What is the Best Layout for Multiple-Column Web Pages?

An article in Usability News 3 (2) that studied users perceptions of multiple-column layouts -- fluid, fixed width left justified, fixed width centered -- found that fluid multi-column layouts were preferred. Their conclusions: Several observations can be made from this study. First, no significant differences between the layout conditions were detected in terms of search accuracy, time, or efficiency. However, significant subjective differences were found that favored the Fluid layout. Here, participants indicated they perceived this layout as being the best suited for reading and finding information, as well as having a layout that is most appropriate for the screen size (for both small and large screens). They also indicated that the Fluid layout looked the most professional, and consequently preferred it to the other layout conditions. Conversely, the Left-justified layout was consistently the least preferred condition. The evidence we have so far suggests that Fluid layout is superior to the other multi-column layouts, since this layout is perceived as being more navigable and was preferred to the other layouts.