CSS layout with 2 columns, including the sidebar with fixed width?

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Cannot find a solution for this (what I'm guessing must be a pretty common problem) anywhere.

I am creating a responsive design with a sidebar, where the sidebar needs to have a fixed width of 200px and has unknown height. How can I make it so the main content area takes up all the remaining width, without anything misbehaving.

The closest I've come to it is the following, but the problem with it is that the sidebar can overlap the footer. Can anyone suggest a fix for my code, or share with me some code that works?

            * {
            padding: 0;
            margin: 0;
            outline: 0;
            -moz-box-sizing: content-box;
            -webkit-box-sizing: content-box;
            box-sizing: content-box;
        }
        body {
            background: orange;
        }
        #container {
            max-width: 1000px;
            min-width: 768px;
            margin: 0 auto;
            background: yellow;
            position: relative;
            height: 100%;
        }
        #header {
            background: purple;
            color: white;
            text-align: center;
            padding: 10px;
        }
        #main {
            position: relative;
        }
        aside {
            background: blue;
            width: 200px;
            color: white;

            position: absolute;
            top: 0;

            /* change this to "right: 0;" if you want the aside on the right. Also, change the "margin-left" code, below. */
            left: 0;

            padding-top: 20px;
            padding-bottom: 20px;

            padding-left: 10px; /* If you change this value, remember to change the margin-left value of #primary */
            padding-right: 10px; /* ditto */
        }
        #primary {
            background: red;

            /* change this to margin-right if you want the aside on the right. Also change the "left" code, above. */
            margin-left: 220px; /* aside_width + aside_left_padding + aside_right_padding = 200px + 10px + 10px */
            padding: 1em; /* whatever */
        }
        #footer {
            background: green;
            color: white;
            padding: 10px;
            position: absolute;
            bottom: 0;
            left: 0;
            right: 0;
        }

        <div id="container">
        <div id="header">
            <h1>LAYOUT TEST #2</h1>
        </div>
        <div id="main">
            <div id="primary">
                <h2>THIS IS THE MAIN CONTENT ** THIS IS THE MAIN CONTENT ** THIS IS THE MAIN CONTENT</h2>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <h2>sub heading</h2>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <h2>sub heading</h2>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
            </div>
            <aside>
                <h3>navigation (left)</h3>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
                <p>lorem ipsum</p>
            </aside>
        </div>
        <div id="footer">
            <h1>LAYOUT TEST #2</h1>
        </div>
    </div>


I think the approach with all those position: absolute is not the best one.

  1. You want to have a container element with a max-width and margin: 0 auto. Not sure why you might want a min-width as well; you can of course.

  2. Any block element that you put automatically takes all the width of the parent element. Hence, there's no problem with the header and footer, just position them in the right spot and they will render properly.

  3. As you correctly did, use a container element for your main section. Since the elements are rendered left to right, you might want to write the aside before the #primary.

  4. Apply float: left to the aside with your desired fixed-width.

  5. The main content #primary element will take the remaining space automatically (or just apply width: auto. Note: the remaining space is the remaining space of the parent element, so, if you set the min-width on the parent element, don't expect your #primary to be narrower!

  6. Now you will have a problem: the container element #main will not get the proper height. That's because of an issue with float. To force a parent element to get to the height of its floated children, use overflow: hidden.

You should be ready to go. Here is a slightly modified version of your code.