With compelling evidence that larger displays and higher resolutions make people more productive, it pays to expand the screen real estate on desktops.
The idea that larger displays with higher resolutions can improve productivity is an insight increasingly shared by private users and enterprises everywhere, as sales figures show. In 2010, the average diagonal size of computer displays was just 17 inches. By 2012, the average user was opting for a 21-inch display. Displays in excess of 23 inches already account for almost one third of the market (the most common sizes are 23.6 inches and 24 inches) , and this share is growing. There is also a widespread move toward even larger displays with screens 27 inches and higher taking a 23% share of sales.
How more space matters to productivity
Having a more spacious display helps people be more productive in numerous ways. On a basic level, routine tasks are performed more efficiently: more screen real estate enables people to create, manage and view far more windows simultaneously.
Not that more windows necessarily means greater efficiency or productivity – arguably the “busier” the display, the less opportunity there is to concentrate on one thing. What prevents the larger display from becoming a source of constant distraction is that it encourages people to establish a work zone as a primary focus. In studies to find out what people actually do with the extra space, researchers determined that users tend to place the current, most important, task in the centre, and devote the rest of the space to organisation and consultation-related tasks.
One large display can replace a dual-monitor configuration
A larger screen, often with a ratio of 21:9 at a high resolution, is favoured for large spreadsheets and for work which involves having two or more documents open for reference at the same time. Data-intensive finance applications, for example, require users to keep more information in focus simultaneously. Constantly scanning columns and rows of figures is challenging enough without having to compromise on screen space. In fact, finance professionals often have multiple monitors installed on their desks for precisely this reason.
However, just one large, high-resolution display – 34 inches with a 21:9 ratio, for example – may be all that is needed. This one screen is equivalent in terms of information focus to two 24-inch screens, but with the advantage of occupying less space on the desk, saving power, and eliminating the distracting gap between two screens.
The 21:9 aspect ratio of the screen enables the space to be divided into multiple zones. Users can keep the main task screen at 16:9 aspect ratio, for example, but also have enough space for mail or messenger applications at the side.
With more display space at our disposal, it turns out that we like to keep things comfortably in view, but without the full-on distraction associated with opening and closing windows, and without chopping and changing from one task focus to another. Accordingly, the benefit of a larger display lies not so much in enabling people to perform rote tasks more quickly (although this is certainly valuable for some jobs), but to help people with specialised jobs, such as designers, scientists and CAD engineers, to make better sense, without distraction, of complex information from multiple sources.
More space on screen with wider aspect ratios
The size of the display is not the only factor in improving productivity. The aspect ratio, the proportional relationship between screen width and height, is also evolving. The choice of
ratio increases the amount of viewing area available on the screen. A 24-inch model at 16:10 ratio offers more viewing area than 16:9, and a 21:9 screen, which is wider than the standard Full HD
display – the most common resolution of displays for both home and office use – creates a panoramic view. This enables users to run multiple applications side-by-side, or run their productive
application in the centre and place items such as notes, e-mail or background documents on the periphery of the screen.
Why higher resolutions make the difference
Increasing the size of the display creates more physical viewing and working area. However, this would be ineffective without increases in screen resolution. Keeping the standard image resolution unchanged on, say, a 30-inch screen will deliver substandard image quality that causes eyestrain, makes text difficult to decipher, and renders detail-reliant applications such as graphic design impossible to work with. A higher resolution, on the other hand, means more pixels on the display, and greater detail.
Outlook for productivity
Businesses are wising up to the advantages of spacious, high resolution screens (and aspect ratios that can be custom-selected to match the type of work each person does) to make desk time more efficient and effective for their staff, and to reap the gains in productivity for the company. Rather than forcing busy professionals to compromise on how they organize their space, address creative challenges, and collaborate with others, larger, high-resolution displays fit in with the way people actually work.
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