Nowadays most screens are wide and high-resolution, but when a typical web page loads it leaves on the sides huge empty areas. I understand that designers don't want their content to be messed up on different devices, but isn't it a violation of user experience (and on mouse's scroll wheel)?

In which aspects Wikipedia pages are worse than other websites?

  • Why do you consider it a violation of user experience of the mouse's scroll wheel? Mar 16, 2016 at 22:21
  • Do you mean desktop screens? I never run browser windows maximized on those. Many people don’t. It’s different on phones, tablets and laptops (and TVs, watches, billboards, …).
    – Crissov
    Mar 17, 2016 at 15:14
  • Here is a casual example of this on a vertical screen in the wild. 1080p width is comfortable reading width, css tricks actually uses less than half. According to my Dev tools, its actually 495px wide. ![enter image description here](i.stack.imgur.com/uMa2u.png) Make sure its an actual width based on pixel density. Oct 1, 2021 at 22:32

4 Answers 4


It depends. Too many characters in a web page will harm the readability of your text. If your web page is mainly text, will be difficult for your user to read.

However there are sites that uses all the space available, allowing a nice reading experience. In some cases, there isn't enough content to fill the sides of the screen so they use blank space at the sides.

In my opinion, is preferable to make user scroll than forcing him to read a wide block or text.

  • Yes, it depends on whether we're using Lynx in a native terminal or a modern browser in a graphical windowing system. With the latter we're able to resize our windows to any size that suits us. So, "too many characters [in a line] in a web page" is not, has not to be and should not be a question of web design but of the user's window arrangement. Mar 2 at 3:27

Historically they made sense like that. Now we have responsive design.

In theory you can have your site cover all screen sizes, however time, scope and analytics may suggest it's not always worth it.

Also, information is harder to digest when spread too wide so design and information architecture come into the picture even more.

  • In practice you can have your site cover no screen sizes and leave it to the user agent and its user how (s)he wants it to be presented. "when [information is] spread too wide" – We're not using Lynx in a native terminal any more that often. We're able to resize our windows to any size that suits us. Mar 2 at 3:28

It depends on the page content.

If the content is volume-based (lots of images for example) then making the most use of the whole screen could be a good thing as, arguably, user will be able to see more items at any one time. (Although this approach may also run into 'Choice Paralysis'.)

However, if the content is mainly text (like Wikipedia) then we have to think about readability. Optimum reading line length is somewhere between 45 and 75 characters - somewhere between 7 and 14 words per line (http://baymard.com/blog/line-length-readability). If the lines are longer they become more difficult to read as the end of the first line moves further away from the start of the next line - The reader finds it more difficult to move smoothly from one line to the next.

A site may choose to use a narrower layout to avoid this.

As for scrolling, most users expect it and don't even notice that they're doing it (http://uxmyths.com/post/654047943/myth-people-dont-scroll). (I'm sure I've seen a study that even said that younger users actively leave pages that don't scroll... but I can't find that right now.)

  • "Optimum reading line length is" a very personal decision of the user. The same applies to "If the lines are longer". We're not using Lynx in a native terminal any more that often. We're all able to resize our windows to any size that suits us. With that line length is not, has not to be and should not be a question of web design but of the user's window arrangement. Mar 2 at 3:42
  • contd.: Billions of GBP, USD, EUR, whatever could be saved per year if the myriads of web designers, developers, their managers, etc. wouldn't have to worry about screen sizes of users at the other end of the world (which is a pure perversity, if you savor that slowly). Not everything that can be done has to be done. Mar 2 at 3:55
  • @GeroldBroser My answer is based on the results of speed and comprehension testing with real users. From your comments, I can see you don't like it but you don't provide any counter-evidence. I'd also like to see your evidence of the cost of catering for multiple screen sizes. Your insinuation that this is a problem for "the other side of the world" seems to be at odds with the concept of global products and services as well as the idea of a 'World Wide Web'. Lastly, I'm unsure of the relevance of the Lynx browser you referenced with links in every comment. Is there something special about it? Mar 2 at 8:17
  • 1
    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on User Experience Meta, or in User Experience Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – JohnGB
    Mar 5 at 15:43

While it may fit to sites that always printed in columns, e.g. newspapers, it's one of the worst hyped UX designs ever almost anywhere else, IMHO:

  • It's a waste of 50+% of the (here 24") screen estate I, you, my company, all of us paid for.

