Follow The Money
Today let's turn web design upside down. I'm going to talk about what often seems to be the forgotten half of the viewport family - bigscreens and large laptops. Their pageview share approaches 50 percent, among all Internet-capable viewing devices. But they are rarely talked about nowadays in my circles, in the mad rush to scale websites down to fit little tiny phones.
The second half of the 2010s brought about a mania for mobility. Google gave it a big shove with it's declaration of "mobile first" as the prime metric in its site-ranking algorithm. But not everybody got on board. There are still millions of non-mobile websites out there.
Their owners have a theory that if people want to visit their site, they should use "a real computer," as one gentleman put it to me. He had a giant, insanely complicated homemade site built almost entirely with raw PHP blocks. When he learned what it would take - and how much money - to convert that antiquated behemoth to a modern CMS-based responsive website, he said no thanks.
It was not an insane point of view. He had his reasons. For surfing the Web many folks in fact prefer their big laptops and desktop monitors to a tiny smartphone only 350 pixels wide. Viewportshare data bears that out. Snapshots of global website traffic reveal that phones account for about half of all pageviews. But bigscreens come in a strong second at about 46 percent. Tablets claim a very small segment at just 4 percent. These proportions appear to have attained long-term stability.
The very strong and resilient showing by bigscreens will surprise a lot of people reading this, but it's well known by industry insiders. If so, the question becomes: Why do so many websites look terrible on modern HD flatscreen monitors?
It's all about shortcuts. The easiest way to mobize a website is to center all your content in layout, including (and especially) any images, eschewing the use of tabular columns. With the aid of some elementary media queries and CSS code, websites designed this way are simple for browsers to squish down.
But when you scale them way up, it ain't pretty. Now you know why you see what you see when you encounter all these sites which are hard to read on your desktop monitor and generally resemble child's toys. The developers did it the cheap and dirty way.