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ABHP - A Bit of Humble Pie
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Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?Views: 874
Aug 12, 2008 5:36 pmWeb Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Eileen Brown
Howdy Lambswool Loungers.

I have often seen web sites, especially news sites that
have four columns of information across. While some
newspapers have multiple columns (more than 4) it is
confusing on a web page. It just seems like TOO MUCH. Go
to Computerworld and see what I mean. OH, you'll have to
skip the AD and when you get to the home page, you'll have
to scroll down to see the four columns. Don't get me
wrong, I am not trying to insult Computerworld. I really
like their publication. :D

BUT number one: Four columns is very confusing.
BUT number two: If you were looking for one piece of info,
you'd be hard pressed to find it in that confusion.
BUT number three: It hurts my eyes and assaults my mind.
BUT number four: I hated the AD before the home page came up!

But number four doesn't really count but I hate that! Don't you???

When building a new web site it is left to the developer to
decide how many columns are necessary for any given
client. Why is that? I guess we know what you need more
than you do? Naawww - you DO know what you need and YOU
know what you like.

From the client perspective - be sure to let your developer
know your preferences - surely you have SOME?

It depends on the information you need to impart but no
more than three columns should be a rule of thumb and for
most web sites - two columns are quite adequate in many
cases too.

What's your preference?
As a developer OR a client?

Eileen :D

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Private Reply to Eileen Brown

Aug 12, 2008 5:56 pmre: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Laura Wheeler
I can see a few instances when four columns can be used - two sidebar columns for navigation, and two news columns in the middle that are equal width. But I do not like the trend toward three navigation columns, or where you have three narrow and one wide. That gets too confusing.

For the most part though, two or three is best for most sites.

The major problem I have right now is everyone wants a ONE column layout, widescreen, with a single horizontal navigation.

For a simplistic site, that is fine. But the people who want this have HUGELY complex sites, and it just doesn't fly! They don't understand that they have to have someplace to PUT the stuff! Many site owners do not get that you cannot really do a "simple" layout, when you have a complex site! You can do LOGICAL, and you can do neat and tidy. But when you have layers and layers of functions and features, you can't have a navigation with just three buttons!

If they want a login box, and a visible shopping cart module, and a user menu that comes up after the user logs in, and a newsletter signup box, they have to find somewhere to PUT it.

So business owner preference plays into it, but in this instance, form follows function - we have to consider what the site has to DO in determining column or navigation layout. THEN the business owner's preference rules after the functional considerations are addressed.

Laura
Mom to Eight
307-379-2502
Firelight Business Enterprises, Inc.
http://www.firelightwebstudio.com - Exceptional Website Services
http://www.frontporchfolks.com - Networking community for small business
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Private Reply to Laura Wheeler

Aug 12, 2008 6:31 pmre: re: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Reg Charie
Form HAS to follow function.
There is no way around it.
If a business owner wants to invert the process with function following form, they are not going to be pleased with the results.

I can sympathize with you Laura, I once had a client that wanted all 27 of his navigation links to be in the header.

I prefer to follow the top dogs when working on layout. E.G. Google, Yahoo, MSN.
If a site has a shopping system and/or adverts, or a log in system, then 3 columns are called for, with the account information being on the top of right column.

For sites without the above a 2 column style is recommended.

I like to keep the left and right columns to under 150 pixels in width. This brings the main section to about 600 pixels wide which gives good line length.

Reg - Talk to me in Live Chat. http://regcharie.com/talk-to-me.htm
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Private Reply to Reg Charie

Aug 12, 2008 6:53 pm re: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Bob LaPlante
I'm in agreement ... its driven by the mission of the site.

Im a fan of 2 column sites .. biggest reason being... we are programmed to read left to right.....

Things beyond the second column to the right become hard to process UNLESS we are looking there for something (cart details, login etc...)



Bob LaPlante -- Technology Engineer: http://laplanteenterprises.net
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Private Reply to Bob LaPlante

Aug 12, 2008 7:32 pmre: re: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Scott Wolpow
My favorite ad before the artcile was for HP. The article? How crappy customer service at HP was.

Scott Wolpow Help me Raise Money for MS http://msnyc.kintera.org/bikems/scottwo
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Private Reply to Scott Wolpow

Aug 12, 2008 8:27 pmre: re: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Reg Charie
Bob, studies have shown we read differently online.

Eyetracking studies show the following path the eyes take when reading a computer screen.



Reg - Talk to me in Live Chat. http://regcharie.com/talk-to-me.htm
All You Need is Dotcom-Productions and a Dream. http://dotcom-productions.com
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Private Reply to Reg Charie

Aug 12, 2008 8:47 pmre: re: re: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Scott Wolpow
Reg,
That was doen using Smurf tracking a fly on the monitor.

Scott Wolpow Help me Raise Money for MS http://msnyc.kintera.org/bikems/scottwo
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Private Reply to Scott Wolpow

Aug 12, 2008 8:55 pmre: re: re: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Bob LaPlante
Reg ...

Thanks for confirming my point :-)

Of course the top is 1st .. then left .. then right ..
then back left as a focal point again..

Notice that the final "flow" zeros at left once again?

Thats because we have to regain a focal point again to go further in MY opinion :-)

Bob

Private Reply to Bob LaPlante

Aug 13, 2008 8:55 amre: re: re: re: Web Site Issue: Two - Three or Four Columns?#

Bobbi Jo Woods
In one of his first books on the subject of design, Web design guru Jeffrey Zeldman wrote that some fool one day decided to create a site that had a left hand column for navigation and a right column for contents, and it sort of stuck and others followed that model.

IMHO, there really is no right or wrong way to present a site. There is only the logical or functional way. Figuring out how your viewers will read the content is a good step in finding the best layout.

I read somewhere that for blogs, columns for navigation tend to be on the right side, while, with regular Web sites (which are more heavily visited for quick access to contents within), left hand navigation is best.

I've used both, and also 3 columns for many different sites, as well as your good old one column with horizontal navigation. The simplest designs can sometimes be the best, though, and I'm a firm believer of "less is more", most days.

That said, I don't see anything wrong with having a single horizontal navigation, even IF you have a lot of content on your site.

Having hundreds of pages doesn't necessarily mean they all need to be linked on each and every page of your site, much less all crammed into some column for navigating.

My company site's previous design had 3 columns, but only because I wanted to try to present as much information at a glance, as possible. I don't know if when you are trying to get visitors to focus on the message of your content, if that is a good idea or not.

But I think if you are selling products, it might be good for more than 1 column with different items in each. Dunno. There must be a reason sales are being made from sites that do that, I guess!

-Bobbi Jo
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bobbi Jo Woods, Owner
B. Woods Design - Professional Managed Websites & Hosting
Twin Cities (651) 774-0811
Toll - Free (877) 99-MY-WEB
http://www.bwoodsdesign.com

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