Wikipedia talk:Image use policy/Size

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First, an edited summary of discussion of this issue, from Talk:La Défense and User talk:Gaz. If you want to know the gory details, see those pages for who said what when.

I don't understand why you have reverted my careful placement of text and pic caption. I had the caption text entirely below the pic and not as it is now (spreading all across the page) and also I had the text flowing nicely down the right hand side of the pic. Now it's back as it was before I did that work. What's the reason for the change? It looks ugly now ..... I expect there's a good reason I haven't thought of.

Hmmm... the previous version looks a little clunky but perfectly acceptable at 640 x 480, and is just fine at 800 x 600. (or any higher resolution, of course.) In contrast, Recent Changes is darn near unusable at 640 x 480. What's the point of messing up the page for the vast majority of users (at 800x or higher) when - let's face it - 640 x 480 is unusable on Wikipedia anyway?

Sorry, I can't follow what you are saying. Can you explain a little more? Is it that my 1024 by 768 screen leaves loads of room for the text to flow down the left hand side but on a lower resolution screen there's not proper room for the text to do that? Does this mean that contributors should think about how changes will look on 800 by 600 screens as well as their own (probably higher) resolution screens?
It is certainly important not to allow images to get so big that there is no room for the text to flow around them. The question is, at what screen resolution do we consider this issue? At, say, 1024 x 768, nearly all web pages are very usable. At 1152 x 864 and 1280 x 960, the same applies. At 1600 and above, lots of webpages start to have layout problems, as do pages at 800 x 600. And once you get down to really low resolutions - 640 x 480 and below - it becomes very difficult to navigate the Internet.
There are still pages around that look OK at 640 x 480, but the great majority are no longer usable at low res. And the great majority of users are running 800 x 600 or higher. (I'm in a good position to know this, as when I'm not editing Wikipedia, I build, upgrade and repair computers for a living. My working day is a constant steady stream of people bringing computers in to be replaced, upgraded, or repaired, and it's getting really rare to see a system running 640 x 480 pass across the workbench. We get maybe 10 to 20 systems come in on any particular day, and we only see a 640 x 480 job maybe once or at most twice a week. We always notice because we switch them up while we are working on them and have to remember to switch them back when we are finished in case whatever incredibly ancient moniter they are running can't cope.)
My point is that the idea of catering for users with low-res screens remains a very important part of web design, and Wikipedia should not forget that. However, the meaning of "low-res" changes as the years go by. "Low-res" these days is 800 x 600, "standard res" is 1024 to 1280, "high-res" is 1600 or more. We should certainly cater for low-res users by making sure that Wiki pages are readable at 800 x 600, even though they may well look a bit odd. But we should not extend this idea to absurdity by trying to cater for very low res users at 640 x 480, let alone the ultra low-res that some PDA screens have.
Bottom line is, if you ain't running 800 x 600 or better, you are going to have a lot of trouble even getting onto the Internet to find Wikipedia, let alone surfing anywhere else bar this place. (See for yourself: set your screen to 640 x 480 and go visit 20 random sites. Write down how many of them are reasonably navigable.) The Wiki 250px picture guideline, in other words, was appropriate some years ago when average res was 800x, but there comes a time when you have to stop degrading the viewing experience of the vast majority of users by catering to a tiny minority of people still running a 16-year-old screen format.

We should always (IMO):
  • Aim at optimum appearance at the standard resolutions (1024 to 1280)
  • Aim at usable appearance at low and high resolution (800 x 600 & 1600)
  • Accept that we can't please the very, very small minority of users who still run 640 x 480 or lower.
Short of impractical exotica like Javascript page pickers and very smart dynamic HTML engines, it's not possible to create a page that works at weirdo resolutions - this includes very low res like 640 x 480 and below, and also ultra-high res in the multiple thousands of pixels.

The older version does have a problem at 800x600 if the user has the Quickbar turned on. (I assume some people do use the Quickbar, although I don't.)

Ahhh ... what problem? Here it is at 800 x 600. (Colours look a little funny - I squashed to 16 colours to save server space.)


Even at 640 x 480 it's still perfectly acceptable:


It's not a question of resolution so much as the width of a line of text; text is easier to read at ten words per line or less. Resize your browser to see.

I think the discussion has focused too much on screen resolution. There are a number of other factors which affect the way the page displays:

  • Size of browser window. (Not everyone chooses to browse in a maximized window, so this may be lower than the screen resolution.)
  • Choice of font and font size.
  • Choice of browser.
  • Wikipedia preference settings.

So the the concept of "optimizing for 1024x768" isn't really meaningful.

