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What I mean is that, when the window width is larger than 940px, the main content appears in a box of width 940px, centered in the window, with the area outside the box being a single color or a background image.

The alternative (in a responsive theme) is for the main content to stretch across the entire window width.

I'm curious as to the benefits of either design. When to use one versus the other.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Nicolai, TheDeadMedic, Howdy_McGee, Mayeenul Islam, Tom J Nowell Jun 13 '15 at 2:28

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It all has to do with readability, specifically the width of a line of text. Research shows that text can be read faster when a line contains 95 characters per line versus other common line lengths. Couple this with designers' love of small type until the last year or so, and you're stuck with a width-constrained container around the otherwise responsive site.

  • Kudos for the research reference. Although that particular study showed that the maximum line length tested (95cpl) was most effective, leaving open whether longer than 95 might be even more effective. There's an opinion from Baymard Institute which clarifies this at baymard.com/blog/line-length-readability Thanks for putting me on the right track. – flymike Jun 13 '15 at 12:56
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Its just personal preference. People do like to design stuff in watever way they want. However, the boxed design does limit the dimensions of your images to something much narrower than what you will use in a full screen or wider design.

Also, the stretched layout needs less worrying about different breakpoints.

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