When the iPad came out, I was hoping that, because of the low screen width in portrait mode (768 pixels), web developers would turn off their sidebars when low horizontal browser widths were encountered. This would make it so, even if I didn’t buy an iPad, I could benefit by when displaying my browser and text editor side-by-side. Alas, I haven’t seen many sites changing to look better with lower widths. I think the main reasons for this are:
- iPad uptake, while significant, hasn’t got web developers who are set in their ways (myself included) to change their layouts
- The iPad’s pan and zoom feature is so convenient, horizontal scrolling hasn’t annoyed users that much
- iPad users are compensating by using their iPad in horizontal mode most of the time when browsing, or by rotating when they come to wide websites
With this in mind, I’ve noticed when I see a site I like that doesn’t take up too much width, both while using my 15″ MBP and while using my iPad. I’ve noticed that having a sidebar rarely adds to my experience of reading a blog entry. I don’t need help forming biases toward the writer by seeing his or her picture. I don’t need to know how old the blog is, or what other topics the author blogs about. When I’m on somebody’s blog for the first time, usually the only thing I care about is the content of the article. If I enjoy the article, I may bookmark the blog and poke around some more later*.
I also like narrow text. So, a blog layout I like is one that leaves half the page empty, when I’m viewing it full-screen on my MBP. This isn’t weird to me. It doesn’t feel like wasted space. It doesn’t bother me that if I wanted, I could use the space for something else. In fact, I love it!
Here’s a problem. When I’m reading it on the go, it’s nice that the dip is small and easy to carry. However, when I’m at home, I don’t need the small size. Wouldn’t it be nice if, while I’m reading it, I could have a little information about Seth Godin and some links to other books in the sidebar? Here’s a proof-of-concept:
Right now my site contains a sidebar with a tag cloud, links to archives, and some other stuff. It’s days are numbered. I may replace it with a link to another page, a drop-down menu, or nothing. I don’t know if this goes against anything in Ambient Findability (which I hear is an excellent book). I doubt it. None of the stuff in my sidebar is connected to this article in any significant way. I often find links to related articles helpful, though.
* Ideally. I just realized that if I’m trying to do something, and I find a great blog entry that helps me, I should get back to doing that thing, rather than looking for other blog entries right away. This, I think, is a large part of what gets me spending too much time browsing the Internet.