More Width

27 November 2006

Yes, it’s time for the almost-monthly post about browser width!

I know, I know – you’re all thrilled.

Over on 456 Berea St, Roger Johansson has posted an interesting roundup of the current thinking on fluid vs fixed width sites. His conclusion is the same as mine – namely that fluid width sites are the way to go, but optimising them for a specific size makes a lot of sense.

What really gets me is that we’re still having this debate.

There are very few legitimate reasons for using a fixed width site, the main one being concerns over the line length on a fluid width site; obviously as the site gets wider, the line length gets longer which is bad for readability. This is can easily be countered by using max-width, larger font sizes and so on but is really quite faulty thinking – if the solution is a fixed width site that’s sized for 1024×768 then if you’re window is any smaller then that then the line isn’t readable at all, which is obviously much worse.

The reason for the debate then?

Laziness.

Plain and simple. I’m guilty of it (you can find a fair few fixed width sites in my portfolio), make no mistake. It’s that simple – if making a fluid width site was as easy as making a fixed width site, I’m sure 99% would be fluid width.

Positioning using percentage measurements, mixing fluid elements with static elements and making it all work across browser is not an easy job (especially with IE’s broken CSS rendering). The other problem is the bigger one, however – it simply takes more skill to visualise a fluid width at the design stage. When you make a web site design (probably in something like Photoshop) it obviously starts off as static – you have no way of testing how it’ll stretch in a browser. You’ve got to picture how that’s going to work, and design accordingly.

That’s not easy, folks.

What’s sad is that many web developers seem to be lying to themselves over the reasons why – their aren’t any good ones for not going fluid, it’s all simply a matter of effort.

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