Inspiration Behind “Custom Reading Width Beta”
“Custom Reading Width Beta” allows users of a particular website to adjust a reading container in order to suit their preferences. In essence, the user can choose the “reading width” of the layout, and also choose whether the behavior of the website is fixed or fluid.
“Use a liquid layout”
Use a liquid layout that stretches to the current user’s window size (that is, avoid frozen layouts that are always the same size).
The words Nielson used regarding using a “liquid layout” echoed inside my head for a few weeks. I kept thinking of how inflexible my existing layout (at my personal blog) was, and how horrid my layout would look at extremely high resolutions. For me, there was no compromise. I could indeed specify a max-width and a min-width using CSS, but that wouldn’t be liquid according to Nielson’s definition.
But there has to be some compromise, right?
Enter Paul Boag, who just recently re-designed his blog for managing and building websites. He used to have a fixed design, but now his layout stretches to fill the screen. After launching his forum, there was some debate over his use of a “liquid” layout.
I hate full width designs – I have a widescreen laptop.
One of the users explained that he had a widescreen laptop and hated full width designs. Another user responded saying that’s why browsers can be resized. In fact, that is also Jakob Nielson’s position. He states that at resolutions above 1600×1200, users rarely have their web browser at a maximized width.
Now I wouldn’t be so bold to disagree with Jakob Nielson or even a user of a web forum. However, I am inclined to let the user decide. The same user that expressed grievances over having a widescreen laptop also pointed out that he didn’t want to have to resize the web browser each time he visited a site.
The combination of Jakob Nielson’s comments, Paul Boag’s re-design, and the forum user, inspired me to write “Custom Reading Width Beta.”
Let the User Decide
With the “Custom Reading Width”, the user can choose how wide a reading container is. The user can also choose whether that layout is fixed or fluid. If a user doesn’t like how “wide” a layout is, then the user can easily change it.
The whole point of this tool is to take the control out of the designer’s hand and place it in the users’. The designer can still specify a max and min-width, but the users have the ultimate say as to what width they are comfortable reading at.
The beauty of this tool is that if enough people use it on their sites, then people won’t have to resize a browser window for each site. The user will have their settings saved via persistent cookie for each particular site that uses the tool. There is no need to have to “tweak” the web browser to fit a liquid layout.
“Custom Reading Width Beta” was designed to benefit the users of “wide” or “liquid” layouts. I believe in empowering the end users of a website, and if the user wants to read at a specified width, then so be it.