Fixed vs. Variable layout sizegreenspun.com : LUSENET : TNS Website : One Thread
This is a subtle design issue that will depend on the application. In general the fixed layout is simpler to design and gives a more predictable appearance, but there are times when a variable full-width layout is better (such as this longer page) to allow for the option of more width and less scrolling (PageDown/PageUp). A fixed layout is often easier to read and use because all content and controls are in a predictable location. There is rarely a need for page layouts beyond 800 pixels wide, and this is usually when larger images are to be displayed. Fixed-width web pages are typically laid out at around 630 pixels, including a 110 pixel left margin and a 520 pixel content area. This enables compatibility with the lower resolution (640x480) client screen, but is also about as wide as most content needs to be. Column width is about 500 for best readability. Improved readability is why newspapers have narrow columns, such as 1/4 or 1/5 the page width; the narrow column is much easier to read quickly. Long lines can be difficult to follow when scanning from the right end of a line to the left end of the next line, so a website may impose a line length limit to ensure adequate readability. This is helpful for when the page is visited right after a large image is viewed in the browser window. Advanced web surfers may have 5 or 10 browser windows open at once, and in the larger screen area it is best to arrange these windows on the 1024 or 1280 wide desktop area as a set of smaller 800x600 windows.
-- Anonymous, February 02, 2001