columns4.jpgThere are a few seemingly perpetual debates in web design. 800×600 vs 1024×768. Fixed vs fluid. Content on the right or left. The choice of using a 2 column layout or a 3 column one is another of these.

Advantages of a Two Column Layout

  • Forces minimalism. There tends to be less sidebar room in a 2 column layout. You simply don’t have the space for 100 different widgets without overstretching the page. This limit forces you to be a little more careful about choosing which widgets are installed.
  • Sidebar padding. In a 3 column layout, each of the two sidebar columns is rarely as wide as the one sidebar column in a 2 column layout. Some of the broader widgets tend to be feel cluttered in such an environment. 2 column layouts have a little more defense in this regard.
  • Large content area. Not all designs call for it but, a large area for the content can yield its advantages. Larger images perhaps? Or a large font-size, like on Weblog Tools Collection?
  • Thinner layout, making it fit in better on a small resolution. In an 800×600 pixel screen, there is a limited amount of real estate on screen. The content is more important, and so, if the small 2 column design is what is needed to prevent the content from being cramped then 2 columns it is.

Advantages of a Three Column Layout

  • Sidebars take up more space. Whilst taking up less space can be an advantage, so too can taking up more space. When you have a lot of room to fill, and don’t want to stretch your content horizontally to do so, the extra sidebar width can be your saving grace.
  • Less cluttered feeling. Taking a set number of widgets and placing them vertically in a 2 column layout is one thing. If you then take those same widgets and spread them over the 2 sidebars in a 3 column layout, you will notice things tend to feel much less cluttered, when done well.
  • Centered content. With a 3 column design, it is possible to place one column on either side of the content, effectually centering the content column. This makes the creation of a symmetrically balanced design that little bit easier.
  • Posts are rarely shorter than the sidebar. As a blogger, you never know how long every post will be. A design may look great when you’ve filled the test post with 800 words of dummy text, but what about the short posts you might write in reality? Few things look worse than a sidebar overextending the content area.

In conclusion, there is no reason to say that the 3 column layout is better than the 2 column layout. However, there are many good reasons why I personally am using a 3 column layout.

This blog is built for bloggers and designers who, if I may make a generalization, tend to have larger screens. Therefore it is 1024 pixels wide, not 800, meaning that I have more space to fill up. I’m also using a relatively small font size, meaning that I also need a relatively small content area, otherwise my lines will be too long. 3 column design suits the bill in my case.

Those reasons are why a 3 column layout works best for my blog. What works best for your blog?

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