Saturday 16 April 2005
FIXED VERSES LIQUID DESIGN. You’d think the argument would be over by now, but no, it’s re-emerged and with a bit of a vengeance.
So there we were at SXSW, geeks drinking ’til all hours of the morning. Around 3:00 a.m. an argument – well, okay – a “discussion” ensues involving Jeremy Keith and several others about which is better: Fixed or liquid design?
Porter and I just looked at each other and said “Didn’t we have this discussion years ago? Of course, back then we were talking table-based design. That small fact aside, I found this column I did in 1999 for Web Techniques Magazine, Dynamic vs. Fixed: A Proposal for Peace at the Table in which I wrote:
“What happened to table manners? They seem to have dropped down and rolled away like so many undesirable peas, left for the dogs to sniff at and the cats to bat about.
The borders have been drawn – on one side sit the dynamics, arms crossed, demanding that dynamic table layouts are the only appropriate way to go, ever. Across from them are the fixed folk, insisting that fixed table layouts are the absolute way to maintain the integrity of a given visual design.
Is there a right or wrong approach? As any good mom will tell kids battling away at the dinner table, there’s no right or wrong answer here. The truth lies somewhere diplomatically in the middle.”
– Molly E. Holzschlag, October 1999
Despite the fact that we’ve moved to CSS as a primary means of laying out pages, I still haven’t given up this point of view. Jeremy continues the conversation in his recent post Fixed Fashion:
”Y’see, I always assumed that the prevalence of fixed-width sites was the result of an informed decision. I imagined that designers weighed up the pros and cons of fixed and liquid design and then, after careful consideration, chose to build a site with a fixed width layout.
Now I’m beginning to think that this scenario is wishful thinking. Could it be that most designers are simply making the decision based on what everybody else is doing?
If so, that’s a disturbing thought. Decisions as important as that shouldn’t simply be the result of a sheep-like attitude .“
– Jeremy Keith, April 2005
Since my recent article for Design In Flight, I’ve been busy with emails asking to explain the difference, why a designer might want one over the other, and so on.
Clearly the issue is long from dead, despite my desire to go back to the party, tuning out the screams of “FIXED! NO! LIQUID!” in the background.
My position remains fixed. The context of the design is what will decide. As you can see, I’ve opted to remain among the liquid for now. How about you?