In general people will (usually without even thinking about it) optimize things for their own combination of choices/settings. Unless these are fairly extreme, this is not a problem most of the time.

I just discovered that I have Netscape 4.08 on this machine too. It wraps the URL just fine. But the CSS breaks it here and there - i.e., the rest of the site - Recent Changes & etc is very ugly indeed. I'm well aware that people unconsciously optimise for their own favourite setttings - I've written web pages (hand-coded, none of this FrontPlague crap that some think counts as web design) and my job means that I spend 5 days a week working on other people's computers. (You wouldn't believe the horrible setting some people like!) Of course fonts and browsers and screen size settings vary. That's what web design is all about - trying to find a good, flexible, middle-of-the-road setting that lets you get your content out to as many people as you possibly can.

In the end, it's quite pointless uglifing Wikipedia because "it works better in 640 x 480", because - let's face it - people running 640 x 480 quite often don't have a CSS-capable browser anyway. I don't want to go on and on about this topic, but this is something we really ought to be getting right. Tannin

If the body text were significantly longer than it is now, I would not object too much to wrapping it around the image. However, as it stands, it looks bizarre to my eye to wrap -- particularly to force the text to the right of the image, which is visually distracting. Left margin break is much more disruptive to my reading flow than right margin break (particularly as we have a ragged right margin in any case.)

Just a note that the max width images with text flowing around them should be is 250-300 pixels. See Wikipedia:Image use policy for the lowdown.

The recommendation for 300 pixel max width is predecated on "many readers are using 800x600 displays". I am an IT consultant working every day with clients ranging from home users to large corporations. The recommendation is based on what now days is considered antique equipment which is rarely seen. I do test each page which contains an image at various horizontal resolutons before I commit the change. I make sure they are all readable at 800 pixels, albeit a little squeezed. They all look great at 1024 and above. - Gaz
Over 50% of all net users still view pages at 800 x 600. Wikipedia aims to be accessible to all users - squeezing text for over half of them degrades their reading experience.
Where do you get the 50% figure?
It was mentioned on the mailing list. See [1]. MS Windows still has 800 x 600 as the standard screen resolution and all the studies I've seen or heard about indicate that users tend to shy away from playing with default settings. --mav

(End of quoted text)

It's time we reconsidered the 250 to 300 pixel image limit. That was appropriate 5 years ago, but it's 2003. Wikipedia needs to keep up with the times, and recognise that 640 x 480 is dead, dead, dead. Even 800 x 600 is fading fast. Tannin 12:40 Mar 2, 2003 (UTC)

Ahem. It is also false to call 1024 x 768 standard because 800 x 600 is still standard MS Windows resolution. So until that changes 800 x 600 with a maximized browser window is going to be our lowest common denominator. See the link above to the mailing list post. It shows that the largest single group of Internet users has a screen resolution of 800 x 600 (this is dropping but let's not jump the gun). The 250 - 300 width policy is based on that not by the 2% of net users that use even lower resolutions. --mav
Changes in browser resolution over time

Resolution 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
640 x 480 18% 11% 7% 4% 2%
800 x 600 53% 56% 54% 52% 46%
1024 x 768 20% 25% 30% 34% 40%
Higher than 1024 2% 4% 4% 5% 7%

(January browser use figures from over the years 1999 to 2003. Note that percentages do not add to 100 - I left out "unknown".)

The 300px limit for 800 x 600 is way too low. I had assumed it was for 640 x 480, as it was the only res it made any sense at. A good rule of thumb to use is that an in-text image should use no more than two-thirds of the available text window (i.e., the screen res - any used for margins and navigation bars). Tannin 13:09 Mar 2, 2003 (UTC)

The rule of thumb is to not devote more width to an image than you do to text. Having 2 - 5 word lines is really bad web design, 5-8 is still a bit confining, 8-12 is perfect and anything above looks great but may not be as engaging for some people. But we are only talking about the lower end of the spectrum here - people at higher res can always read with a downsized browser window but people at lower res do not have the option to make their browser window larger than their screen. Most don't even know the can have a different screen resolution let alone know how to change it. --mav
Another thing to consider is that there isn't necessarily an inexorable trend towards higher and higher resolution in the future; perhaps in 5 years' time, Wikipedia will be commonly read from palm computers or cell phones and the 640X480 resolution will be back in vogue again. I think it's best to keep the inline images small, and have links to full-sized versions in the captions. Everyone wins that way. Bryan
That's right! Also color PDAs have screen widths of 300 pixels now so any image wider than that would cause a horizontal scroll bar (PDA browsers don't align images IIRC). --mav

Proposal to increase the default thumbnail dimensions[edit]

See. --Nemo 09:06, 28 March 2010 (UTC)