  • It's against one of the original main design goals of HTML: Dynamic rendering at the user agent.

    I.e. send the requested information to the UA just simply marked up and let the decision how to present it be made there. Depending on the user agent's (default) settings, depending on the user's adaptions to the defaults according to her/his personal preferences.

  • Years passed...all was good..."If it ain't broken, don't fix it!" was respected...but...somewhen...in a moonless storm-cloudy night...with bloodcurdling howl...

  • Wall street aficionados with their marketing and sales geeks took over worldwide. Relatively narrow-minded: Money! At all [others'] costs! Narrow minds give birth to narrow columns, apparently.

    Potentially unprofitable artists, graphics designers, developers, etc. and all their bosses joined in. Understandably, they have to pay their bills.

    It began to be a no-brainer. Sometimes in double sense.

  • Things it was never intended for to handle were thrown onto the whole Internet but it made it! Genius design guys, from the very beginning! Hats off! To some R.I.P., sadly.

  • Later on Divitis broke out.

  • Things were done just because they can be done.

  • ... and much more I'm a bit tired meanwhile to say over and over again ... maybe next time ...

  • I fervently hate narrow, fixed-size column especially at sites, including SE, where programming is a topic, where code is entered/displayed in almost every posting.

    When in a list here at SE I'm limited to 88 chars code, 70 in edit mode, at 100 % view size (with my setting):

             1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         0
    123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789

    See SO: Output the console text of a Jenkins job that my Job is running for a real-life example. (It's even worse there. You even have to scroll vertically inside the [main] content.)

    70? 88? Really? Apart from that the latter is a Nazi code the now ancient punch cards introduced in the 1890s (yes, 1...8...no typo) had 80 columns already. That's not that much of an advance.

    And we have 20+" widescreeen monitors in every kid's room and modern GUI IDEs nowadays.

    Do I have to mention that wasting 50+% of my horizontal space AND forcing me to scroll horizontally in the very same moment is a really @§$%&#!...a really bad idea?

    Dont' ask me, don't remind me of the dozens of – first Greasemonkey, then Tampermonkey – userscripts I wrote to make such pages comfortably read-/writeable. And how often I had to adapt them because DOMs change frequently. (See, for instance, JANITOR – Java API Navigation Is The Only Rescue which I stopped maintaining with Java 16, we are at 19 now, since I had to adapt it with almost every of the newer versions. )




  • Welcome to the exchange! This answer contains lots of links to web history, computing history, engineering problems and historical figures but none that actually support your position on screen real-estate usage. At the moment this reads more like a personal rant against StackExchange than a well-structured answer. Can I suggest you edit to add the missing citations and remove some of the less objective parts? Mar 2 at 8:35
  • Thank You! No, this wasn't intended as a rant against SE. I took this just as an example since I spent and still spend much time on their network's sites and I know what's helpful and supportive there and what isn't. Are you going to vote to delete my question if I don't find the time to comply to your suggestion...in time? Mar 2 at 9:56
  • I'm more concerned with the lack of supporting evidence on a site that is intended to assemble a body of proven insight about User Experience. "In time" is rather an odd concept on an 8-year-old question but no, I neither have the power nor the inclination to flag posts for deletion unless they are abusive. But I do suggest you read the Code of Conduct (ux.stackexchange.com/conduct) and the note about writing good answers (ux.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer). Mar 2 at 10:04
  • My "In time" was meant to be related to our conversation here and now. I'm going to look a the pages you mention. Thanks for the links! Mar 2 at 11:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.