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I am redesigning my company's site. The primary persona is a marketing director in her 50s (edit: late-career professional, not retired / senior citizen) who is computer-literate for basic tasks but not an expert. One of my challenges is to make my portfolio more visual. I've sketched several approaches for this: a grid with captions where everything is the same size, a grid without captions where everything is the same size, a masonry grid, a slider which emphasizes the most recent project, and several less common layouts.

Is there any research showing that masonry grids are or aren't more usable than other grid forms? In particular, how would this vary according to the age and technical expertise of users?

Related question here, but it is more generalized to all types of grid views: Research on the Usability of Grid Views.

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Here are a few usability concerns (not problems) associated with masonry grids.

  • If there is not a fair amount of padding between photos, things can get distracting and messy very quickly.
  • Due to the nature of the layout photo's with certain dimensions can end up becoming the centers of attention, there is nothing wrong with this -- however it all depends on how you're using it.
  • It's very easy to make masonry grids look bad, they're hard to design nicely, your goal is to make your visitors realize that it was designed this way on purpose and for a purpose; rather than thinking it's an error.

Like you hinted at in your question standard grids are vastly more popular and with this popularity comes familiarity; With that said I believe that from a usability standpoint going with a standard grid will be more immediately familiar to your users, thus will generally be easier to use and navigate. Exactly how much easier is a good question, I'd also like too see some research on that.

In conclusion:

It's all in your design, both masonry and regular grids can be designed both exceptionally and poorly for their circumstances.

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