Browser Window Width, An Internet Complaint

The internet is not foreign to me, I’ve been using it for a long time. In the early days of limited bandwidth and small (15") monitors there were web page “conventions” that were mandatory due to those conditions. Reduce your image size, for example. Video? Forget it. And remember that most of your viewers are reading your pages on 15 inch monitors.

Let’s forget about image size and video. These days bandwidth for most of us is high enough that we don’t care about it any longer.

But site and page presentations are still important. Most of us are beyond a 15 inch monitor in terms of width. Okay. My monitor can go as wide as 21 inches. But I cannot read a line of text 21 inches wide. So I change the browser window to to about 12 inches. Of course, for many of my sites, doing so clips off a huge portion of the right side of the page.

Yes, I know I can change the magnification. But I can no longer read 6 point type. Yes, I know I can scroll left and right. But doing either is an annoyance.

This thread started as a complaint of why site builders don’t take into account that some viewers don’t like ultra-wide pages. But it occurs to me now that people with smart devices, (which I do not own), typically have narrow-but-deep screens, must be particularly peeved about wide format internet sites. How often do you want to swipe? (Maybe a lot I suppose.)


I think in large part this comes from people who think web page design is the same as printed page design, so they use a fixed page width instead of letting text flow to fit the window width.

The number of characters in a line of single-column text should be 60-70; if the layout is two-column then 40-50. Are there supposed to be modifications to this rule of thumb for text on a web page instead of in a book or magazine?

ETA if the text simply flows to the window width, the user can adjust it themselves, and there is no problem. Maybe he or she likes extra wide or narrow lines…

Most major websites are using “responsive design” where the text reflows itself depending on the available space. This is visible if you resize your browser window and the text reformats itself. Of course, there are older sites that still use HTML tables with fixed sizes which will behave in the way that the OP describes. This is the fault of that particular site and not “the internet” in general.

Note modern sites will recognize when you are on a mobile phone and use a layout optimized for a smaller screen.