This layout is for old browsers only. See the modern responsive version here: 3 column Layouts
Download Full Layout Set
All the dimensions are in percentage widths so the layout adjusts to any screen resolution. Vertical dimensions are not set so they stretch to the height of the content.
To prevent wide content (like long URLs) from destroying the layout (long content can make the page scroll horizontally) the column content divs are set to overflow:hidden. This chops off any content that is wider than the div. Because of this, it's important to know the maximum widths allowable at common screen resolutions. For example, if you choose 800 x 600 pixels as your minimum compatible resolution what is the widest image that can be safely added to each column before it gets chopped off? Here are the figures:
I've colour coded each div so it's easy to see:
The header, colmask and footer divs are 100% wide and stacked vertically one after the other. Colmid is inside colmask and colleft is inside colmid. The three column content divs (col1, col2 & col3) are inside colleft. Notice that the main content column (col1) comes before the other columns.
The CSS used for this layout is 100% valid and hack free. To overcome Internet Explorer's broken box model, no horizontal padding or margins are used. Instead, this design uses percentage widths and clever relative positioning.
The higher up content is in your page code, the more important it is considered by search engine algorithms. To make your website as optimised as possible your main page content must come before the side columns. This layout does exactly that: The Left page comes first, then the center column and finally the right column (see the nested div structure diagram for more info). The columns can also be configured to any other order if required.
In this layout the background colours of each column will always stretch to the length of the longest column. This feature was traditionally only available with table based layouts but now with a little CSS trickery we can do exactly the same with divs. Say goodbye to annoying short columns! You can read my article on equal height columns if you want to see how this is done.
This layout requires no images. Many CSS website designs need images to colour in the column backgrounds but that is not necessary with this design. Why waste bandwidth and precious HTTP requests when you can do everything in pure CSS and XHTML?
This layout is fully compatible with resizable text. Resizable text is important for web accessibility. People who are vision impaired can make the text larger so it's easier for them to read. It is becoming increasingly more important to make your website resizable text compatible because people are expecting higher levels of web accessibility. Apple have made resizing the text on a website simple with the pinch gesture on their multi-touch trackpad. So far this trackpad is only available on the MacBook Air but it will soon be rolled out to all of their systems. Is your website text-resizing compatible?
This liquid layout does not require the XML declaration for it to display correctly in older versions of Internet Explorer. This version works without it and is thus never in quirks mode.
Only one stylesheet is used with this layout This means that IE conditional comments are not needed to set extra CSS rules for older versions of Internet Explorer.
This 3 column liquid Layout has been tested on the following browsers:
The HTML in this layout validates as XHTML 1.0 strict.
That's right, you don't have to pay anything. If you are feeling generous however, link back to this page so other people can find and use this layout too.
Download this layout (25kb zip file).
This layout is fully compatible with my centered menus.