Fixed vs. Liquid

Should your web site design have a fixed width or should it be liquid and expand across the entire browser? I know this question has been asked and answered many times on the web, but I need to throw in my own two cents.

There are certain cases where a liquid layout may be appropriate. One example would be Google Analytics with their large, scalable graphs. When you have something that scales that well and can take up the whole page, you may as well do it.

However, most sites do not need all that space. Here are a few arguments against the liquid layout.

  • Readability It’s difficult to read text any wider than 40-60 characters. It becomes very hard to follow the lines and wrap around to continue reading.
  • Awkwardness Another negative effect of the liquid layout is the unnecessary sparseness it creates. On very large screens, the page elements end up miles apart. As a designer, I don’t think that looks very pretty and it can feel very awkward.
  • Creativity A fixed width allows designers more freedom to get creative without worrying about stretching their design. This can sometimes result in less coding and more interesting layouts.

The only argument I can come up with for a liquid design is that it fills the whole screen. But like I mentioned above, if you don’t have enough content filling the space, that might not look so great.

There are cases where a liquid layout is appropriate, but in general I vote for a fixed width.

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