Welcome to the Tipping Point, where little things make the difference. If you have a strong competition then you must have the best site. Layout and Resolution play an important role.
What devices are used to view your page? Read your logs and find out which devices are used to read your page. Test your page in the most used devices. Fix it, if needed. A broken site is the same as a dead site. Useless.
Take a look on Browser Size. Afterwards find out how many pixels your visitors have in average. Most screens a very wide today, so you can place a big sidebar while having a content area which suits on every screen. Try to smaller your logo and top navigation. The first impression counts, when the visitor comes, he/she should know what the website is about without scrolling. If a lot of touch devices view your website, then it is time to create a proper navigation with buttons instead of small links.
The Layout of a website is another important factor. Using a common layout is the best practice. The user doesn't want to search for controls, he wants to view your page. Navigate and Search without having to search the controls. Below a list of best practices.
- blogs have the sidebar on the left
- center your page
- Top navigation is the main navigation, Side navigation is subnaviation
- the search input field should be on the right top
- user account (with login/logout or just "My Account") is on top right
- Repeat the main navigation with TOS and Impressum on the footer
- Pagination is below a post, not below comments
- Provide a "to top" button
Another important issue is mobile devices. They are more and more common today. If your site is well structured, then you can adjust your style sheet and have a good looking mobile website. Do not create a "lite" site. It is not needed. Mobile devices are getting better and better. Serve em your full site with adjusted design. And if you full site is loading slow...then you should adjust your full site.