Fluid or Fixed Width

Although fluid design was a more popular design solution in the early days of the Internet, it’s less popular now as a layout technique for many small and medium-size businesses, artist portfolio sites, and blogs.

The exception to this trend would be for sites like online e-mail accounts (Gmail, for example) and search engine results listings, where extensibility is important because it allows those sites to display more content when the browser is maximized.

For everyone else, the shift away from fluid designs likely has more to do with page readability and printability than with accessibility (the ease with which visitors with disabilities and nonhuman devices can access and navigate through a site).

Think about your own preferences. Wouldn’t you rather read a long, narrow page than a wide, short one? And how important is it to you that a site’s design extends the full width of your browser window at any monitor resolution?

It probably doesn’t matter that much to you, which means that the average Internet visitor for any one site never considers the difference between a site with an expanding layout versus one that has a fixed width.

If you and your client choose the fixed-width design size, the next aesthetic design issue that you need to decide upon is the orientation of the page relative to the browser window. Will the design begin fixed to the upper-left corner of the browser window, leaving empty space to the right of the design, or will it be anchored to the top of the page but aligned to the center of the browser window with empty space to both the left and right of the fixed-width design?

Neither solution is better than the other, so choosing the right one is simply a matter of taste. In recent years, the prevailing trend has been to create fixed-width designs that are center aligned to the browser. As you know, however, trends change. Ultimately, you should choose a design layout that will suit the client’s needs and the Web site’s content and, above all, cater directly to the target audience‘s preferences.

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