I was feeling pretty bad about switching to a fixed-width design (one where the web page does not expand to fit the entire browser window), but then I found that there is an ongoing debate about just this issue going on right now, with more and more people supporting fixed-width for the design control vs. fluid designs that maximize use of screen real estate. What are the advantages? When you’re designing for fluid it’s much more difficult, and you often can’t do things or line things up without an excessive amount of tinkering and tables nested within tables and all that. And then, to top it off, your nicely formatted paragraphs of text end up expanding to fill the entire screen, looking awful with paragraphs being only one or two lines long, and the reader having to move their eyes all the way across the screen to read it, which is just a very bad situation. There is a reason books and newspaper columns are narrow. And I should know — I write all my papers using LATEX, which uses nicer fonts and much larger margins then Microsoft Word and the like for the express purpose of making things more readable and easier on the eye.
I’m still not sure I really like fixed width in all situations (I often find sites that use it very contraining, and it’s annoying when you have a large monitor and the site was designed for a small one), but I might just be going with it anyway, because I like how it looks for my site. Hmm.
Dynamic forever. Sites designed for 800×600 look like shit for me, I use 1600×1200. Sites designed for something larger look like shit if you’re using something smaller. If I want things to be narrower, I’ll resize my damned browser window, but it should be my choice, not yours. If you’re having trouble lining things up with a dynamic layout, your design is too elaborate. Simplify.
After some poking around I started experimenting with ems and the max-width attribute. Ems are a unit of measure based on the width of a capital “M”, and are used in the print world. Since it is a dynamic measure (it changes with the size of the text), my new site design is now fluid. It means I can’t do anything pretty with layers, but alas. And the resizing doesn’t work on MSIE because of typical Microsoft anti-standards behavior, but oh well.
The new site looks awesome! Yay Danny’s hard work. ~ajh
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