The disadvantage of being thin

Posted Jan 17, 2004 in Blogging.

I have always respected Jeffrey Zeldman, and I have been particularly impressed by his writing, but I feel that he is long overdue in accepting that very few of his readers have less than 800 pixels of width to work with. His latest redesigns have employed a centered, fixed-width approach, with the width being set at 600 pixels.

Most users, according to relatively recent trends have their computers set at a resolution of either 800 by 600, or 1024 by 768 pixels. That means that both The Daily Report and, perhaps more importantly, A List Apart have lots of wasted space on either side. The latter suffers in particular, because ALA title readers tend to be a little geekier, and are therefore likely to use higher screen resolutions.

I have a 21-inch monitor, with my screen resolution set to 1280 by 1024. That means I can fit both sites side by side on my screen, with room to spare. The latest article on ALA has code examples leaking out of the narrow column provided for them.

I have no problem with seeing fixed-width layouts, although I prefer fluid-width, but please make them appropriate for a minimum resolution of 800 pixels wide.

Update: In fact, the leaking code examples mentioned above are fine in Internet Explorer for Windows 6.0. It is in Opera 7.0 and recent Gecko browsers that I observe the problem.


  1. Gravatar

    You made a great comment on a site recently (can't remember where) saying that if you must do a fixed-width layout, at least give users the option to choose liquid or a wider layout via a style switcher. This is something ALA could easily have done.

    And congrats for getting comments up and running!

    Posted by Russ Weakley on Jan 17, 2004.

  2. Gravatar

    Thank you for that, Russ. I can't remember where I said it either. It is unusual for a site of ALA's stature to make a fundamental mistake like that, but at least it makes me feel a little less useless LOL.

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Jan 17, 2004.

  3. Gravatar

    Have you read questions 21a through 21e?

    Posted by apartness on Jan 20, 2004.

  4. Gravatar

    I have indeed read the question and answers pertaining to the column width. I read them before posting, and I read them again before replying to your comment.

    I fully understand your reasons for choosing the fixed width that you have, I just happen think that the compromise you have gone with does not justify the waste of potential screen real estate. Although I agree that narrow columns are easier to read than wide columns, I think that embracing the screen media by widening the "optimal" width would actually be more suitable.

    On your personal site [ ], this is not really an issue. A personal site is for self expression, and while your visual design isn't my favorite, it is, nevertheless, your personal playground. For A List Apart [ ], there is a special case involving code samples. I would suggest that a widening of the main content column (by around 100 pixels) would actually enhance the site.

    I would consider widening the wrapper to around 765 pixels, and then increasing the white space to the left and right of the main content area. By all means limit the paragraph width to your preferred optimal width, but consider using the extra room for your <pre> elements.

    At the end of the day, we both come from opposite ends of the spectrum, as far as visual design is concerned (see earlier entry for an explanation [ ]). I like every aspect of the ALA design, except the width.

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Jan 20, 2004.