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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Norcross April 7, 2010 at 12:33 am

Regardless of columns, your site shouldn’t be more than 960px wide for your main container. Based on that, the main argument (and issue of horizontal scrolling) is a mute point.
.-= Norcross´s last blog ..Get Snarky =-.

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Agent Deepak | Blogging. Marketing & Success April 8, 2010 at 3:31 am

Norcross, I second that.
.-= Agent Deepak | Blogging. Marketing & Success´s last blog ..The Secrets of Success – Desire =-.

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Rob @ Atlanta Real Estate February 26, 2011 at 8:57 am

I’m with you guys that the 3-col is too cluttered and too much info…and I HAVE a 3-col!

My issue is that my visitors are at the site for a variety of reasons and leaving off one or more of them will lower conversion.

Still thinking it through though because clutter has it’s definite downside as well.

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George April 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm

That would be a moot point, not a mute point…

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Eric B. April 7, 2010 at 12:40 am

I generally prefer the two-column layout, like most bloggers. I just think that the 3-column layout generally looks cluttered, and is not really right for blogs.
.-= Eric B.´s last blog ..Simple CRUD With CodeIgniter =-.

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Derek Jensen April 7, 2010 at 1:13 am

I would have to agree with Eric here. Whenever I see three-column layouts with the columns on each side of the content column I feel like the content is being squished. Additionally, blogs like ChrisBrogan.com where there are two little columns on the right, I feel it is so distracting to even look at the sidebar.

When you say that you can put more above-the-fold, I still think that if you have only two columns your only sidebar will get so much attention by just the little amount you have put on it.
.-= Derek Jensen´s last blog ..How Blogging as a Hobby Transformed My Future =-.

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Kevin Tan April 7, 2010 at 12:44 am

This was what I was thinking over and over again when I reinstalled my blog a while ago.

Personally, I prefer 2 columns design for a personal blog like mine because I don’t need so much rooms for the widgets and that the readers can focus on the main content area.

However, a 3 columns blog always tend to get more page views and clicks compared to a 2 columns blog. Also, I’d recommend 3 columns design for a multi-author blog.

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thesis help January 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Yes! obviously the main thing is content of any site. But an attractive design can make your site or blog more famous and popular. I will go with the light theme because of hard to read content.

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Patrick Toerner April 7, 2010 at 1:15 am

Those four disadvantages of the three column page is the exact reasons I chose to have a two column design on my site. I feel that it clutters too much and really limits the size the content area, unless you have a horizontal scroll bar!

You actually made some good points for the 3 column design though. Maybe I will consider it in a future redesign. I never thought I would though :)

Btw column sure is spelled weird, I always think that when I type it out.
.-= Patrick Toerner´s last blog ..Single Greatest Tip For Success Online =-.

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Clara Mathews April 7, 2010 at 2:19 am

I have tried both 2 & 3 column layouts, but the 3-column layout seems to work best for my current blog.
.-= Clara Mathews´s last blog ..Just Chick Flicks Previews Letters To God =-.

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Kharim April 7, 2010 at 6:50 am

I think both of them are great. But I choose to use the 2 column.
.-= Kharim´s last blog ..Are You Destroying Your Blog? =-.

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Klaus @ TechPatio April 7, 2010 at 6:53 am

I’m glad that your verdict is 3 columns, as that’s what I have :) Though not sidebar/main/sidebar, but main/sidebar/sidebar.

I have been thinking of switching to 2 columns, but I think I will be missing my 2nd sidebar…
.-= Klaus @ TechPatio´s last blog ..Review: Sony MDR-NC300D Noise Canceling Earbuds =-.

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Shiva Chettri April 7, 2010 at 7:15 am

I have always liked the 3-columned blog layout because I too feel it looks very unique and I can add more and more but to my bad, I have never found a 3 column theme that has fulfilled all that I want. There is always something missing there. Seems I need to learn developing myself :)
.-= Shiva Chettri´s last blog ..Microsoft to roll out Pink Social Smartphones on April 12 =-.

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Chris Peterson April 7, 2010 at 8:22 am

Thanks for sharing great tips. If we are going to look and feel then 3 column layouts is better than 2 columns. Where our blog will look more professional

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Ajay April 7, 2010 at 8:36 am

The first time I disagree with your verdict.

I prefer Two Column layouts much more than 3 columns as I find 2 columns more aesthetically pleasing. Also having 3 columns gives me a claustrophobic feeling seeing the content sandwiched between two sidebars.

Ad-space does increase, but I feel that the means do not justify the ends in this case.

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Onibalusi Bamidele April 7, 2010 at 10:31 am

Hi,
It is true 3 column has lots of advantages, but i prefer the simplicity of a blog and easy navigation so I will better go with two column.
Great post,
Thanks.
.-= Onibalusi Bamidele´s last blog ..Study your audience =-.

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Alex Monroe April 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Great tips man. At the end of they day I guess it comes down to what the person wants, or even better — what the audience wants.
.-= Alex Monroe´s last blog ..Keep On Hustling! =-.

