960 Grid System

960 Grid System

Grid-based layout systems - This article is for web designers and front-end web developers who are interested in grid-based layout systems but are at a loss on how to decipher them.


Grid-Based Design
Before we get into the specifics of the 960 Grid System, let’s briefly discuss grid-based design in general. The idea is certainly not something that originated on the Web. In fact, it stems from one of the oldest and most basic design principles: alignment.

Our brains like to simplify things to make them readily understandable. This is why we try to impose order on things that seem chaotic, like seeing a face in the craters on the moon.

Naturally, the easier it is to impose order, the quicker our brains can identify a pattern and move on. Grids are so organized and orderly that they require almost no interpretation our part.

Why Do I Need a Grid System?
The 960 Grid System–and other tools and systems like it–provide a fast and easy way to create grid-based layouts using CSS. They do this by providing cross-browser-tested and optimized preset column widths for you to set your content into.

Before CSS3, it wasn’t exactly easy to break up a page into columns without getting into tedious math.

For instance, if you have a 1,000-pixel wide container and you want to split it up into three columns, that’s 333 and 1/3 pixel per column (not exactly a nice whole number). Further, columns broken up like this would crash into each other, so a margin must be added on each side. If we add a 10-pixel margin to each side of every column, we must also subtract that 20 pixels from the width of each column. This gives us 3 columns roughly 313 pixels wide each with a margin of 10 pixels on each side (even then you’re at 999px and not 1,000px).

Want 4 columns in a row below that? Then you have to start the process over and subtract 80px of margin from 1,000px for a total of 920px and divide that by 4 to get a column width of 230px.

Finally, if you want to add a sidebar that’s a third of the total width of the page, you have to create a column that’s 750px for the content and one that is 250px for the sidebar, then subtract 40px of margin to get one 730px column and one 230px column.

960 Grid System

You can download the 960grid system from 960.gs

The 960 Grid System is simply a way to lay out websites using a grid that is 960 pixels wide.

The reason it’s 960 pixels wide is because the number 960 makes for a lot of clean divisions utilizing whole numbers when factoring in column widths and margins. And it fits nicely on the majority of screens.

The 960 GS comes in two primary variants: a 12-column grid and a 16-column grid (a 24-column version is included as well for those that really need extra control).

In the 12-column version, the narrowest column is 60 pixels wide. Each column after that increases by 80 pixels.

So the available column widths are: 60, 140, 220, 300, 380, 460, 540, 620, 700, 780, 860 and 940.