Should free-space profiles have one column instead of two?

+24 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

Some members have expressed a desire for free-space profiles to be in a single column format. That is, the body of the page would be full-width, rather than separated into two columns. Anything currently in the right column would appear below what is currently in the left column.

This is already how things appear if you are viewing profiles on a mobile device. So, this change would only affect those on desktop or tablet computers.

Would you want to see this change made? I am posting three answers to facilitate the conversation. You are welcome to post a new answer, but please don't comment on this top post. Comments here will be hidden after they are viewed once.



P.S. I know many members would like to see person profiles have a single column or single column option, and many members would like to see true full-width pages, i.e. where your browser window fully controls the width. I think it's better to keep those conversations separate.

in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
Could we get a screenshot showing the two alternatives?

9 Answers

+55 votes

Yes, I would prefer that free-space profiles be full-width.

Please vote up this answer if you agree, and add any questions or comments below if you have them. 

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
The full-width option would help those of us who use space pages to create tables. Our tables could include more data which would be fabulous.

I agree with Emma. I really like the use of tables on Space pages, and the one-column format would be much nicer! I also use them for walk-through help pages and One Name Study research pages, which would benefit from the large real estate.

Edited to remove email notification

It adds some white space which improves readability.  Also shortens a long list since there is less to wrap around into additional lines.  Looking at Emma's table that would be a great improvement.
yes. also for the tables.
Like the previous posters, I believe that the one-column style would work better for free-space profiles. I often end up removing tables from category pages, moving them to free-space, but I notice that the tables actually look better on category pages, which are one-column. It's the reason some category creators chose to put the information there instead of on free-space profiles, where it belongs.
Absolutely!  Ever since I joined WikiTree, I have lamented that right column impeding my ability to nicely format pages.

I see doing it for free space pages as a good start and would especially love to see it on profile pages as well.
Maybe to much to ask, but fully responsive?
I would definitely prefer a single-column profile for free-space profiles.  Tables would be less cramped and the page would look less complicated.  This is a big thumbs-up from me.
I'm so frustrated that I can't have a full-width table on a free-space profile that needs no sidebar. Please please make this possible.
+12 votes
I would prefer that some free-space profiles be full-width while others have two columns.

Please only vote up this answer if you yourself would like to have the option to use either style on free-space profiles you manage. Creating the option add some complexity that we would like to avoid.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
It would be very nice to have a choice.

For the purpose of presenting data in table format the current main column is often too narrow. A full-width option would be very welcome for this.

For narrative texts or transcriptions of large blocks of text from old documents a full-width page would reduce readability. The current layout is better for this.

For timelines and other list-like stuff that doesn't fill the current width anyway it doesn't really matter.

But if I absolutely have to choose, I'd prefer to stay with the current layout, since I worry about the readability of long lines.
I agree with Eva: giving us the option for each individual FreeSpace page would be the best of both worlds.

At the default font and typeface size on a full desktop or laptop display (assuming at least a 1280 horizontal resolution; 1920 is more common nowadays), a single line of text in single column on a FreeSpace page would be approximately 150 characters long, including spaces. Typical for optimum readability (think Microsoft Word with the out-of-the-box defaults) is about two-thirds that, or 95 to 100 characters. Long paragraphs of text will be more difficult to read because the eye is having to track too far to the right of the line-start to return easily to the subsequent line.

Even using <blockquote> would (I believe) give us a 130-character line, so only a little help. If we could use CSS formatting for margins on a FreeSpace page, that would allow more optimally readable lines in a single-column presentation (e.g., <div style="margin-left:10rem; margin-right:10rem;"> which would result in about 100 characters). But that's not likely because, though "rem" adjusts responsively for the size of the viewing device, it could still be a problem at small cell-phone size; and it would present a geeky learning curve, anyway.

I agree with Emma that a one-column layout gives much better spread for data presented in tabular form, and for graphics that would otherwise require a separate click to be legible full size.

So I see the best solution is to let the individual choose the layout. Mostly paragraphs of text, two-column is likely preferrable. Big tables and large images, single-column.

Replying to Edison, Chris's statement above doesn't say there would be an option on 'each' free space, it says 'free-space profiles you manage', which to me, sounds like it will be something in Settings, like Enhanced Edit option is.

Hm. Now that you mention it, Linda, I'll bet you're correct. Though if I were to diagram the sentence, "Would [you] like to have the option to use either style on free-space profiles you manage," I believe "option" would be the direct object and "(either) style" the object complement, with "on free-space profiles you manage" just an adverbial phrase modifying the complement.

If it's truly an all-or-none option for the individual member, not "the option to use either style," I think my vote is still in the correct place. But the wording could use a tiny bit of adjustment.

The only advantage to having full-width pages is for charts.

Full-width for text would make it more difficult to read.

Both choices would be better than only full width.
I would prefer the option to decide. My Will transcriptions would be more difficult to read with longer lines of text. It would be difficult to keep your place with the start of the next line without keeping the cursor over it. So I would prefer to keep the current layout.

But I can see that there is a wish from those people who use tables to have the full width of the page available, so I wouldn't want to remove this facility from them.

I agree with the above posters that readability is reduced with the one wide column layout. But I also agree that one column would be fantastic for big tables, so that is why I voted for this option.

