Liquid or Fixed for your site?

Darren Rowse the "ProBlogger" raised a question -- liquid or static blog layouts? I kinda agree with Chris' comment here that liquid layout is more difficult to master than fixed width (give me "flex" attribute in XUL!!), however I do not think it is webmasters are necessarily lazy if fixed width design is implemented. In fact, many good "pixel perfect" design has to rely on fixed width layout, where placing your element at that precious position is crucial. They usually came from desktop publishing background, when your A4 is always 210mm by 297mm.

However, web browsers are a bit different. Computer monitors have different sizes, and users don't always maximize their browser to fit the whole screen (especially non-Windows users).

That's where liquid layout shines, as it hands out the control to the actual visitors, and they can decide themselves what width they want your website to be. My daily 'puter has a 1400x1050 14" LCD, but I always have my browser resized to 1024x768 so unused screen estate can be utilised to fit other widgets. Every now and then I might encounter a fixed width layout that might require a bit more than 1024 pixels (like the old Sydney Morning Herald before recent re-design), and all I need to do is to resize the browser to be a little bit bigger. Imagine how annoying if your screen is 1024 pixel wide and your can't enlarge your browser further!

For myself, I've done a few designs in the past that have fixed-width. For example, this blog and FOCUS Church website. So is the default WordPress theme. I actually have to deliberately narrow down the main column to fit the whole width into 800 pixels, although only about 10% of my visitors are still on ancient 800x600 display (or have very bad eye sight). At the same time, they (especially the FOCUS website) just look totally weird inside a large browser window.

For newer sites I'll try to use liquid layouts, and Bargain Blog's 3 column fluid design can actually scale to 800 pixel wide though not pretty. Another issue is that I haven't figured out a way to put fluid column BEFORE the sidebars in HTML, without resorting to tables or absolute position.

Maybe I should write more instead of tinkering with the design :)