2 Column vs. 3 Column Blog Layouts: Design Versus Week

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    Design Versus Week

    Design Versus week is a special series of articles that compares two different elements of a blog design in order to find the best of the two. Articles list the advantages and disadvantages of both elements, and there will be a post published for the next 5 days on Blogussion.

    Today, we looked at the advantages and disadvantages of 2 and 3 column blog layouts. Tomorrow, we will compare large footers and small footers.

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by Alex

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One of the toughest decisions to make when it comes to laying out the structure of your blog is the amount of columns you want representing your content. The two most common layouts in modern blog design are two and three columns. And they each have their own benefits that make picking between the two very difficult.

Just like yesterday’s comparison, the outcome of this will really depend on the amount of content on your blog. However, I will have a recommendation at the end for which I think will be the best for your blog, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide of course!

2 vs. 3 Column Blog Layouts
What’s the best way to display your extra blog content? There have been many debates that each is better than the other, but which is really best for your blog? The two or three column layout?

2 column design

2 Column Blog Layout

A 2 column blog layout has been deemed a less successful way of displaying content opposed to 3 columns, but has some things about it that will benefit your blog immensely. Is it the right one for you?

Advantages

  1. Thinner Site Layout
  2. Horizontal scrollbars are a designer’s worst enemy. The less space you can take up in your overall site’s width is the only way to ensure no one will have to scroll horizontally to see your blog. While it isn’t guaranteed your site will be ultra-slim with a 2 column layout, there is still less of a chance you will see a horizontal scrollbar with it.

  3. Leaves more room for your main content
  4. Because there are only two columns, you will have more room to work with. Because the size of sidebars generally aren’t more than 300px in a 2 column layout, you have more space to increase the size of your main content area. This puts a lot more emphasis on your content, and makes reading lines of text much easier with more room.

  5. 2 columns makes key content more visible
  6. Since you work with less room in a 2 column layout, it forces you to save as much space as possible. The idea of saving space combined with your idea of “the best content,” you will not be wasting any space with information that a user doesn’t need. You will be more likely to put the most important piece of content up front rather than spreading it out all over your blog.

  7. Less to load
  8. A 2 column layout generally doesn’t contain a lot of information. That is, if there is a sensible designer behind the blog and there aren’t hundreds of widgets streaming down the sidebar. Since there is less information (usually), it will make loading your blog a lot quicker.

Disadvantages

  1. Bad for ads
  2. Because of the limited amount of space, it makes putting advertisements in your sidebar tricker. As a general good practice, you want to put as much of your best content toward the top of your sidebar. But because of the small amount of space in your sidebar, putting ads and content together becomes nearly impossible without pushing one of the two below.

    You should try living an ad-free lifestyle to avoid this problem.

  3. Easy to become cluttered
  4. Some bloggers go widget crazy and throw in as much information as possible into their lone sidebar. This creates a lot of problems, and makes the limited space you have in your only sidebar seem even smaller. Just be careful to limit the amount of information you place into your sidebar, and even your content area.

  5. Can become larger than content area
  6. A side effect of placing too much information in your sidebar is that you run the risk of it becoming larger than your content area. A sidebar that is longer than the actual content area of your blog is a really bad practice, and it looks really bad almost every time.

3 column

3 Column Blog Layout

3 column layouts are increasing in popularity fast, and are being implemented in more clever ways. By adding a second sidebar to your blog, you are open to many great benefits that come along with it.

Advantages

  1. More room
  2. Because of the extra sidebar, you have so much more room in your sidebar area to add more content. There is much more horizontal space on a 3 column layout than there is on a 2 column layout, so the amount of information you can add basically doubles.

    This also makes adding advertisements to your blog much easier, as you can dedicate one sidebar to an ad, and the other one for that content you want at the top.

  3. Main content will almost always be longer
  4. Because there is so much extra space in a 3 column layout, you can spread more information out between your two sidebars. This significantly decreases the chance of your sidebars spanning farther down the page than your content area, and makes for a more aesthetically pleasing experience.

  5. Unique looks
  6. A 3 column layout is almost always has more unique looks than a 2 column layout. With a 2 column layout, you are limited to having a sidebar on either the right or left side. With a 3 column layout, you have the choice of having them both to the left or right, as well as the choice of having a sidebar on both sides of your blog.

Disadvantages

  1. Horizontal scrolling
  2. Unfortunately, adding an extra column to your blog will dramatically increase the width of your site if you choose to keep all three columns spacious. The more width you have, the higher the chance of having that damned horizontal scrollbar show up to readers with smaller screen resolutions.

  3. Smaller content area
  4. The main content area of your site will most likely need to be shortened in order to fit both sidebars into your layout without creating much of a horizontal scrollbar. With a smaller content area, text is squeezed in more which can often make reading more difficult.

  5. Create distractions to your main content
  6. Unfortunately, some 3 column sites (especially those that have a sidebar on each side of the blog) can distract the reader’s eye from the main content. Sidebars are usually filled with lists and images (sometimes animated ads), and these are all more appealing to the eye than paragraphs of text usually.

  7. Possibility of becoming cluttered
  8. Just like a 2 column layout, 3 column layouts run the risk of becoming too cluttered. Just because you have a lot of space doesn’t mean you need to use all of it! Unfortunately, that’s what many people try to do, and it makes their blog design look very messy and hard to read.

My Verdict: 3 Column Layouts
This was a tough one to determine, and even though I don’t use 3 column layouts on Blogussion – I still think it is the best choice. The extra sidebar you add to your blog allows you to add more important information to the top of your blog, and really gives you the opportunity to create as much as interest as possible in your reader’s mind to stay on your blog.

Tomorrow on Design Versus

Tomorrow on Design Versus

I hope this debate was interesting enough for you! I think it is one of the most important comparisons I have done so far. Do you agree with the points I have made here today? Are 3 column layouts really the best?

Tomorrow I will be putting fat footers and small footers to the test. Which is best for your blog?

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