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