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The Differences Between Fixed and Fluid Width Designs

March 26, 2008

When a person is designing a blog or website, one of the most important aspects to figure out is whether they want a fixed width or fluid width design. Sometimes this choice isn’t easy, so the best way to figure out which is best for you is by determining the look and feel you want for your site, what your site is about, and looking at the pros and cons of both options.

You may recall when I asked my readers whether they thought fixed designs or fluid designs are better. Now I’m going to touch on that topic again and let you know the results of the discussion and help you determine which is right for you. First, here are some reader opinions:

J.D. said:

“Fixed width all the way. Easier to plan, easier to implement, gives everyone the same experience. As mentioned earlier, widescreen monitors can pose a problem for those who read fluid-width blogs. A simple solution for the reader is just to set your browser to a fixed width. That way you can have two or three browsers or other applications up at the same time.”

Heath said:

“My personal preference is fixed, and probably a maximum of two columns of information.

I’m a fan of clutter minimization, that being, not too many main sections on the page that I need to interact with. I like headers that are consistent and do not change from page to page, and I like a main text area, and a right formatted “extras” area.

Dynamic formatting makes me feel like I’m moving from site to site, vs. the same website. The thing I hate the most is having to make my browser window larger to accomodate things with have shifted off the right side – I’m fine with scrolling down, but not with scrolling left and right.”

Brown Baron said:

“I prefer fixed layouts. Haven’t really thought why but it’s something I preferred even when I started blogging.”

Weight Loss Wand said:

“I prefer fluid designs much more than the fixed ones. They give little bit of artistic look which is more attractive.”

As you can see, fixed width designs are the most popular with Super Blogging readers. To see more comments and opinions, click here. And for my own personal preference, I also like fixed width layouts the most. But it always depends on what type of site or blog you have. To determine the fixed or fluid question, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • What key elements will my site consist of? Text, photos, videos?
  • Do I want my site to be easy to read?
  • Is usability a must?
  • Do I want a more artistic feel?
  • Do I want to be able to control every aspect?
  • Do I want my site to look the same for each visitor?
  • Should my site be very universal and adaptable?
  • What types of readers will visit my site? How large are their monitors?

Fixed Designs

Pros

  • A fixed design is easier to control, because it looks the same no matter what sized monitor it’s viewed on. You get to choose where everything will be on the screen and that’s not going to change.
  • Fixed designs are much more usable and easier to navigate and read. Nothing is stretched out or all over the place. No paragraphs are made into enormous lines of text.

Cons

  • People with extremely small monitors might not be able to view your site in full and could end up with a horizontal scrollbar. This problem isn’t common. Or, it could be the other way around: your design could look much too narrow on a very large monitor.

Fluid Designs

Pros

  • A fluid layout can adapt to pretty much anything if done right. This isn’t always possible, but if it is, you’ll have a site that’s basically universal.
  • No screen real estate is wasted. You get more above the fold and all space is taken advantage of.

Cons

  • With lots of content and none of it spread out, usability can become a huge problem. Fluid designs can very easily look cluttered and it’s hard to achieve that minimalist look.

Which To Choose?

“Just because” is not a good reason. Whether you’re choosing a fixed design, fluid design, or something in between – you need to have a reason for doing so. Some sites will look excellent with fluid layouts, and with other sites or blogs it wouldn’t work at all. There are a lot of questions to answer when coming up with your perfect design, so feel free to experiment and test out any options until you get something you and your visitors both like.

Did I leave anything out? Please leave a comment and share your opinions if you didn’t get in on the discussion the first time. Do you prefer fixed or fluid layouts? Which do you have for your own site or blog? Would you ever consider switching?

Creative Commons License photo credit: striatic

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Comments

6 Responses to “The Differences Between Fixed and Fluid Width Designs”

  1. Koka on March 26th, 2008 11:09 am

    I have never given much thought to fixed vs fluid. Of the blogs I run, I use a mix of both and have heard that some of the fixed themes I have used did have compatibility issues with small monitors. Instead of telling people to get a bigger monitor I switched themes to make everything easier on them.

    Koka’s last blog post..The Office – Video clip

  2. OldSailor on March 26th, 2008 9:24 pm

    Very interesting topic. Let me think over and come back.

    OldSailor’s last blog post..Surface Preparation of Ships Pipelines made Easy for Painting

  3. Tay on March 26th, 2008 10:48 pm

    @Koka,

    Yes, while most people have larger monitors these days, some don’t. I think it’s a smart idea that you switched themes – I remember something in the past about John Chow telling people to get larger monitors, which I find pretty disrespectful. Good work! :)

    @OldSailor,

    Thank you, I look forward to hearing your opinion.

  4. ally on April 28th, 2008 12:55 am

    This is a great post – I never gave much thought to fixed vs. fluid – I generally use a fixed layout, but do my best to make it viewable for all screen sizes.This is my first time here; I like what I’ve seen so far — Thanks for all the great information. I will definitely be back.

    ally’s last blog post..Scheduled

  5. Designer-artist on May 15th, 2008 4:43 am

    Interesting theme!

    This question already was many times considered. To what all of us it is aspired? To convenience of using! With development of technologies greater popularity is got with high monitors and greater sizes. Now even have appeared CMS which automatically generate a website under the different sizes of the user.

  6. Electricians Design on January 30th, 2009 5:11 am

    Interesting post, although i haven’t really thought about fixed and fluid designs before i would have to say that i prefer fixed, as they are easier to design and i prefer to scroll up and down, not left and right.

    Electricians Designs last blog post..17th Edition Wiring Regulations

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