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Liquid versus fixed layouts ?

On the web the designer has no control over several factors, including the size of the browser window, the web browser used, the input devices used (mouse, touch screen, voice command, text, cell phone number pad, etc.) and the size and characteristics of available fonts.

Some designers choose to control the appearance of the elements on the screen by using specific width designations. This control may be achieved through the use of a HTML table-based design or a more semantic div-based design through the use of CSS. Whenever the text, images, and layout of a design do not change as the browser changes, this is referred to as a fixed width design. Proponents of fixed width design prefer precise control over the layout of a site and the precision placement of objects on the page. Other designers choose a liquid design. A liquid design is one where the design moves to flow content into the whole screen, or a portion of the screen, no matter what the size of the browser window. Proponents of liquid design prefer greater compatibility and using the screen space available. Liquid design can be achieved by setting the width of text blocks and page modules to a percentage of the page, or by avoiding specifying the width for these elements all together, allowing them to expand or contract naturally in accordance with the width of the browser.

Both liquid and fixed design developers must make decisions about how the design should degrade on higher and lower screen resolutions. Sometimes the pragmatic choice is made to flow the design between a minimum and a maximum width. This allows the designer to avoid coding for the browser choices making up The Long Tail, while still using all available screen space. Depending on the purpose of the content, a Web Designer may decide to use either fixed or liquid layouts on a case-by-case basis.

Similar to liquid layout is the optional fit to window feature with Adobe Flash content. This is a fixed layout that optimally scales the content of the page without changing the arrangement or text wrapping when the browser is resized.

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