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I Want Design Input

I run this blog mainly for my own enjoyment, so I mostly am just designing the new Wordpress version whatever the hell way I want it.

But, I am split on the issue of fixed vs. variable width.  This blog currently is variable width.  Text expands and contracts to fill the screen width.  The pro of variable width is that it allows people with wider monitors to actually take advantage of the real estate they invested in.  The con is the site almost never looks as aesthetically nice as a fixed width site, where everything is a bit more in control  (example here of fixed width).

Any preferences out there?  Please comment.

Posted on December 9, 2008 at 09:53 PM | Permalink


I visit to read. The more words on the screen at one time the better. Variable width gets my vote.

Posted by: Thomas North | Dec 9, 2008 10:06:57 PM

I hate wasting screen, so I'll have to vote variable width as well.

Posted by: kjohnsey | Dec 9, 2008 10:40:08 PM

Definitely variable. You are trying to relay information, not win a potential client. Also, you don't have to worry about image sizes when you post them.

Posted by: Andrew | Dec 9, 2008 10:42:41 PM

I read you through google reader. It doesn't really matter to me. That said, I agree with the above. I prefer variable width.

Just, for the love of all that is holy, do not ever start giving short or abbreviated RSS feeds. Please stick with full feeds.

Posted by: mjh | Dec 9, 2008 11:05:03 PM

If I cared about your aesthetics, I never would have read your blog at all. No offense, but its ugly.

Now you can take that two ways...maybe more people will read your blog if its prettier (go fixed). Or maybe the people who actually care about what you have to say will just like it in the way thats easiest to read (go variable).

I am reluctant to say variable, even though I like it better. I wish more people would read your posts. I link all over message boards and on comments boards of other blogs, hoping people will hear what you have to say and pass it on as well. Maybe your site design could help in that, maybe it can't. My personal preference is variable, but at least take into account the reason for fixed. And take into account this as a suggestion for a total redesign.

Posted by: danny | Dec 9, 2008 11:18:20 PM

I read blogs via a copy of Firefox with about a dozen tabs dedicated to conservative/libertarian type bloggers. (Congratulations, you are the fourth tab!) All the others are fixed width. I had never noticed yours was variable. I like the variable width a great deal since it allows one to shrink the window and still read the blog. Wish they were all that way. On the other hand, since I never noticed it before you mentioned it... Guess it isn't really too important to me.

Posted by: T J Sawyer | Dec 9, 2008 11:29:57 PM

The one good thing about fixed width is I can narrow the window to cover up any whirling blinking ads. If you don't plan to have whirling blinkers, variable is better.

Posted by: austin | Dec 9, 2008 11:44:29 PM

Variable width. I don't like sites that try to dictate what size my browser should be.

Posted by: randian | Dec 10, 2008 12:42:04 AM

Variable. I'm either reading on a full screen window with size rolled up, OR I'm reading in a tab on one of several open browsers, with Fox's Strategy room on the bottom right, with a similar sized Thunderbird window under it, stock ticker bottom middle, market window on left. Either way, fixed is a problem.....

Posted by: Ian V | Dec 10, 2008 1:22:44 AM

Fixed width is of/for/by the devil.

Posted by: Booklegger | Dec 10, 2008 1:29:58 AM

I wouldn't mind either way, as long as you don't fill up the screen with other stuff so that I have to scroll down to read the shortest post. Like this http://www.iaindale.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Ben | Dec 10, 2008 2:12:21 AM

I know I'm in the minority, but I'm a big believer in fixed width. My problem with variable is that on widescreen monitors it's just TOO wide. When your eyes track back to the left, it's hard to find the right line because you traveled so far. It feels like a newspaper column that runs the entire width of the page.

Fixed also makes it possible to wrap text around multiple images. If you'll indulge me a link to my own blog:


That article has a series of images tucked into the text. If it was variable width, then on wide screens the text would not be enough to space the images apart vertically. The images would then do this odd diagonal stacking that looks terrible. So, fixed-width is a good way of making your layout future-proof, so that things will be readable no matter how big monitors get.

Finally, there's a lot to be said for white space. We use margins on printed paper for a reason. You could save a lot of paper by running the text right to the edge, but it gives the page an overly-dense, "overwhelming" feeling. Dense text is for efficient, but wide margins is more relaxing for many.

It's all subjective, but that's my take on it.

Posted by: Shamus | Dec 10, 2008 2:25:27 AM

Variable width, because the blog isn't very aesthetical anyway, so better to focus on practicality.

Posted by: Miklos Hollender | Dec 10, 2008 2:29:22 AM

I have a widescreen monitor, I prefer variable width.

Having said that, I fail to understand how fixed width improved the aesthetics. I took a quick look at the link you provided as an example of fixed, and I got the stupid bars on either side like watching a standard television program on a widescreen display.

Posted by: Mike | Dec 10, 2008 4:26:37 AM

Variable width.

Powerline's site is as ugly as their views.

Posted by: Dave | Dec 10, 2008 4:37:03 AM

99% of the time I'm just reading the text off the RSS feed - you are keeping the full feed, right? Most of the blogs I read I can access this way and never see what their design. Which is good because a lot of really good writers don't have a clue about design.

That being said don't fear white space. Give your readers eyes some relief on the page. If someone is going to be so offended by a fixed with design "wasting screen space" that they will stop reading your site - you probably don't want them here anyway.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin | Dec 10, 2008 5:05:22 AM

I realize I'm pushing the limits of blog decorum by linking to myself TWICE now in the same thread. Feel free to nuke this if it's unwelcome.

An even bigger controversy is the black / white background issue.


It's more complicated than it seems at first.

Posted by: Shamus | Dec 10, 2008 5:06:40 AM

Mainly using the RSS feed. Otherwise slight preference for variable width.

Posted by: Daran | Dec 10, 2008 5:13:06 AM

Variable - a whold bunch of people surf the web using a reduced size browser.

Posted by: ParatrooperJJ | Dec 10, 2008 5:38:48 AM

Variable, all the way. Three columns, too, helps keep the middle content from being too wide. Full RSS feed.

Posted by: Mike Soja | Dec 10, 2008 5:59:36 AM

VARIABLE... and thank you for it !!

Posted by: Cyrus Killgore | Dec 10, 2008 6:21:13 AM

Variable. Like the weather.

Posted by: John Anderson | Dec 10, 2008 6:40:17 AM


I think the width should be allowed to vary, but between some min and max size. Certainly it can feel bad to waste space. However this isn't a football game. Without a max width, things just get unwieldy.

Posted by: Nobrainer | Dec 10, 2008 7:10:59 AM

Variable, I use a reader too. Some blogs with fixed width behave very poorly when you resize the text, Climate Audit is awful.

Posted by: agesilaus | Dec 10, 2008 7:23:22 AM

Please, please keep it variable.

Posted by: jeh | Dec 10, 2008 7:26:57 AM

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