(Readability can be impacted by several things including font size, line spacing, etc. but since the only variable that can change at the moment is line length, I will focus on that. I also am focused on desktop/laptops, not mobile devices.)

If you'd like an idea of what free space pages would look like with full width text lines, check out the PGM Project Page (this is a great project page, no shade intended! :) ) This page has a single column layout. There are about 170-180 characters per line (cpl) at the widest parts on desktop - much too long. Compare that with the two-column layout of a normal profile or free-space page: a full line of text has about 100-110 characters. That's on the upper edge of recommended cpl, but it's the option we should stick with for text-heavy pages.

I also worry that increasing the line length would negatively impact reading comprehension and consumption as well. Genealogical writing may be a bit dense or difficult to follow if we are writing about solving challenging genealogy problems. Publish that writing on a page that's difficult to read due to design decisions and I fear that visitors won't stick around very long at all. (The Nielsen Norman Group may have more on this topic, I think.)

Respectfully, I don't think design decisions that impact readability and usability should be subject to a popular vote. It's truly not just 'what looks better' - there's been research done on this subject for decades, and guidelines/best practices have emerged from there. I advise to consult with a professional about this sort of change. I could see this negatively impacting our traffic if there's a misstep.

I have collected some research papers and articles for your consideration, certainly not an exhaustive list:

Also check out the works cited in the above studies. See also:

(I am not working in this field at the moment but have taken some grad-level classes on relevant topics and completed client work that faced similar issues with cpl.)

Thank you for collecting this information Katie.

I viewed

"Size Matters: Balancing Line Length And Font Size In Responsive Web Design"

which is only readable if displays are formatted as landscape. None of my displays set as portraits, where webpages normally view better than landscape, are a jumbled mess.

The font set on the PGM Project Page appears too small to easily read unless page is viewed at 120% (portrait) and 133% (landscape). Both have lines that are too long to easily read. At 150% portrait works fine but landscape was set at 240% before line length is no longer an issue but then the font appears too large. At that level viewing wider charts would probably not work.

Firefox browser on Linux Mint changes all open windows to the same setting unless each webpage uses private browsing.

changed to answer
+6 votes

No, I would prefer that all free-space profiles have two columns.

Please vote up this answer if you agree, and add any questions or comments below if you have them.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
Personally, I think the way free space pages are now on my laptop (desktop view) is perfect for me. I would prefer that to not change. However I understand that I am in the minority here, however that is my preference.
+4 votes
Full width would be good and look neater as well
by Steph Meredith G2G6 Mach 8 (83.2k points)
+5 votes
Yes. The narrow right-hand column squeezes the text so that it's difficult to read and makes the space page too long, IMHO.

by Babs Deacon G2G2 (2.3k points)
+3 votes
Don't know how to answer. Sometimes I use them for tables, occasionally for transcribed wills. In either case wider would be better. However I also use them to store pictures. How would that be affected? I'd love to be able to store them as thumbnails, in rows.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (301k points)
Getting late but I'll have to look into that.
I also manage some free-space pages that are the "home" for multiple images. An example is . The arrangement of images on pages like that one is not ideal.  However, if we stop having the columns format, there will still need to be a mechanism to display a newly uploaded image (or at least a link to that image) somewhere on the page.

Chris said:

Anything currently in the right column would appear below what is currently in the left column. 

So, that seems to suggest that images would appear below any text content you put on the page, but I don't know if they would be placed in a matrix display or just lined up under each other the way they are now.  Seems like a golden opportunity to make thumbnails - or maybe a little larger size and display them as a gallery.  I'd vote for 4 across each row of them.

+4 votes
I agree with William Foster's comment that screenshots would be helpful. A single column would certainly be good for tables, but I'm concerned that for ordinary text the lines would be too long to read easily. Seeing a mock-up of what a single-column free-space page with just text (not tables) would look like on say a tablet in landscape mode would help to clarify. Without this, the middle option of choice of either one or two columns for each page seems safest, despite the complexity.
by Jim Richardson G2G6 Pilot (613k points)
Jim, Wikitree Project pages have a single-column format. Look at any project page (Project:England, Project:Arkansas, Project: Puritan Great Migration, etc.) for indications of what a single-columb format looks like.

Help pages like also are full-width. See this one, for example.

Thanks very much for these two kinds of example, Ellen. Both Project:England and the help page you link to do display with very long lines of text: almost 140 characters on an iPad in full-screen landscape orientation. This is a lot too long to read comfortably. That rules out my voting for option 1 "full-width". I'll think further how to choose between other options.

Hmm... In portrait orientation on my smartphone the text on those pages wraps beautifully, except for the large heading at the top of the England project page.
+5 votes
While you are at it, it would be very nice if section headers on FreeSpace pages had an edit link, available to all members, not just to Leaders.

Space pages are one of the really great things about WikiTree - they can be used in so many ways, not just as repositories and presentation of  information, but also to sort things out while you are researching something. These things easily get long and complicated - and hard to find your place when you're in edit mode.
by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (510k points)
Agreed. And it would be great if all members could have edit links for sections on all pages.
Yes, indeed, Ellen!
+1 vote
How much reformatting will have to be done to convert free-space profiles if number of votes force the change whether the change is wanted or not.
by Pat Credit G2G6 Pilot (166k points)

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