It has been a well worn debate. Should web designers use a fixed width or a liquid layout? In some circles, the debate still rages furiously. I will submit that the best layout is one that suits your website's purposes.
Only you can determine what is the best for your website. I know of good quality sites that use both approaches. Remember, quality websites make their layout transparent. Visitors do not care whether you've chosen a fixed width or a liquid layout. They only care that your website provides them the information they are looking for. Good content and good usability make the layout question almost moot.
What are the pros and cons of each approach?
Pros of Fixed Width Layouts:
-ability to create a standard layout for all monitor resolutions starting at 800×600.
-easy to create a clean looking website
-easily control ad units
Cons of Fixed Width Layouts:
– On very large resolutions (1600+), fixed width layouts are difficult to read. However, users with such resolutions will be blind in a few years anyway. So it is not a group to be overly concerned about.
– Limited use of space / wasted space
Pros of Liquid Layouts
-a lot of flexibility
-more real estate to add additional features, especially above the fold
Cons of Liquid Layouts
-susceptible to breaking at weird or 800×600 resolutions. In some cases, a separate CSS file is needed to adjust for 800×600. This is a pain.
I have been finding that some websites are not designing with 800×600 as the bottom tier of monitor resolution. Rather, a lot of websites are designing with 1024 x 768 as the standard. Over the next few years I think 800×600 resolutions will be rare. The only caveat to this is people with visual disabilities.
In sum, choose the layout that will best suit the needs of your content. And as the needs of your content change, you can then change the layout. That's the beauty of CSS. You are not locked into anything!