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This 37 message thread spans 2 pages: 37 ( [1] 2 > >     
Right-Hand Navigation
Is it Really Easier to Use?
AlbinoRhyno




msg:585156
 12:01 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

After seeing posts to usability studies that looked at scrolling and right hand navigation, I have to wonder what kind of computer setup these studies are using.

Just about everyone who has a newer computer (last two years), has bought a mouse recently, or owns a laptop with a touchpad can scroll much more efficiently without using the scrollbar. The scrollbutton on most mouses make right-hand navigation studies obsolete. In fact, I would argue for top-screen, horizontal nav due to the fact that people with the scrollbutton are more likely to stay near the top third of the screen (back button, manual entries, and bookmarks).

Of course this doesn't apply to Mac users. I never understood what with all of Apple's usability studies, they haven't been able to see the productivity benefits of more than one button.

Oh, and in case you're confused as to why I added notebooks with touchpads into the list, the majority of touchpads can scroll by dragging your finger from the upper right corner to the lower right corner (kind of a pseudo-scrollbar).

 

joshie76




msg:585157
 10:45 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I don't use the scrollbar -ever- though I have noticed that my mouse tends to hang around the right hand side of the screen. Is this because I'm right handed? Do left handers hover around the left?

I don't really know why but I definitely prefer my navigation on the left. I think this is probably down to the fact that left-hand nav is practically a standard now and I'm so used to it.

cfel2000




msg:585158
 10:51 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Don't know whether this is relavant or not but search engines will prefer you nav to be on the right to put the actual content higher in your code.

P.S. I'm abidextous and the mouse still ends up over the right.

(edited by: cfel2000 at 11:12 am (utc) on Mar. 19, 2002)

Liane




msg:585159
 10:59 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Good point about the SE's preference! Never thought of that but I knew there was a reason I keep sticking to left hand nav ... it just "looks" right! ;)

joshie76




msg:585160
 11:05 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>on the left to put the actual content higher

??? How does that work? Surely it puts the content lower (unless you use the table trick...) Am I totally missing something?

>>I'm abidextous and the mouse still ends up over the right.
Which hand do you operate the mouse with though?

cfel2000




msg:585161
 11:13 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Sorry to all. I meant put the nav bar on the right. That way in a table as you work from left to right it means the content is higher in your code than the nav.

Guess I should start proof reading my posts. :)

cfel2000




msg:585162
 11:15 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I vary the hand I use my mouse with (depending on the task), however, the cursor does always seem to end up on the right hand side of the screen.

joshie76




msg:585163
 11:16 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>on the right to put the actual content higher

I guess that's not really problem if you're using CSS as you should be able code the sections of your page whatever way you choose. And there's always the table trick.

Does anybody know any good examples of sites with a Right Hand navigation system - I can't think of any off hand.

cfel2000




msg:585164
 11:18 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Left is more common with corporate and business sites as it's more traditional and they don't like to be 'radical' ;) . Try BT, however, they have some of their nav on the right

joshie76




msg:585165
 11:21 am on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Actually it's just dawned on me that we use right hand nav for nearly all our secondary navigation (primary is horizontal across the top with dropdowns).

Scratch my preference for left-hand nav ;)

caine




msg:585166
 2:33 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I find i use a combination of navigations.

mainly right hand, but with a top nav and a bottom nav, with some links in the contents.

bird




msg:585167
 2:50 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Note that any navigation at the right hand side will only have a useability advantage together with a liquid layout. If you use fixed tables like BT, then that part of the navigation will simply hide behind my scrollbar, as I normally have the browser window in portrait size.

I really like it when skyscraper ads disappear like that, but you should think twice before risking that a certain amount of visitors will never find your navigational elements.

Oh, and if I could, then I'd configure my browser to place the scrollbars at the left side of the window. On unix, most programs do that without a problem, but unfortunately Netscape refuses to collaborate...

Brett_Tabke




msg:585168
 3:03 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I won't go back to pure left hand nav. searchengineworld.com [searchengineworld.com]. The user per click rate is 1 click higher with right hand nav.

I do have some sites that are left hand nav simply because I need the ability to flow onto the right side.

Besides...no one uses menus any more except as a last resort. If it weren't for se considerations, and style considerations, I'd remove a great deal of menus entirely. I think modern menu systems = spam in most users minds this days.

Look at this spammed out page: [internetnews.com...]

That has to be the highest rate of spam to content I've ever seen. 75% "spam"? ...And a user is suppose to set there for 10mins and figure out if they are clicking on an ad or not? I don't think so - hello back button.

nwilson




msg:585169
 3:55 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Besides...no one uses menus any more except as a last resort. If it weren't for se considerations, and style considerations, I'd remove a great deal of menus entirely.

