19 inch) each monitor displays a standard number of pixels.

Early colour monitors could manage only 640 pixels across the width of the screen, because older manufacturing techniques created fairly big clusters of red, green and blue light emitters.  Then, as things got better, the number increased to 800 pixels across the screen.

Improvements are going on all the time, of course, and soon there were 1024 pixels across a screen, and now there are more than 2000 of them.  Of course, all these pixels need signals form the computer to light up, so the more pixels you have, the more computer power you need.  So it's the whole system - not just the screen!

Just for the moment though, it's fairly simple. There's only two to worry about.  Older computers are running 800 pixel displays, and newer ones are running at 1024 pixels.

Size Matters
If you create an image that takes up 800 pixels, it will cover the whole screen width in an old computer or monitor.  When you use a later model computer, because the pixels are smaller, the image is smaller too.  It takes up only 800 pixels, and there are1024 pixels across the screen.  In short, it's only 80% as wide as the screen.

This means that if you design a web page that goes the whole 1024 pixels, something has to give on an older, 800 pixel computer.  What changes, and how that happens is the key to good web design.

See what's on the table
Good web designs use graphics that can adjust to different layouts in their stride, and don't need scroll bars.  It takes skill and time to achieve this, and good companies do achieve it.  Then there is the cheap approach. 

In 1996, the use of tables became popular to give form and structure to webpages.  Now, it is recognised that such designs are quite inflexible, and of limited use, but they are cheap if the code already exists. 

First, the coder makes a table that consists of just one row and one column.  It is set at a width of 100% of screen size.  That will fill every screen, and can have a coloured or textured background.  Inside this single cell table, and at its centre, the coder places another table that has your design in it.  It has a fixed width of about 780 pixels, and everything is constrained to fit this smaller table.  On a 1024 pixel screen, you see blank colour on the sides.  On an older monitor, the image will fill the screen, and there will not be any scroll bars or any change to the layout.

The price for this is  a small image on most screens now in use, and considerable inflexibility.  It is very difficult and time consuming to change these pages, except in some minor details.

What can you do?
First, you need to be sure that there is nothing on the right hand side of the screen that's so important a site visitor must see it.  Then talk to your web designer about having the table settings altered to change the 780 pixels (or thereabouts) to 1004 pixels.  This will give a narrow margin of 10 pixels on each side so that the page does not spill beyond the edge of a poorly adjusted screen.

This will give you a fixed width display that suites modern machines, and creates "scroll bars" on older ones.  That's a small price to pay to get a solid, impressive website that gives "whammo" impact on all modern computers!

Remember, this restructuring job is neither simple or easy - but be prepared to haggle over price!  Remember the "renovation" option.

Alternatively, seek out a better designer who can create then design you want, but without the compromise.