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Warmest Greetings,

Serenity, Maybe Even Therapy, For Web Designers  

:: Thursday, October 28, 2004 ::

I felt for our guests.

In The Readability of Centered Sites,the discussion grew into a possible therapy session for web designers struggling to do the right thing, whatever that is.

The question started out innocently enough.

       "We're considering changing our site from a left-aligned orientation, to a centered orientation. In other words, there will be space to the left and right of our main content.

I'm wondering if anybody knows of any research that shows that readability diminishes by moving the left margin of the text away from the border of the browser (which is what would happened if you put your left-aligned content in a table in the center of the browser)."

Responses came in quickly.

       "When using a fixed width, it's best to put the important content on the left side, because when people have multiple windows open (as many do out of habit), they resize them to smaller windows to fit them on the screen."

       "I'm currently very strongly in favour of flexible-width centred layouts, i.e. define your column widths in ems instead of pixels. That allows people to zoom in / out on the page, to suit their browing preference."

       "In the past five years I've had to amend my emotional attachment to flexible layouts. I *knew* they were right and that anyone doing fixed-width sites just "didn't get it." But after a while I ran out of rationalizations."

       "I much prefer flexible centered sites. Sites with 800px of left centred content look very silly on a monitor resolution of 1500+ pixels."

and then it got down to brass tacks.

       "If your page elements were based on ems (equivalent to the width of the letter 'm' at 100% font size), your lines would keep the same number of characters."

       "Personally, I think percentages are better than ems for width. Using ems means that elements will scale with text - however, the spaces for elements will then occupy different proportions."

Despair...

       "I'm starting to think that (wherever possible) imagery should be used only for content, logos, advertisements and not for decorating the page."

Resolve...

       "I said some time back that I had reached the point in my career where I was revisiting all the "shoulds" that I had picked up along the way."

More Despair...

"This is like walking into a room where the discussion gone haywire and one hasn't a clue what is happening."

More Resolve...

       "I think that the main arguement for having content that resizes to fit the window is just that: it wil always fit the window."

To Summary

       "Therefore, I'd say the best general design solution is to construct widths so that:
- At normal font size, everything is highly readable
- At larger font size, everything still fits inside your minimum browser width
- At very large font size, all text is still readable without horizontal scrolling"

And then, well. This.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


and,

       "I find that with usability directed design issues, the wisdom aspect is the hardest part."

Of course, it didn't end there. The debate, frustration and confusion continue on.

Makes we wish there was way to pull out a massage chair in the forums for those quick, 20 minute massages.

Or better yet, a leather couch and psychologist.

..............

Special note to Jill Whalen. The Parade is Saturday. Hurry home!




:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 10/28/2004 02:24:18 PM

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