Research Manger at Agency.com
21 May 2004 14:30pm
has anyone heard of 'postcarding' it is when a web page automatically opens in the centre of the browser, regardless of the browser or size of screen?
I think it is also know as 'auto centring'...
I wondered if anyone has seen it used or know if it is regarded as good practice...
Can't find much mention of it...
all tips welcome
Fndr at Majestic12.co.uk
21 May 2004 15:10pm
On 14:30:41 21 May 2004 Lucyf wrote:
>has anyone heard of 'postcarding' it is when a web page
>automatically opens in the centre of the browser,
>regardless of the browser or size of screen?
You may find that this design approach is a matter of taste and often taste of those who design it!
Personally I think that it is wrong to target website for some specific resolutions (which is often reason to center it), and its best to make sure that web site is automatically "stretchable".
Here is one simple practical reason why stretching is better than centering - there is more "real estate" visible without forcing visitors to scroll down.
Digital Producer at Designate
24 May 2004 12:39pm
I think that this approach is usually employed for sites where a degree of "pixel perfect" design is required. Its common to find a lot of brochure sites for design companies done in this way as well as trasitioning print sites, where the creative leads may be from a DTP background and "fluid design" is an alien concept.
In the end, the choice of whether to design a site this way is usually a pragmatic one that depends upon what your client wants. One can argue about best practice for the web until one is blue in the face but at the end of the day, it may fall upon deaf ears and you still have the work to do (bitter experience!)
If one implements such a design using standards compliant html and CSS then at least you will have the satisfaction of doing your bit for good practice on the web.
Director of User Experience at Isotoma
24 May 2004 14:29pm
...but different designers will doubtless have their own terms.
Mostly I'd advise against it.
The main reasons why it is used are
1) Better knowledge of Photoshop than the web. In Photoshop you work on a page with fixed width and height. If you extend these restrictions to the web, you get a letterbox layout.
2) Perception of strong branding. Having a design centered in the window arguably gives it more impact than if it were huddled against the edge.
3) Very little content. If the page has little on it, centering it in the window helps it look less "short" and "unfinished".
The problems with the above are
1) The flexibility of the web, as opposed to Photoshop, is an advantage of the medium rather than an obstacle to overcome. Any good web designer should make provision for varying amounts of content, for a user's right to resize fonts to their preference, and the different screen resolutions and indeed devices that may be used to view a page.
2) Fair enough. But what about people with high-resolution monitors? They get a tiny web page surrounded by acres of empty space. And if they are forced to scroll within that area, they're going to find it quite annoying. This is also an unfamiliar location for the scrollbar, which can cause confusion.
3) Justified. If you have very little content on the site, and it's not going to increase later, then there's nothing wrong with using this layout.
There are lots of ways of coding such a layout, some better than others. DON'T USE FRAMES! There are frame-less ways that work fine. My own test pages:
SEO and Web Analytics at npower
25 May 2004 16:17pm
Can I throw a thought or two about liquid into the mix here?
How does a liquid layout affect the relationship between elements on a page? Good information design creates relationships between elements based on their location relative to each other. In a liquid layout, these elements may become separated and the link is lost. Liquid designs require white space from somewhere, think carefully about where this is coming from.
Another thing to think about with regards to liquid layouts is line length of text. I believe that in the print world, a width of 39 ems is the preferred line length. It's easy to specify a width of 39 ems for a block of text by using CSS. So, the width in pixels changes as the user adjusts the font size but the line length remains at a good, readable length.
If we look at the typical user of a 1600 pixel wide screen we will usually find a designer or very technically savvy person sitting behind it. One could assume that these people will understand why a website appears as a small square in the upper left of their screen and would know how to fix that. Perhaps we (as designers) should be concentrating on hand-holding those people who are sitting in front of an 800x600 or 1024x768 display that has been set up for them. Cater for the people who don't understand the issues surrounding liquid design, high resolution monitors and web design in general.
Liquid design to me is not about stretching a design across the mximum width of a page but is about allowing flexibility in your design to cope with the user changing the font size.
So, if we look at this is the context of 'letterboxing' or 'postcarding' then perhaps it makes these two techniques easier to implement? Elements on the page require their spacial relationships to remain constant, users of huge monitors accept the cons of having a huge monitor and pixel-perfect layouts remain pixel perfect - unless the user is allowed to change the size of text.
27 May 2004 18:14pm
I didn't mean to suggest that a liquid layout should always be used.
(Jargon guide: A liquid layout is where the content on the page always expands to the full width of the browser window, or proportionally with it.)
The worst thing about a letterbox layout is that the *height* is fixed. No user will ever appreciate having to scroll down while there is still plenty of available vertical space in the window. For an example, see
Fixing the *width* is another matter. While you can argue that it, too, is against the spirit of the web medium, a lot of the time it makes sense to use a fixed-width layout. For example for the line-length issue you mention. But often it, too, is just lazy design, because it's hard to mock up a liquid layout in Photoshop.
(In theory CSS allows you to set maximum line lengths, but since IE doesn't support max-width or min-width, that's still just wishful thinking.)
Typically, sites with relatively simple content and little navigation work better with fixed-width layouts, e.g. most blogs or small-company sites. (And you're right, they should cope well with font size changes.) Sites that need multiple columns (typically for navigation) are often better off with a liquid layout. Some good examples:
An added benefit is that this allows you to use a larger font size. (In fact, I would suggest that this very site would be better off with larger fonts and a liquid layout.)
On a final, technical note: If you use CSS rather than tables to lay out web pages, even if you fix the page width, the user -- or another device -- can still override it if they wish.
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