There are however some drawbacks. The primary one being what width do you assign? If you set the width to what is your default computer resolution (such as 1920 x 1080) then the website will display poorly on a computer that is using a much lower desktop resolution (such as 1024 x 768). This means it is always advisable to define the width to what you consider to be the minimum resolution you wish to support. Windows 95 / Windows 98 used a default resolution of 640 x 480 or 800 x 600. Windows XP uses a default of 1024 x 768. As more and more people start using flat panel display screens (instead of CRT screens) the default resolutions will continue to rise. We however consider that for a fixed width the website should display correctly at 1024 x 768 because windows XP is still the primary Operating System currently in use.
The other major draw back is when someone using a higher resolution screen views your website. If their desktop resolution is 1920 x 1080 and viewing your website at full screen, your website would only use 1024 of the available width, leaving a whole 896 pixels (448 pixels per side) empty. This tends to make the website look quite lost in the center of the page.
An example of a Fixed Width website that we have created is Doug Kwok Art.
The disadvantages of floating format is that you can not be guaranteed of how the layout will look as everyone could be using different resolutions and screen sizes. Also when the pages grow to use all available width it tends to cause the lines of text to be quite long making them a little more difficult to read as most people are use to reading newspaper type column widths.
We still feel that the slight issues with using floating formation are easily outweighed by the advantages of using all the available screen space.
Our website is using floating format width as is many others we have created such as Austech Medical.
The disadvantage of this design is that not everyone views web pages with some of the features enabled in their web browser which this design requires active, so a fallback design also needs to be incorporated.
As a solution to this drawback, another option is to define the content into columns that at low (default) resolution of 1024 x 768 they will display one column, but then when displayed at high resolution such as 1920 x 1080 they will display two columns. This still allows the content to utilize more of the screen space, while at the same time reducing the length of the text lines to a more manageable length (usually 45% of the screen width)