Computer color settings and screen resolutions

How do they affect your Web (design) experience?

Your computer monitor's color and screen resolution settings greatly affect whether it displays as well as it can — and whether you are getting the most out of your Web surfing experience. These can have a great impact on your computer display — and what websites look like as you design them.

While computer (PC) manufacturers normally set screen resolution and color settings at lower levels, you can reset these to suit yourself:

Screen Resolution Settings

The picture on your computer screen is made up by colored dots called "pixels". The more pixels used to make the display, the sharper and clearer your picture will be and the smaller everything will look on your screen. This is called screen resolution.

Years ago, computer manufacturers set screen resolution for 640x480 pixels (height and width). Today, this has generally been bumped up past 800x600 to 1024x768 width. People with larger monitors may set their screen resolution for 1280x960 or above. The issue here is that web pages look different at different computer monitor resolutions.

Note: while you may be designing websites on a 21" screen set to a high screen resolution, it's wise to note that most people don't have 21" screens. The current most-used screen resolutions are 800x600 and 1024x768, which are running more or less even. Therefore, if you want to reach the widest possible audience, it's wise to take this into account.

To check your screen resolution on a PC, go to:

Start Button
Control Panel
Desktop Settings

Note the screen resolution and adjust it upwards. At the very least, it should be 800x600, the resolution most web pages are designed for.

Your computer will prompt you to accept the changes. The new screen resolution will affect everything you see onscreen. You can always reset them if you're not satisfied.

Color Settings

Computer monitors also have settings for the number of colors that can be displayed. Most computers are set at the factory 256 colors — that is, everything you see onscreen is composed of these 256 colors. This, of course, may differ greatly from what you would see if the settings were set at higher settings, and makes web design difficult, particularly if you are dealing with photographs or other images that fall outside of the 256 colors.

By changing your color setting to "True Color", your monitor will display millions of colors.

To check your color settings on a PC, go to:

Start Button
Control Panel

Color Palette — if it is not set at "True Color," click the little upside-down triangle to display the settings available to you. Select True Color or the highest one available.
• Click "Apply."

Your computer will prompt you to restart or to display the new settings without restarting. If you don't restart the computer, the new colors may not display correctly. You can always change it back if you don't like it.

The AOL Browser

This article would not be complete without mentioning the AOL browser. If you are surfing with this browser without changing the default settings, you may not be seeing the Web as the rest of us see it.

I am advised that AOL, in its attempt to handle the huge influx of customers created by its very successful advertising campaigns, sought to handle the resultant huge drain on its facilities (i.e., inability to connect to the 'Net, very slow Web surfing, etc.) by causing its browser to download graphics faster. To achieve this, the browser is set to "compress" graphics (images) to a smaller file size.

This does not affect the display size. Rather, the AOL browser tosses out some portion of the image file's "information" — so that when it downloads onto an AOL user's computer (if the settings have not been changed), the image can appear badly degraded — sometimes to the point of unreadability.

I once had the pleasure of seeing this in action — a beautiful picture of a waterfall displayed as a smeary mess.

Later versions of the AOL browser may not have this problem, but you can usually change the settings to not compress graphics.

At any rate, if you are designing websites, it's imperative that you see more or less what everyone else will see; therefore, change your settings!


Diane Vigil founded DianeV Web Design Studio, has served as a consultant to numerous companies, as a moderator and administrator of the JimWorld SearchEngineForums and Cre8asiteforums, on the Site-Report Experts Panel — and has designed and built numerous websites since 1997.

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