I’€™m no big fan of usability guru Jakob Nielsen. Don’€™t get me wrong, I don’€™t doubt he knows his stuff, but his idea of usability falls on the requirement of ugliness. In my opinion things aren’€™t as black and white as Nielsen sometimes portrays it, since it’€™s all about getting the content to the reader the optimal layout is one that’€™s easy to take in, and easy to read. If it’€™s too ugly you might even loose the reader and how’€™s that for usability?
Jesper Ronn-Jensen has two very readable posts up, the first actually being a response to Nielsen’€™s thoughts on optimizing sites for 1024×768 pixel resolutions. Ronn-Jensen sure has a point that it all comes down to how big the window is ‘€“ not the screen’€™s resolution. He thinks people doesn’€™t maximize when sitting on bigger screens with higher resolutions, which makes sense to me. I don’€™t want a huge window with a small site sitting lonely in the middle, nor do I want to read text over my 21″ widescreen ‘€“ that’€™s plain horrible.
However, according to statistics sent to Ronn-Jensen as a response to his post, I am apparently not in majority – which you can read in his second post. It seems people tend to maximize their window anyway, although that’€™ll leave them with a somewhat overall twisted take on the webpages they are surfing. It’€™s a designer’€™s nightmare.
Where does this put us? Should we design our sites so that they dynamically resize to the browser window, or maybe it’€™s time to go all fixed layout on our readers? The choice sure isn’€™t easy but I must say that Nielsen has a point when he’€™s talking about layouts that are stretches somewhat, if not all the way. It all depends on what you’€™re publishing of course ‘€“ a portfolio site or company infosheet isn’€™t as sensitive as a text-laden site. If you’€™re doing the latter I suggest reading up on line lengths in a Usability News post from 2005.
No matter what all these experts are claiming to be the ideal font size, line length, width of actual page and so on, you’€™ll always find people disagreeing. However, no matter how much you believe in your own reasoning and sure thinks your choice is the right, you still should read up on the theories out there. Who knows, you might actually pick something up?
Thord Daniel Hedengren is a designer, writer, and blogger, and also the former editor of The Blog Herald. He used to be a hotshot in the gaming industry in Sweden, but sold everything and went International. Most recently he wrote a book called Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, and does loads of kickass design.