I'm designing a web app that includes a list builder. I've proposed that the height of the list box containing the available items should grow depending upon the available browser height. However, I haven't been able to find any examples or best practice articles on this topic, so now I'm unsure.

The list may have a handful of items or up to hundreds/thousands. It can be a flat list or a tree. I'm including a filter box to help users to reduce the list and find particular items.

Also, In general I'm not forcing all the page content to fit into the visible area. The page can scroll as necessary, but probably won't on these list builder pages. I just wanted the list to take the available height to provide the largest view possible.

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  • My 2 cents: My current project is a web site that used to have these lists with a fixed size and would never expand to fill the size of the browser. Content was hidden but more screen space was available; I hated it to death and changed it. All users I've asked greatly preferred the change, I've heard no complaints.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 4, 2011 at 20:10

2 Answers 2


Well, expanding panes with window resizing is so routine on desktop apps it's almost a given. The Windows 7 UX Guidelines say:

Of course, the reason users resize a window is to take advanced of the additional screen space, so the content should expand accordingly by giving more space to the UI elements that need it. Windows with dynamic content, documents, images, lists, and trees benefit the most from resizable windows. (p583)

The guidelines provide an illustration of a resizing list view control.

Not expanding your panes sort of defeats the purpose of having resizable windows, preventing users from using the screen resources in the best way they can. Expanding your panes in web apps really has no downside I can think of.

I believe web apps don’t do it because (a) it used to be impossible, (b) lots of developers never learned how, (c) the rest didn’t want to bother. I think it’s far overdue.

But then, there are a lot of goods things that are routine in the desktop world that have yet to make it into web apps –they’re still in the pre-GUI era in many ways.

  • Thanks for the reference. I like to have some additional research when it comes time to convince the dev team to invest the extra effort.
    – smallclub
    Oct 5, 2011 at 18:25

Simple answer: yes, it's a good idea and you should do it.

The reason that people don't is almost never to do with UX, but has more to do with how hard it will be to implement.

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