Think I need a little clarification there Brett. If you don't have menus how do you navigate, by power of mind :-)

As for right hand menus, I agree with AlbinoRhyno
these studies re scroll bars are a tad dated.

But, and here it comes.....
Webusers are monumentally stupid. They are also huge on instant gratification and left hand menus have been a stable component of websites for so long now that it's hard to break the habbit.

Confuse them and lose them... (just made that up I rather like it!)

I really like the idea of right-hand menus for more techy sites etc but if it's for the general 'don't know how to change my home page' brigade give 'em a left hand menu everytime.

cfel2000




msg:585170
 3:59 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

nwilson,

>> Webusers are monumentally stupid

I agree but don't think a clearly seperated and defined nav bar on the right will confuse them. It's right-nav or no-nav for me.

Marshall




msg:585171
 4:02 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

For what it's worth, the few sites which I've changed over to right hand navigation have received a lot of positive feed back. I made the change merely because it seemed logical since the cursor was there already.

awcabot




msg:585172
 4:11 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I would think that a right hand menu would be easier for the user, since it is a bit closer to the old fashioned codex interface - aslo known as a "book" (remember those? Made from dead trees and ink?).
I find it much more natural to hold the book with the left and turn the pages with the right. Also reference books, like dictionaries, would have those handy little tabs that stuck out from the pages that I am actually surprised most large sites use a left hand navigation menu.

Also, as mentioned above, search engines give more weight to content that is at the top of the page rather than the bottom. If you have no description, some will show the user parts of the menu, which is of very little use in discerning unique content amongs many returns.

Ed_Gibbon




msg:585173
 4:36 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Maybe I am ahead of my time. My site (except the homepage) has naigation on both the top, right side, and left side.

wardbekker




msg:585174
 4:50 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

in the arabic world it is very common to have right-hand navigation ;-)

nwilson




msg:585175
 5:02 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Maybe I am ahead of my time. My site (except the homepage) has naigation on both the top, right side, and left side.

Nah, just different.

The other risk one runs by dabbling with right hand menus is limited screen width.

There are ways around this of course but it's still worthy of caution.

I'm about to redesign my entire site and am really leaning toward right-hand, we'll see.

If I do I plan to do the wholes site in css2 no tables so it should prove interesting at the very least!

EliteWeb




msg:585176
 5:10 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

It all depends on the design of the site, and the content. I have sites that have left hand side navigation, right hand navigation and both side navigation as well as bottom navigation.

Right hand navigation is good when the site is well designed, when it is some non-professional doing the site and they stick navigation on the right hand side it looks pretty damn bad.

Crazy_Fool




msg:585177
 6:02 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Webusers are monumentally stupid. They are also huge on instant gratification and left hand menus have been a stable component of websites for so long now that it's hard to break the habbit.

Confuse them and lose them


well said!!

i like right hand navigation myself, but i have a tendency to automatically look at the horizontal and the left hand side for the navigation. i converted one site to both side navigation, and while better than it was before with pure left navigation, i didnt feel it was right. i switched to horizontal and left hand side navigation as part of my latest site rebuild and it looks like it's worked a treat.

i think the decision over whether or not to use right hand navigation should be based on the type of site visitor you intend to attract. if they are expert users, it might not make much difference so long as the menu is reasonably clear, but if you deal with newbies, it could confuse them.

AlbinoRhyno




msg:585178
 7:37 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

since it is a bit closer to the old fashioned codex interface - aslo known as a "book" (remember those? Made from dead trees and ink?).

bah-ewk? Book... oh yeah, I think I have some of those that I use as weights to keep my desk from floating off... ;)

Depending on your target audience, you can have h1 content on (let me check) the 14th line (including doctype declaration and spaces in between major tags e.g. head & body) with a CSS layout. As long as you aren't targeting the 8% of users who still us 4.x- browsers, you can have navigation anywhere and still have yummy content for the spiders.

After noticing my habits on webmasterworld, my mouse stays around left-center, although a right-hand nav would keep my on the right side without annoying me.

I think left-hand navigation is so prevalent still because english-speaking people read left-to-right. This means that when they need to find information, e.g. navigation, they will first look to the left and scan until they find it. Using this theory, left-hand navigation should be more efficient.

I personally like Apple's navigation, with an on-top, tabbed interface. My only concern is that you have to scroll all the way up to go somewhere, but that is true with right or left-hand nav's, as well. Maybe CSS's version of a frame would be optimal. All the benefits of a stationary navigation frame without the html mess.

volatilegx




msg:585179
 7:41 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I have been a champion of right hand navigation... the first websites I built in 1996 used right hand navigation via tables.

However I have also considered that most people are used to the left hand navigation and the eye automatically goes to the left of the page when reading...

