You may notice that wadny.com is slightly wider. It seems that everyone’s websites are wider now, and the content column has always felt a bit constricting, so I made it bigger. While I was at it, I switched so the columns are now specified relative to the font size, so if you make your fonts bigger the line length will stay the same—this is referred to as “elastic design,” hence the title. I was considering a larger-scale redesign, and may still do one later, but this was enough of an improvement for me to hold off on any major changes. I’ll probably wait until after QuakeCon (which is also after my co-op should end), at which point I plan on starting a new windows install on my desktop, and then I’ll go ahead and do a more significant website redesign. I’ve considered switching to a packaged weblog system, but I probably won’t. We’ll see what happens.
What brought this on? Well, Garrett Murray is vying for Justin Goodlett’s title by redesigning again. Relatively minor changes, but his site still looks excellent. I notice he now uses relative dates on the front page and actual dates everywhere else, the same as I do, although he did it intentionally, whereas I did it because I was too lazy to go mucking around in the archives script again, but as long as someone else thought it was a good idea, I’ll stick with it. I’ll definitely have to steal that quicksearch thing he has and work it into The Multisearch Box™.
I was pointed to Say No to 72 DPI via Cameron Moll’s sidebar. It’s an interesting article, albeit with a poor font choice, but it has a misconception in a data table that I need to address. This has become so widespread that I’m going to use inline styles to highlight its importance:
Do not use 1280x1024 resolution.
The only time you should use 1280x1024 is if it is the native resolution of an LCD monitor. If you are using a CRT monitor, do not use 1280x1024. Why? I’ll do my best to explain it.
Monitors have something called an aspect ratio. This is the ratio between the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the monitor, and determines whether the monitor is more square-shaped or more rectangular. Virtually all CRT monitors and many LCD monitors have a 4:3 aspect ratio, which means if you divide the horizontal size by the vertical size, you will get (roughly) 4/3, or 1.333333333… repeating.
Screen resolutions also have their own aspect ratio, which is independent of the aspect ratio of the monitor. Fortunately, most popular resolutions (800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864, 1600x1200, etc.) are also a 4:3 aspect ratio, so when you display them on a 4:3 monitor, everything looks normal. Here is the problem: 1280x1024 is not a 4:3 resolution. It is, in fact, 5:4. Thus, if you use 1280x1024 on a normal 4:3 ratio monitor (most CRTs are 4:3), everything will be squished vertically because the aspect ratios are different. There is no way around this; if your monitor is 4:3, the resolution you want is 1280x960, not 1280x1024.
Of course, it’s more complicated than this. Many new LCD monitors have a native resolution of 1280x1024. This means that the monitor itself is now a 5:4 ratio, so regular resolutions will be wrong. 800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864, 1600x1200, none of these will display properly. Confusing things even more, there are now widescreen monitors, which are completely different from both 4:3 and 5:4.
I used to run 1280x1024 on a 19″ CRT monitor, and didn’t realize it was wrong, but when I switched to 1280x960 it was immediately obvious how everything had been squished. You may not want to give up that extra vertical screen space, but trust me: using the correct aspect ratio is worth a little real estate.
So, how do you figure out what the aspect ratio of your monitor is? First, try checking the manufacturer’s website or your manual. Do not trust on-screen displays—my 19″ monitor lists 1280x1024 as a “preferred” resolution, even though it is dead wrong. If you have a ruler handy, just taking measurements may be the quickest way, and it is probably the most reliable. Divide the horizontal length by the vertical length, and hopefully you’ll get a number close to either 4/3 or 5/4. If it is 4/3, use 4:3 resolutions like 1024x768, 1280x960, or 1600x1200. If it is 5/4, use 5:4 resolutions like 1280x1024 or 1600x1280. If it is something completely different, you probably have a widescreen monitor, and God help you because they don’t seem to be standardized; you’ll have to do some research to see what works for widescreens.
Hopefully this will save a few people from using the wrong aspect ratio, and leave you less confused than you were before you started reading.