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Old 03-09-2004, 06:00 AM
Jason Dunn
Executive Editor
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160
Default Fixed Width or Full Width? The Users Vote...

Amazingly enough, the topic that seems to generate the most amount of commentary regarding this site is the fact that we went with a fixed width layout. When Fabrizio Fiandanese, the Thoughts Media designer & developer, came up with the fixed width design, I immediately loved it. Why? I thought it was tight, crisp, professional looking, and more readable. All Thoughts Media sites are targeted at a resolution of 800 x 600, because through a survey we found that the majority of people kept their windows around that size, even if they were running in a much higher resolution. I had wanted to shift to a 1024 x 768 layout to allow for larger pictures to be posted (our current limitation is 400 pixels wide), so I was a little disappointed when it became obvious we had to stick with our 800 x 600 friendly layout. Myself, I run 1280 x 1024, and I stopped browsing full screen a couple of years ago when I went above 1024 x 768 in resolution. Beyond a certain point, the wider a column of text is, the harder is is to read. I typically browse with my IE window around 900 pixels wide, give or take.

Many of the top Web sites out there have fixed columns widths (like MSN, C|NET, CNN, Google, Yahoo), so I'm honestly shocked at how much uproar our design decision caused. :lol: I think most of this comes from expectations - people know that Pocket PC Thoughts and Smartphone Thoughts have variable-width designs, and people were expecting the same thing here. I've read that people find it harder to read, but I have a great deal of difficulty accepting that, since everything I know about typography and layout tells me that a column layout, rather than a full-page width, makes text easier to read. This article has some interesting information about the subject as well. I'd be interested to know what people think now that a week has gone by - has the design grown on you? Does it still bother you? Do other sites you visit use fixed width?

Regardless of how strongly I might feel about this issue, ultimately this site is here to serve you, not me, so I'm open to considering changes. When the first people starting complaining about the layout (one of the DMT staff members actually), we figured there would be others, so we planned for the ability to have subscribers be able to change the layout to a variable width layout. Will that do the trick? Should the default remain fixed width, or should the fixed width be an option for those that like it? Last but not least, let's take a survey - but I should note that the survey results are just one more piece of data for me. I'm not prepared to act on the survey alone, but I want to see from a statistical standpoint where people are on this issue.
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