More and more designers these days are using grids (e.g. 960px) in their web designs. While grids originated with graphic design and are very popular in print mediums, they have only become widely used online in the past few years. However, they have exploded in popularity and can now be found as a component of many, many web sites.
Grids are used to structure a page layout. They function as a framework on which to place all of the site’s different components. A grid is literally a framework of pixels running horizontally and vertically, just like the horizontal and vertical lines on the grids we all used to plot points along the X and Y axis in high school geometry.
This allows elements to be aligned horizontally and vertically, which creates columns that keep things organized. A well-used grid can help a site to feel more orderly and reduce visual chaos.
Using a grid has several advantages, both while designing the site and when looking at the finished product. A well-used grid can help a designer visualize the proportions that will look best on the site and to achieve a balance with the white space in the margins of each element. It helps the designer highlight the most important elements without overcrowding the site.
A grid can also provide stability, making it easier to build the site. Since the grid gives a guideline for how things should be aligned and laid out, the site can be pulled together much more quickly than if each individual element had to be placed and aligned by hand. Plus, if elements need to be switched around, this can be done quickly and painlessly due to the structure and organization that a grid provides.
Clean, modern websites can be created using a grid layout; this is a popular trend in web design today. Aesthetically, designing along a grid can be very pleasing, which is why many popular blogs and sites have turned to a gridded look.
However, there are some things to keep in mind when working with grids, as they are not ideal for every site. Some people argue that using a grid as a design framework can stifle creativity, as it provides a ready-made organizational structure. For some, particularly those designing sites that need a little more abstraction, a grid can feel too stifled or too contained.
Sites with little content may also want to stay away from grids, as aesthetically speaking a grid framework does require a fair amount of content to work. Without enough content to fill out the grid, it doesn’t make sense to attempt to use one.
While a grid can speed up the design process in many cases, this is not true for all. A grid helps speed up design by providing an organizational framework, but a site which already has an organizational system in place or which has only a small amount of uncomplicated content doesn’t necessarily need a grid to aid in organization.
While it is not the ideal choice for all sites, particularly those that are very simple or very abstract, a grid can be a highly useful tool in designing many sites. Its inherent organization properties and aesthetic guidelines have helped many designers to streamline their sites and simplify their design process. Using a grid system may not be for everyone, but for many people, a grid system may be the way to go.