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Nick Tart April 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I disagree, Alex! From a design standpoint, I think 2-column layouts are the best option. They look a lot cleaner.

On the other hand, I value your design expertise more than almost anyone, so this gives me a lot to think about.
.-= Nick Tart´s last blog ..How to Successfully Launch Your First Blog =-.

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Himanshu Chanda April 7, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I dont think the number of columns is the culprit behind making the blog cluttered. I guess you need to use proper color combinations at the first place to highlight the relevant areas. Apart from that go with a vision Dont design a blog with 1 week in mind, your design has to stay for a year atleast. Think of what all will you add later. Than analyze how will you accommodate that stuff with whatever columns you have. What say ?
.-= Himanshu Chanda´s last blog ..This is why your feedbacks are not effective =-.

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Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife April 7, 2010 at 8:46 pm

A lot of great points made here Alex – I opted for a 2 column layout on my blog because 3 columns looked too clutter to me, but I’ve never tried having a sidebar on either side of my content… That’s a whole other look and as you pointed out, I would love to be able to add more links and info near the top of my blog and open up some space for ads one day.
.-= Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife´s last blog ..Privacy in Marriage, How Much is Too Much Information? =-.

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Kok Siong Chen April 7, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Personally, i prefer to use the two columns blog layout than the three column blog layout. I wish that the main content of my blog can be more focus. Usually, i will add the 3 column footer to put other contents that i wish to let my readers know. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find such blog layout by free.
.-= Kok Siong Chen´s last blog ..Tamoxifen – Breast Cancer Treatment =-.

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King Sidharth April 8, 2010 at 12:34 am

3 Column is too distractive from the main content of blog which is the main focus. In fact, I like one column designs – one I use on my site.
.-= King Sidharth´s last blog ..Truth about Enlightenment & How to Attain It =-.

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chandan April 8, 2010 at 2:15 am

Recently I have changed my blogger template and it look very nice than before and now my blog load fast than before.
.-= chandan´s last blog ..Make money blogging take time =-.

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Dennis Edell | Direct Sales Marketing April 8, 2010 at 9:58 am

It appears some are confused what a column is, perhaps me. lol

2-column – whether 2 right or one on each side, that’s a 2-column blog – 3 columns is Probloggers home page…which btw is horrid in my eyes.

Do you consider the content area as a column?
.-= Dennis Edell | Direct Sales Marketing´s last blog ..Will DEDC Comments Remain Do-Follow? It’s Up To YOU! =-.

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Bradley Davis April 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm

2 or 3 columns? I would thought it would depend on the purpose and goals of the site.
.-= Bradley Davis´s last blog ..Crazy Human Strength =-.

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Reza Winandar April 9, 2010 at 10:26 am

If you focus on blog, then don’t put ads, I suggest you to choose the 2 columns because it’s more comfortable for readers.
.-= Reza Winandar´s last blog ..This is blog is now Do Follow =-.

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Shubh-Regular Blog Tips April 10, 2010 at 11:53 am

NIce. 3-column is great but I still use 2-column. And yes I am 16 years old too :)
.-= Shubh-Regular Blog Tips´s last blog ..Now your blog’s speed can affect its Google ranking =-.

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Financial Samurai July 16, 2010 at 12:08 am

Good discussion! I have a two column blog which feels quite clean, but I long for more real estate space as well. Hmmmm.

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Mikael Rieck July 16, 2010 at 3:49 am

I would vote for the 2-column one if it was for a personal blog that you weren’t trying to monetize through ads. If ads were driving it, I would choose the 3-column one to get the extra space.

/Mikael

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Rob | Atlanta Relocation October 2, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I love the article and discussion. You just earned yourself another RSS subscriber!

I often have these conversations WITH MYSELF and it’s nice to see a lot of points of view and example sites.

I see most using the 3-columns put both sidebars on one side or another. So while it may be “three columns” according to your framework or theme, it’s really more like a 2-column with the sidebar split in two.

I currently have a 2-column but really need a three. I would go three in a minute, but would want sidebar-content-sidebar and when I try this the site gets way too wide.

Some folks seem not to care about this, but I do.

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Blogger Templates October 15, 2010 at 11:28 am

well, i love 3 columns for homepage and 2 columns for inner posts, it will be ads suitablw with perfect looks in my view..

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Jason @ I need lots of money now October 16, 2010 at 5:46 am

I believe that most bloggers use the 2-column blog layout oppose to a 3-column one. This is not only because it comes standard – it really does help with overcluttering a blog.
Imagine you see 50 types of different colours and fonts on one blog at all time – wouldn’t you just want to run away?

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raymund @ remanufactured cartridge February 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I am not a fan of 3 column sites. My focus is divided to 3, which irritates me.

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Ayush Gupta March 14, 2011 at 7:51 am

I always prefer 2 columns themes

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Nasif April 27, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Everyone has become used to “two column themes” I also made my theme 3 columns but later shifted to 2 column because my eye was hating it !

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Prom Dresses and Prom Accessories March 14, 2011 at 8:10 am

i appreciate your blog because informative content and its very good.

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