I believe the issue should really be decided by testing, which has always been the mantra for direct mail advertising... why not the web, too? Maybe I should design two interfaces and use SSI to randomly bring up one or the other and track sales from each interface to find out which one wins...

nat




msg:585180
 8:03 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

If you're reading a large quantity of content, it seems that a left hand nav takes up a lot of space on the very side of the page where you expect the text to start. A fixed width format which would cause right side navigation to fall off the page, can make for an unpleasant reading experience as well. I don't think that anyone at all likes to scroll horizontally.

It often irritates me while surfing that the top and left of the page are so taken up with 'stuff' that the content I came to look at has to be traveled to. I like to be able to start reading what I've come for without having to fiddle with scrolling of any kind to get to the beginning.

It seems that the left hand nav format just follows the tendency (in Western languages) to start reading a document from the top left. If you want attention, you put something where people look first. Good for the marketing department, not always good for the visitor.

But even though we look left first, most people (as awcabot pointed out) are used to performing actions on the right hand side of whatever they're using. Particularly when we expect to be reading something. (My cursor also tends to hover around the right side, for whatever that's worth.)

AlbinoRhyno points out that most newer computer have scroll buttons, but an important question there is whether or not people use them. Old habits die hard, and when I had one at my last job I never used it.

At home, I still have an ancient mouse and keyboard, but I often choose the scrollbar & mouse over the more ergonomic page down key. I use the scrollbar and mouse key reflexively because enough of the sites I visit go and select a field after the page loads, use a frame, or deselect the main window with those *&^%ing popup windows (sensing some rage here), which makes clicking the mouse button, to select or deselect, a frequently necessary response. I've gotten enough negative feedback from interfaces that I now consistently use a less efficient option without even thinking about it.

My laptop has a touchpad, but you still have to click if you want to do anything but move the cursor around. While you don't have to touch the scrollbar to move around on the page with this option, it's more efficient to click on the scrollbar buttons. You get an economy of motion, particularly with long documents which you might only be skimming. Also, that touchpad is, well, touchy. And other people have reported that their touchpads get more over-sensitive the more they're used, which is enough to drive a person to keypad-centric operations.

I think top nav is good for the options short list, especially with a high content format like this forum, but I'd like to be presented with more right hand nav sites to try.

AlbinoRhyno




msg:585181
 8:24 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Also, regarding

reference books, like dictionaries, would have those handy little tabs that stuck out from the pages that I am actually surprised most large sites use a left hand navigation menu.

While the file-folder tabbed navigation system translates well, I have yet to see a well-designed instance of vertical tabs. The only thing I can think of is PDF's bookmarks, but they are on the left side by default.

papabaer




msg:585182
 8:31 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Sometimes I'm just a cold hearted thug...

If someone, anyone, opened a page and became lost or disorientated because the "familiar looking menu" on the left, is now the "familiar looking menu" on the right, well then, they deserve to be lost!

One of the absurdities expounded by some of the useability "experts" would have you believe all but the most clever would fail to recognize a standard hyper-link menu if moved from the sacred left hand location.

Of course with a nod of their head and a scornful glance these same useability experts scoff when some "low-browed rebel" decides to go against convention.

With left side navigation, it always seems as if you have to reach to get to the menu, while right side nav --- is just there!

Besides, any competent designer can certainly craft a menu that LOOKS like a menu, regardless of where it is located.

There... I feel better! ;)

pat_s




msg:585183
 8:41 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'd have to agree. It's not a usability problem unless you make a navigation menu hard to recognize as such. I put on on the right hand side of one site without a lot of thought. It just seemed to work on that layout and it hasn't been a problem. I use lefthand navigation when I want a stretchy page, though, so most of my sites have lefthand navigation.

nwilson




msg:585184
 9:12 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Besides, any competent designer can certainly craft a menu that LOOKS like a menu, regardless of where it is located.

Good point. it's where the less rampant 'experts' will give you a little leeway. If you're going to break from the norm make sure you don't break everything at once!

bird




msg:585185
 10:11 pm on Mar 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think left-hand navigation is so prevalent still because english-speaking people read left-to-right. This means that when they need to find information, e.g. navigation, they will first look to the left and scan until they find it. Using this theory, left-hand navigation should be more efficient.

Yup. It's all a question of the shortest mouse path.

And this is exactly the same reason why having the scrollbar on the right hand side of the window is extremely unergonomic when using western script. I never understood how this became the default. Placing the navigation of a web page on the right hand side too is a two edged sword, that may easly add insult to injury.

If a site demands a lot of scrolling, then it may help to have the navigational elements close to the scrollbar. If a site is well organized, and has its content distributed in easily digestible chunks on each page, then the classic left hand side navigation is probably the better choice.

Of course, once you start using arabic script (or any other that goes right to left), then things will look very different.

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