Many things have changed online over the years, even more with average web surfers specs. Mostly since the internet became available to the public and personal computers became commonplace. Monitors went from 13” into the 20″+ range, color depths went from 8bit to 32bit on average, connection speeds went from dial-up to broad band and mobile switched from email if you’re lucky to full browsing experiences. Over the first decade of our current century, things changed radically for system capacity and capability but resolution of screen sizes mostly remained the same. Yet in the now, during this decade, we have seen the most radical shift in screen sizes for internet usage statistics ever. Square screen devices are becoming relics, widescreen is everywhere, from TV to desktop, laptops to mobile device, even tablets and e-readers are now come stock in widescreen HD. You could in fact at this point say development and design for what were mainstay traditional screens and systems is obsolete.
To make this easier to understand we will start with a chart of the last three years.
Browser Screen Resolutions Line Chart 2008 to 2012 [Source: StatCounter]
Now lets drill down just a bit more and look at the last 12 months, by browser size and screen resolution market share.
Browser Screen Resolutions Bar Chart 2011 to 2012 [Source: StatCounter]
Times and users are changing, faster today than ever before and more going forward than the mainstream dares to predict. If you are in the new media industry you have probably been preached to that 1024×768 is the only size to build for. If you have any reason to think about the mobile web, you have most likely been all but convinced a mobile website is a must. If you hold those ideas true… we have to tell you this but, you’re wrong about the internet.
Now we made such a bold statement, let’s go back to the charts for a better understanding on why. Starting with what was the only comparison, desktop which included laptops vs mobile which included tablets and consoles. The reason this particular chart and lesser touted change is important is very simple actually. You are not dealing with two formats any longer, you are dealing with three, one of which is evolving rapidly in its capabilities in a way close to desktops not long ago. Mobile is now its own system type and devices are a big enough piece of the market, the fastest growing part of any in fact, to get its own brackets by next year. Mobile has also made an evolutionary leap in its screen space and resolution, this generation of must have smart phones are going HD.
Mobile vs. Desktop Market Share [Source: StatCounter]
As you can see, the bulk of the market is still desktop and or laptop based, but mobile including devices has finally surpassed the 10% saturation point globally. The next chart, while not as simple to understand is if you think about it very telling. The one simple fact you need to read between the lines is this, the ‘other’ brackets are the bulk of tablets and device based browser with an additional 10% of the listed sizes covered individually.
Mobile Screen Resolution Market Share [Source: StatCounter]
As you can see, the ‘rise of devices’ is both rapid and new. The reason for this is again simple. Other than the rather pricy iPads until recently there were few other tablets the mainstream could get their hands on.
Mobile Screen Resolution Market Share Bar Chart [Source: StatCounter]
With the bar chart things become much clearer and more telling. What was before considered nearly 60% of mobile is on the verge of reclassification and skyrocketing in growth. Take a look at any store with electronics latest sales paper, watch TV for a few hours, you will be bombarded with iPads, Androids, Kindles, Nooks, Tablets and web devices beyond the point of saturation. This will not slow anytime soon, in fact it will continue to grow until ‘the next big thing’ takes it place.
Even Microsoft has now jumped in thumbs first, with two new versions of its infamous Windows operating system targeted at touch interface systems and devices. These are the much hyped Windows 8 editions. Windows 8 for desktops, devices, laptops and tablets. Windows 8 RT for apps on touchpads, tablets and devices.
So now that we have all the facts, figures and background covered, lets get back to what we said. If you develop for 1024px by 768px or go after mobile specific design, you’re doing it wrong.
The new best shot is bigger, most of your users are going to see over 1100px and few less than 1280px. Your new best options for mobile friendly are to have an app if you want modern mobile users and HTML5 for everything else. As they say in many extreme sport, it’s time to go big or go home.
… in case you were wondering why we let loose such a detailed rant, look for our next post with the best solutions, site design sizes, HTML5 and CSS3 frameworks to start with.