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Which do YOU prefer - 2 or 3 columns sites?

 10:29 pm on Oct 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

For quite some time now, there has been much talk of "the holy grail" - basically a 3-column site that does not break in any browser.

But how many of you prefer to actually browse to sites with 3-columns layouts vs 2?

Maybe it is just me, but it seems that all the sites with 3 (or more) columns are too cluttered, and/or have the right column full of AdSense ads anyway, with little or no useful information.

Or maybe it is not that it is 3-column, it is that the columns are not "user friendly"? Earthlink uses a 3 column, but it is one narrow on the left, and two equal spaced ones for content - and it works fine for me. But when I go to many others, it is narrow-wide-narrow, with the narrow right column being mostly clutter, junk, and ads. Which is basically distracting.

I have looked around for some usability and user preference studies, but not found much.



 10:50 pm on Oct 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

I prefer two column with the nav right aligned, but I know I'm probably in a minority here. At the end of the day, it's about your content to other bits ratio. If you've got enough navigation, polls, ads, etc to put your content to shame in a 2-col layout then you're better off moving to 3 I think.


 12:06 am on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

The reason 3-columns is considered the 'holy grail' is the ability to do it and not that it's a 3-column site. Otherwise, deciding on the number of columns is a design issue and nothing more.


 9:37 am on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

While that is true to some extent - I alse see a lot more ugly 3 column sites than I do 2 column sites.

It is as if developers have this 3rd column.. and they have to put "something" in there.. anything at all...

But personally, I find that the very common narrow right column just does "feel" right. Maybe it is because I am right handed, or left-eyed, or something. But I find myself almost totally ignoring it, and I wonder how many others do the same thing.


 1:30 pm on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

It really, really depends on the page; no rule can be made about the ideal number, widths, and proportions of columns without knowing what the intent of the page is. On some pages, like forms and wizards, I strip out all sidebars so the user is focused on the form. On the other hand, as my audiences' average displays have gotten wider, I am experimenting with four-column homepages.


 2:35 pm on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

One of the advantages of a 3-column site over a 2-column site (of the same total width) is that it keeps the line length of the text in the central column to an acceptable length. Relatively short lines are easier to read than long ones.

But if non-European languages are considered, even 4 or 5-column pages are somtimes more appropriate.


 3:43 pm on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

2 column with content on the left. Even better, 1 column with nav at the top.


 4:02 pm on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

is that it keeps the line length of the text in the central column to an acceptable length...

That is a good point. There is no doubt that a single column is far too wide for most newer screens if it is filled up.

Perhaps it is not really the right column that bugs me, but the fact that for too many sites it seems to be nothing but an ad and/or trash receptacle.

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