One of the good (or bad, depending how you look at it) things about being a blogger is that you’re the publisher, editor, writer, and graphic artist rolled in into one. Apart from finding out a good topic to write about, most bloggers look for a good template to use, whether the blog is on WordPress or Blogger.
One of the most common questions that stump in the template decision is “How wide should my blog’s template be?” And there’s a a couple of good reasons to why this is a bottleneck in the template selection decision.
See, the thing is that screen resolutions are as varied as the topics about blogging. It used to be that the only relevant resolution was 1024 pixels by 768 pixels (1024×768). But now, only roughly 1/3 of screens out there have 1024×768. The majority is now a resolution bigger than that.
The other reason is readability. With the changing resolutions, I won’t be surprised if people also tweaked their screens DPI (dot per inch) setting. This setting can make text and images to be displayed bigger (or the same with a lower resolution screen), even when the physical screen becomes bigger. This makes text more readable even with a ultra-high resolution display. Nonetheless, the upper limit in nice, readable web typography is 75 characters wide, give or take a few characters.
Now, with the variety in user needs, what’s the best width for blog templates? (Length or height is rarely an issue because people are used to vertically scroll).
Assuming you are using a 14 pixel size for the text and default character spacing, you would need at least 520 pixels for the main content area. Plus, if you add two columns 160 pixels wide (Why 160 pixels? This is to accommodate the widest standard skyscraper ad size), you would need an extra 320 pixels. Finally, you’d need approximately 10-15% buffer for margins. The final total? 924 to 966 pixels wide.
Surprisingly, this is very near the favorite 960 pixel-wide designs today. This number also seems optimal for common screens based on W3Counter’s final 2009 stats, 60% of displays out there range from 1024 pixels to 1280 pixels wide.