May 26, 2009 in Web Usability

Ask The Audience: Three Column Layout

three-column-layoutI have a question for my good audience; Is it ok for 3 column layouts to allow the 3rd (right most) column to be chopped off ? Does it matter that the 3rd column may not be viewable by everyone as long as you just have extras on the 3rd column and not website crucial elements such as navigation, is it wrong to just accept that some users resolutions will just chop the 3rd column off?

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11 Responses to Ask The Audience: Three Column Layout

  1. Depends what you mean by cut off. If it’s half cut off in 800 x 600 then, fine, not enough people use that resolution to justify it now. If it’s half cut off in 1024 onwards then I say you shouldn’t do it – it’ll look broken.

    Even if it’s completely off the page – as in you wouldn’t know it’s there in 1024 – I’d still question whether it should be done or not.

    A good design should take all users in to account and build something around that. Why couldn’t it be designed in a way that incorporates all popular resolutions?

  2. I agree with ITMDesign,

    but i believe the look will vary depend on the Design it self, there are some nice websites with 3 column that looks Woww and some others look very bad.

    but for me i would think the 3rd column will not help the website visitor as it will look a little messy! you just look at it you feel it’s too much πŸ™


  3. Jay

    I’m trying to work out in my head if a “you see the whole column or nothing at all” implementation (most likely via JS) would be better or worse. At my chosen res, I’d rather not see half a column as it looks ugly.. but for users who don’t view fullscreen it might not be obvious that there’s content there at all without some kind of visual feedback. It’s a tricky one!

    I prefer 2 col anyway πŸ˜‰

  4. Personaly I’d say if your main body (the 3 columns) of your site are too wide and are getting cut off on certain screens, then this is pretty poor. Adjust your overall design to re-work for your desired dimensions.

  5. For me I wouldnt risk it, a site where part of the page is off to the right can look rather sloppy which looks bad for the company owning the site and the designer. Personally I always try to optimise the width of sites so they fit onto everyones screen.

  6. @all, thanks so much for your great comments on the 3 column layout issue, I haven’t quite made my mind up still. I think on some sites the 3rd column could be a bonus column. Or this could be seen as lazy designing.


    If you look at Expedia at the moment (hurry, don’t know how long this will be there) they have an advert that is effectively a 3rd column. It works well on widescreens of about 1440 or more.

    The difference though is that this isn’t part of the body of the site so is forgivable if it overlaps a given screen width.

  8. @evan – they should have made the ad a background image atleast to prevent the horizontal scroll bar.

    On my resolution (1280 x 1024) you can just about see the ad text though so if there wasn’t a horizontal scroll bar you wouldn’t be able to get to the bit you know you’re missing out on.

    Why couldn’t they have fit the ad in that huge bit of whitespace below ‘explore your options’ and ‘be inspired’?

    Badly done.

  9. I don’t think it’s a good idea for three reasons:

    1) If it is not neatly chopped off (ie: only half chopped off) then it looks plain ugly. This can’t be avoided for a subset of resolution sizes so it will happen.

    2) There is no reason to do this when there are much better ways to solve such a design problem, most notably Liquid layouts and JavaScript solutions that change the layout dynamically depending on the current resolution.

    3) Also I believe we should be embracing the qualities of the web instead of fighting against them. A website is not a printed page – it’s a highly dynamic customisable medium for publishing information.

    There are probably many other reasons too.

  10. @Evan, Good example Evan Thanks,
    @ Matthew, 2 and 3 resonate with me.

  11. First : all users should see your third column .
    second : I think 3 columns will be better if your page contains a lot of text .. that’s more suitable for eyes ( observe Journals they use a lot of cloumns )

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