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Re: "Stretchy" vs. Fixed-width

From: Omar Kilani <omar(at)tinysofa(dot)org>
To: pgsql-www(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: "Stretchy" vs. Fixed-width
Date: 2004-11-21 23:10:07
Message-ID: 41A1204F.2060607@tinysofa.org (view raw or flat)
Thread:
Lists: pgsql-www
Hi,

> Yes it is a fixed width site. I was just making comment to your 
> Microsoft comment :). Also I prefer fixed width sites. A fixed width 
> site is much easier to maintain, sets specific guidelines for you 
> content presentation and makes you actually think about how you are 
> going to layout the site.

Upon further consideration of the fixed width vs. "stretchy" issue, we 
have decided that there is one part of the site that would benefit 
greatly from a stretchy design, and that is documentation.

See the example we've created:

http://postgresql.tinysofa.com/files/docs.html

The reason that we believe that variable width is a better approach for 
documentation in particular is that people have different viewing 
preferences when referring to manuals or books online. The readability 
of online docs is improved if it is possible for the user to resize the 
text and the width of the browser window to accommodate their viewing 
preferences. Some may want to use all of their real estate while reading 
the docs, while others may only want to use 1/4 of their screen so that 
they can refer to the docs whilst coding at the same time.

(Having said that, it's worth noting that while our example page has no 
*minimum* width for text, it does have a sensible maximum (IE tweaks 
pending) to stop it from scaling and becoming unreadable on huge screens.)

However, while there are compelling reasons for docs to be variable 
width, we don't believe that people would be reading the rest of the 
site in the same way. It is most likely that somebody visiting the 
PostgreSQL website would be viewing it with their window maximized, and 
it is unlikely that they would want to refer to content outside of docs 
whilst performing another activity (as in the example above). Therefore, 
it's unlikely that someone would want to view the site in a width 
smaller than the minimum of 800.

We don't believe there is much of a case for allowing the site (apart 
from docs) to expand beyond the fixed layout width of 800. As mentioned 
by others on this list, variable width produces unpredictable results on 
a carefully designed layout. We believe that being able to control the 
layout from a design perspective, and the ability of the user to view 
the site as the designer intended (the way the majority of users would 
want to view it anyway) are good arguments for fixed width design and 
why so many designers choose this option.

Omar and Emily

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