The one column layout
Google, Yahoo, MSN are using the one column layout for the "web" search function.
Sometimes the use a 2 column layout in order to show ads.
But beyond this "basic" search, everything else is being layout using more complex grids.
From the pictures, news, maps, everything else is using more dinamic, complex grids in order to show a clean organization.
Beyond the one column
The idea of sorting the information for search engines in 2 / 3 / 4 columns have good and bad examples.
The good ones are those where the information is not order by the user (selecting whatever method one can imaging – radio buttons, check boxes, etc…) but making a more interesting grid to sort information that the engine considers interesting to the user.
Google is doing the best work with the new results.
Google is using more "layers" of information, without asking to the user for special actions, in order to show results from other services they have (maps, business, music…).
Google is doing the right thing putting all this services in the main site following the rule "donÂŽt change the user behaviour, adapt it".
Google lacks style and design, but thatÂŽs part of their branding.
If you are starting a search engine, create a grid where you can grow
The problem I have with google is that sometime looks like they are jumping from here to there without much integration.
Sometimes a solution appears, then is gone, then they integrate, then they donÂŽt…
If you are starting a search engine, you should design a grid that will leave you space and order to grow nicely.
Ways yo create a grid.
There is no rule, but here area a few examples.
- Define the most important element and from there you can built a grid.
- Define generic areas, top navigation, banners, content and then the rest.
- Define the smallest module of information you will have and then the rest.
Once you have an idea of the elements you are going to deal with, you can work over the grid.
Normally a grid is compose of spaces and margins (gutters).
The idea of the margin is as important as the spaces because you need to have some air from navigation to content and between content boxes.
Normally you donÂŽt need too much space between boxes and a tight look and feel will make users feel more secure and under control, than if you leave the elements floating around.