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Should web pages be left or centre justified?

     
9:01 pm on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I am just an internet hobbyist but I am trying to make everything I do look as professional as possible.

I just took a look around approx 40 large corporate websites and see that the majority are created with a fixed 800px(approx.) width.

But what surprises me is that nearly 75% of these are then justified to the left margin rather than the centre. It seems obvious that as soon as the browser area is anything > 800px that the background should be evenly distributed on the left and the right.

Have these designers done this deliberately or otherwise?

I would value any comments from you experienced and knowledgeable guys.

Mark Barrett

9:26 pm on June 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I prefer fixed width and to align my websites to the left. I have done a couple centre aligned, but to be honest i think it looks better on the left. Others will surely disagree and have their own opinion.

I think the best example of fixed width, left aligned is the BBC news website.

9:54 pm on June 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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T

The BBC site was not in my sample of 40 but it is exactly representative of the point I was making.

And I do agree that it doesn't look in any way offensive on the eye. But at the same time it is a bit illogical to have a "blank piece of paper" and tie everything to the left hand side.

My gut feeling is that for a project I am about to start I will centre justify the pages. But in the knowledge that either is acceptable.

On the basis that it would be so quick to change between the two I might even do a couple of pages justified to the left and sound out the opinion of the users. There may be something in the human psyche that we are happy to have our eyes drawn to the left.

I am still interested in any other viewpoints.

Mark

10:06 pm on June 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Go and do some research of your own, but my quick look round finds IBM, Dell and BBC using a left-aligned 800px wide site.

I thought I'd have a quick look at the experts as well. I looked at wolff Olins (one of the biggest branding companies in the UK) - they're centred, but their (US) parent company (OmniCom) are left aligned.

Horses for courses.

12:34 am on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I hadn't seen that Wolff Olins website before.

That is a classy design!

It must be some kind of benchmark for a relatively low content but style heavy website

Mark

1:01 am on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I think that if you are going to consider center aligned, then you should also consider using a fluid layout. That way your page will alway fit the screen. This can look pretty bad with widths less than 800 px, as things tend to 'scrunch up'. Which is probably the reason that the pros use a left aligned fixed width layout.
1:19 am on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Have these designers done this deliberately or otherwise?

An old trick before CSS was fully supported was to use the background image as an integral part of the design. So if you want a gray vertical bar at the left and a black background, you create a 1px tall X 1600px wide gif; the first 100 pixels or so are gray, the rest are black. The BG strip then "tiles" vertically down the page creating a solid bar left/black bg right canvas. Over this you superimpose a table layout with the navigations links in the left column and voila - you've created a wonky left-side nav bar.

A lot of people still use this trick, and it sometimes gets to be a habit and gets left that way even if you're not doing the background image integration.

1:52 am on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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May I suggest that up until a few years ago, the most common monitor size was 800px wide, and most of the old establishment sites were created with that monitor size in mind?
10:43 am on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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For what it is worth, I recently read an article about the psychology of selling on the web and the conclusion of the researcher was that for right handed people the first and most often viewed part of a monitor was approx a quarter of the way down from the top and a quarter of the way in from the left. This would seem to suggest that left justification is best for most people to read.
1:12 pm on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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g

That is so interesting that someone has actually done research on this. I certainly concur with their findings - my own feeling is that people's eyes naturally hang slightly to the left of the screen.

Even if I centre a webpage I will be thinking about priority content being biased to the left side.

M

2:39 pm on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Being an artist first then a custom painter for most of my life and now doing web sites for custom painting and motorcycle shops, I have found and believe in the "minds eye"
as most artists and painters will attest to is " center it ".

the look must be correct and centered, I have only made one left justified and was quickly told it was wrong, moved it over and the customer loved the complete site, so thatís my vote....
3:05 pm on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Perhaps it depends on the type of the page.

The Western World uses to write and read from left to right, so on a text-rich page it may help to be left-justified with a fixed margin near the browser's window border, as the eye would expect this more than a variable left margin.

A good example is www.google.com/:
Their main page with just the search box on an otherwise nearly blank page is centered, but their text-rich SERPs are left justified.

Regards,
R.

4:16 pm on June 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The reason for left justifying it is for readability and comprehension. The eye likes an anchor point like a vertical rule then some white space before starting the next line. The edge of the monitor or the bounding box of the window privide this. If you are going to center your design, make sure to put a border around it so the eye can anchor to the next line easily. Other than that there should be no difference between two fixed width designs, centered or left justified; it is your preference.
6:47 pm on June 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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FWIW - If you left justify then you can get away with 800px, if you centre then 740 seems to be about right. 800 centre will mean slight horizontal scrolling!

Wolff Olins you will see use 740 centre - that happens to be my preference.

8:00 pm on June 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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My gripe w/ centered pages is that pages can appear to shift leftward depending on whether the scrollbar is present.
4:00 pm on June 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I think you should DEFINITELY align to the left.

Unless you want to center.

And sites should ALWAYS be approx 800 fixed px wide.

Unless you want to make it fluid.

Nuff said.