Nielsen Issues More Commandments

By Deane Barker on November 10, 2003

Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines: Love him or hate him, there is some good advice here. Still, I don’t quite understand the emphasis on number eight:

“Don’t use a heading to label the search area; instead use a ‘Search’ button to the right of the box.”

That doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, honestly. Also, number three sounds fine in theory, but it’s very hard to work with from a practical perspective.

“Use a liquid layout that lets users adjust the homepage size: Fighting frozen layouts seems a lost battle, but it’s worth repeating: different users have different monitor sizes. People with big monitors want to be able to resize their browsers to view multiple windows simultaneously. You can’t assume that everyone’s window width is 800 pixels: it’s too much for some users and too little for others.”

Here’s the problem: having the screen get too wide presents usability problems. A wide screen means readers have to follow lines of text all the way from one side of the browser to the other, and if it’s a long way, they lose their place and it’s just generally tougher to read. (Rob, Kara — I know you’re laughing right now…)

One related shiny object I played with the other day was using JavaScript to detect screen width and either display to hide a third column. So, if users have the extra width, I can put it to use with something extra, but if they don’t, they just see the first two columns. It worked pretty well.



  1. I can’t believe what I’ve just read. Deane, you used to be the most stubborn person on earth when it came to enforcing the use of 100% width tables for layout. God I hate you Deane. ;-)

  2. I know, I know, but things change. You can’t stay rigid in this business. There are a LOT of things I used to do that I don’t now. I’m not being wishy-washy, it’s just that different pressures come at different times and cause your processes to evolve.

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