I have mentioned the Jack Schofield test of website design. It is whether you can adjust the size of type using your own browser.The kindly archipersons at ALS remind me that there is another acid test. It is whether the site fits on your screen neatly.They write: 'An increasing number of sites are too wide to display on an 800x600 screen or even on 17inch 1024x768 screens.Designers seem to be setting their pages to fixed widths so that text will not wrap to the screen width'.
Absolutely right: it is happening a lot.
Apart from those few sites which are intended to scroll sideways, the reason it should not happen is simple:
ergonomics.You get pissed off pretty quickly when you have to move the page from the side just to read the last few words on every line. It is not just 17 inch screens, it happens on 19 inch and larger screens too.
I am no HTML expert but I am not sure whether it is necessarily to do with fixing widths. I recently quizzed a web designer about this and he said that on the oversized side-to-side site he had screwed up, sorry, designed, he had made the page width relative, not absolute, and what else could he do about it? He concluded with a devastating line which will go down in 21st century cultural history, along with 'I'm on the bus'. It is: 'Well it works on my computer.'
The conventional answer is and always has been that a site has to work on everybody else's computer.
Otherwise why bother building a site?
It is just that making sure this does, in fact, happen takes more trouble and time, and probably involves spending a bit of dosh in having the checks made.
But designing a site for just one browser or one screen size or one operating system is not so much arrogant as completely stupid.
In the words of the great Schofield, it is 'not just cretinous, it is poisonous. It is harming the idea at the heart of the Web.'