Take https://stackoverflow.com/questions/33131200/spring-ignores-property-file-in-current-directory-using-that-in-classpath-instea.

Most monitors I use these days are 1080p or atleast 900 anyway, yet almost every web site I go to including Stackoverflow (where I get most of my tips and tricks) force the content to the middle with big wide margins on the sides. This makes it difficult to read code when you have to keep scrolling left and right (made worse in OSX where there isn't a scroll bar as such!).

Is this some UX conspiracy or rampant design consideration that has inflicted itself upon us developers? :) And what would be the most appropriate stackexchange site to raise this on in regards to StackOverflow - Meta?

  • I think sites are made to resemble reading materials like magazines, books, that is, in portrait mode. And will be enforced more due to tablet users preferring to hold their device in portrait mode. But yeah, I too want wider stackexchange site, at least for stackoverflow, code tends to be wide. Oct 15, 2015 at 5:47
  • Code should not be wide. Right now SO layout accommodates the classic 80 characters of monospaced text, which is perfectly fine. If you need to have more then there might be some problems with that code. I think it's good that such case is not being catered to. Oct 15, 2015 at 6:06
  • Yep code should not be wide but it tends to be wide, I just noticed it. Mostly on entreprisey applications. Oct 15, 2015 at 7:03
  • Approach in code also tends to make a difference on width of code. Example, lambda joins are wider than Linq joins: ienablemuch.com/2014/03/highfalutin-code-1.html. Not using guard clause is another example pbs.twimg.com/media/Bp1IyS7CYAATIEB.jpg Oct 15, 2015 at 7:46
  • 1
    This is a question specific to a particular site, rather than a general UX question. Your best bet is meta.stackexchange.com for this. In fact it has been asked several times already there, such as this one: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5070/…
    – JonW
    Oct 15, 2015 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


You'd have to ask the designers and developers of SO for the definitive answer.

My guesses:

  • the overall framework of this site isn't terribly new. It was built prior to the era of responsive web design. I think we could safely assume a future redesign may accommodate that.
  • while full-screen can be great for reading code, it's terrible for reading text. You don't want text spanning much wider than the current site as it then starts suffering in readability.

Reading text requires your eyes to jump from line end to next line start. If the text column is too wide, it gets difficult to keep the line. I don't have online citations about studies or textbooks, but googling "easy read layout" already turns up recommendations to not exceed 100 chars (webdesignfromscratch.com). Newspapers use less for easier reading.

Newspaper strategies to cope with pages that are much wider than the columns (i.e., putting columns besides each other) do not easily transfer to the web, since the newspaper is on paper, resulting in a fixed height. Web pages usually scroll vertically, which means there's no point where to switch from the first column to the second.

That's why on web pages there usually is one main column, restricted to, say 100 characters, plus left and right sidebars. Unfortunately, the cinema format of current screens thus results in more horizontal space than the main column.

  • 2
    That might be a good reason for a given user to choose to limit the width of an SO window. It is not a good reason for SO to take that choice out of the user's hands with a ridiculously inflexible format. Oct 15, 2015 at 6:47
  • @PatriciaShanahan yes and no. I would agree with you in terms of the average SO user. But broadly speaking, a lot of users actually don't want to resize their browser to 'fix' the type on every site, so there are valid reasons to limit text columns to certain widths regardless of the browser size on other sites.
    – DA01
    Oct 15, 2015 at 13:44
  • @PatriciaShanahan I don't agree: The "average" user will not know what makes reading easy, and will suffer from bad layout in maximized windows. It's similar to cars - I would never want a car engineer ask me which brakes to include. What I can agree with is an "expert mode" that allows to override default, "average" settings. This would allow knowledgable people to adapt the layout to their taste - similar to the guy building his custom car in his backyard. Oct 21, 2015 at 6:19

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