Ethan Marcotte now blogs at Unstoppable Robot Ninja.

Weblog entry:

Further roasting the chestnut

If you haven’t noticed, I find I do best with the topics I’m least qualified to discuss. So, go me.

Over the past few days, there’s been quite the flurry of speculation regarding the conversion of two rather high-profile sites to a fixed-width layout. Until recently, the excellent sites of Doug Bowman and Dan Cederholm were shining examples of what liquid designs could do for a web page; of course, the hailstorm came when they suddenly went fixed this week. And as they did so without explanation, everyone clamored to offer their own theories behind the switch. In addition to comments curious, hilarious, and well-reasoned, there’ve been a bevvy of theories bandied about. The underlying concern in most commentary revolved around the possibility of this being a trend, whether these designs signified in some way the death of liquid page layouts.

Well, being the egocentric craptard I am, I’m here to offer my own. Signal-to-noise time at personally, I’m of the mind that fixed or liquid, we’re not going to find The One True Layout in either. In the hands of the right designer, a fixed- or flexible-width layout can be equally effective — or I suppose, given the wrong designer, equally ineffective. The relative strengths of one approach can be debated ad nauseam at the expense of the other’s faults, but it seems to me that the key to success in either method is applying it intelligently to your work, with an overall sensitivity to the context of each element on your page. Lord knows I could stand to do more of that on this site.

Of course, taking that sensitivity and applying it to your client’s/project’s needs is, I guess, the fine balancing act we’re all trying to do. Not to ape Keith’s excellent advice (and yes, unfortunate gorilla pun intended), but it’s the thinking before and behind the design that makes it. Combined with that, either layout option’s simply a means to an end — to my eye, Dan and Doug still achieve those ends beautifully. I don’t think there’s a trend here, but rather a gentle reminder that these excellent sites are still damned effective, regardless of the width of their content areas.

Anyway, thus endeth the blather. Tomorrow: I talk about my laptop. You’re excited for the ego-fest to continue, I can tell.


Hooray, technical difficulties.

There’s a WordPress issue that’s currently preventing old comments from displaying correctly. Sorry for the inconvenience, but hopefully we’ll be back online soon.