Oct 18, 2011, 11:58 PM
United States, OR, Corvallis
Joined Nov 1998
I feel that this thread has run it's course and am closing it now. We hope to be ready with some modifications to the new style tomorrow. Looking back on the thread some of the replies imply unhappy feelings, so it seems it's a good idea if I talk a bit about our intentions.
Reasons we like Fixed Width:
1. On a very wide screen monitor, maximizing the window causes paragraphs within posts to be stretched out onto a single very long line. Research shows that paragraphs are most readable when there is something around twenty words per line.
2. While fluid layouts used to be common, that is no longer the case. Newcomers to RCGroups have come to expect something different than what we've been doing the last 10 years. We're worried about how dated the site looks.
3. Fluid layouts place the whitespace haphazardly about the page. A fixed layout controls the whitespace. From a design standpoint this is very helpful in making the page seem alive and vibrant.
4. A fixed layout gives us a more polished look, similar to a printed publication.
5. Advertisers would enjoy using the margins for major new releases. This sort of ad campaign is used to great effect all over the web. imdb.com and gamespot.com are examples. This is considered to be a less intrusive form of advertising than banner ads because it doesn't disrupt the actual content. I understand from the comments here that some might not feel that way, but obviously since we are advertiser supported we look for opportunities to make the advertisers happy.
Now let me quickly respond to two frequent objections from this thread.
The first is the objection that fixed width is some strange thing that only people with small monitors like. It's actually the growing width of monitors that makes fluid layouts problematic! See below for a list of websites that used fixed width designs. I'm sure all of these sites have visitors with widescreen monitors.
Secondly there were some objections on the basis that we are only changing things for the sake of change. It was also expressed as "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" or with rhetorical questions along the lines of "Why do engineers keep trying to change things?" Quite simply, an organism or organization that doesn't change is doomed. It's also true that one of RCGroups strengths is that while it might not be the prettiest site on the internet gosh-darn-it it's pretty much always online and it gets the job done! We see both sides of that here at RCG HQ.
In case it helps people understand just how pervasive fixed width has become, here is a quick list of very large sites that use it:
There are also a lot of sites that use fluid layouts, including amazon.com, wikipedia.com, and craigslist. Google also uses fluid layouts to great effect, but they rely on fixed layouts at times as well.
There are also some sites that have kind of a hybrid where the page can jump to different fixed widths. adobe.com comes to mind.
For the new style our intention was to go to a fixed layout for the normal forum pages but employ fluid layouts for certain pages, taking a google approach of picking the right layout for the right situation.
It was not our intention to force something onto our users. We want you to be happy with what we're doing. It was our expectation from the beginning that we would continue to support the "Classic" style or offer some other way for users to get back to the fluid format. I'm sorry this wasn't clear from the beginning.
It may have helped if I had explained our reasoning before we offered up the beta style, however until we received all this excellent feedback we didn't know how sensitive this issue would be.
I hope this message calms the fears of those who felt we might not value your feedback. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's exactly because we care that this thread exists.
Thanks for all the great comments!