Liquid layout or 960px width?

“I’ve been using 960 for some time now, as it’s slightly smaller than full width, and it’s divisible by 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, and 16 (imagine the grid possibilities). I’d love to hear what all of you are wrestling with.”

Cameron Moll has adopted 960px as his design width for fixed layouts (article via Zeldman’s blog). Moll has picked this width as it has a larger number of factors and allows a wider range of grid possibilities than the more ‘exact’ 974px. I personally tend to use the browser at around 800px wide on my iBook anyway, but Mac OS X tends to encourage non-maximised windows as a result of the drag and drop functionality. I know Windows users tend to maximise their windows (I do too at work, although my CRT monitor is on 800 by 600 so I can keep the refresh rate around 100Hz).

I shall be sticking with liquid layouts on this page – I’m currently using a hacked version of the Minimalist Fever theme on this WordPress site. I’m also using a definition list on the home page in an attempt to get 4 or 5 posts ‘above the fold’ on a typical page. Log analysis has already shown that the ‘posts before the current one’ are getting more exposure through this; the clicks on the ‘old’ posts were very low while using Kubrick and similar themes where the current post was all that was visible above the fold. I suppose using the definition list with title and excerpt is prolonging the eyeball time for each post.

Nielsen has sensible advice on window size assumptions for current Web browsers viewed on PC monitors. Optimise for 1024 by 768 but allow for smaller sizes.

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