I know that images look smaller or bigger depending on the screen resolution so an image (say 10x10) would look bigger on a less resolution display and look tiny on a higher resolution display.

enter image description here

I am not saying that it is not possible to load icons of different sizes but that would take a huge amount of computation every time the application is run. Something along the lines of:

  1. Start
  2. Get a Toolkit object
  3. Get the screen size
  4. Compare the screen size against a set of predefined sizes
  5. Screen is small? Load smaller icons
  6. Screen is big? Load bigger icons
  7. Set the icons for various JLabel, JButton, etc
  8. Stop

Is the computation worth it or should I just let the application window and icons look small/big and make a trade-off?

Is it really necessary to maintain the proper sizing of the icons for good aesthetics ?

  • 1
    We can't really help you with implementation issues as that's not really what this site is about, however if your questions is more about what should be displayed then that's more suited to here. i.e. if you rephrase the question so that it's around whether or not you should show a resized image at different resolutions or not then that's something we are better placed to answer, rather than the computational impact of using a certain technique.
    – JonW
    Feb 15, 2013 at 10:30
  • @JonW done. Please have a look and let me know if it fits the scope of the site
    – An SO User
    Feb 15, 2013 at 10:35
  • Thanks, looks good. I made some minor amendments to keep it in-scope, but overall I think it's a perfectly suitable UX question for here.
    – JonW
    Feb 15, 2013 at 10:40
  • From a techical (web) standpoint, Smashing Magazine had a nice article on this: coding.smashingmagazine.com/2012/08/20/towards-retina-web
    – J_rgen
    Feb 15, 2013 at 11:15

2 Answers 2


It is definitely worth it - it's not only aesthetics, but the usability itself. Especially on a TV, where decreasing the size of an image may make user move closer the set, which in some situations may make the view totally unusable. In this case, it's even harder to get closer to the screen than with a computer (move closer your head) or tablet/mobile phone (move closer the screen).

Thus, you should focus more on the physical size of the image, rather than the resolution. It will need you to use bigger/smaller images or dynamically resize them (pixel-wise) on the screen. If the set of images is a predefined one, you can feed the application with several sizes of these, just as you mentioned. In other case, you can resize the images on either server or the TV, which usually uses a cable internet connection, so it would not affect the transfer waste. I am not sure about the computing possibilities of the TV sets to resize images though - but from my (as a user) experience with them, they are usually overloaded with visual features, limiting their performance and using the porcessing power at almost max out of the box.


There are three aspects to take into account:

  1. Resolution of the screen
  2. Physical size of the screen
  3. Viewing distance of the screen

To start with the last: this is where you'd consider the type of device you're showing on. TV, PC, Tablet, Phone (ordered by viewing distance). A higher viewing distance requires a bigger physical size of objects on the screen. For TV's, note that there probably is a correlation between the physical size and the viewing distance. For the other devices, I think you can safely assume roughly the same viewing distance per category (might be debatable for desktop PC and laptop, but...)

The physical size of the screen together with the resolution determine the dot pitch. A higher resolution at the same physical size lowers the dot pitch.

The viewing distance will be the major factor in determining the minimal physical size your object needs to be to be usable. The dotpitch will tell you what size in pixels that translates to.

For instance, a full HD 42" TV needs much bigger icons than a laptop screen at the same resolution, while a phone screen at that resoltion (yes, these are already in the pipeline if not on the market) will need only slightly smaller (physical) icons, which will thus end up being the largest in the number of pixels they take. While if that laptop screen has a Retina(TM) screen, the icons should not physically change size, but will need to use four times the pixels.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.