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page optimization: links on left or right side?
If spiders start from the left, then links should be on the right?

 6:51 am on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi there.

I am creating page templates for my new ASP site. I read that you should put your vertical links on the right side of the page. Why? Because SE spiders begin on the left. You want them to see the unique page content before they see your vertical link bar . . . which will be repeated on every page.

Is this advice correct? Or not?





 7:02 am on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes and no. You have to take the visitor into consideration and remember that SE's have been spidering pages for years and years and know the difference between repetitive content such as links and unique content. As for the human factor, 99% or users are use to links being at the top or left. You also have to consider how the page degrades and accessibility. Links following content could confuse anyone using a screen reader or make the site more difficult to navigate when it is displayed on a resolution smaller than you designed for.

This is a long winded way of saying it probably is not the best idea, IMHO.



 7:15 am on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Why? Because SE spiders begin on the left

not quite true. spiders read from top to bottom of the page, if you will. what's first thing they encounter depends on how you structure and deliver content, For example, you can have classic three column page layout (as seen by human visitor) where contents of the middle column will be encountered first by the spider. This is easyly achived with little bit of CSS...
Get Lynx browser (free) or any other 'non-graphical' spider (such as used by visually impaired) to see how your page renders and is seen by spiders.(that will tell you what is seen first....). Also look into CSS for content delivery and presentation


 11:24 am on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

While people may be "used" to finding links on the top and the left, their eyes naturally go to the upper-right, or so I'm told, so right-hand-column links would not necessarily be a bad formatting choice.

(This natural tendency is why the "bigger" stories in your newspaper are often placed further to the right on the page, with column ads and internal information placed more to the left.)



 12:30 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Eliz, hate to disagree, but peoples who read LTR tend to start on the left. That is why down stage right (left from the audiences' point of view) is considered the strongest position in live theater. I spent 30 years as a scenic designer and that is something I know for certain.

However, from a technical standpoint, having the navigation on the right makes sense since that is where your mouse is to scroll the page.



 2:05 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

I know we start reading on the left-hand end of a line in a given column of text, once we've decided on the column we wish to read. This likely is what makes the researched results seem so very counter-intuitive: when taking in a page, in its totality, human instinct leads, in general, for whatever reason, to the upper right of the page as a whole.

Very weird.

...I wish I still had my Psych 101 text from college, so I could provide some references for the documentation....



 2:28 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Eyetracking Research

Example of an eyetracking "heatmap" that shows how much users looked at different parts of a Web page. Areas where users looked the most are colored red; the yellow areas indicate fewer fixations, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Gray areas didn't attract any fixations.

F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content

Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.

If you look at the research on eye tracking, that right hand side is oblivious to the majority of "average surfers". I really wish it were not that way as I agree, for most, the cursor is resting somewhere on the right hand side of the page during browsing.

I typically Source Order html content so I'm going to end up with main content first, left and right navigation and then the header and footer. It all depends on the makeup of those include files as to which is ordered what way.

For users? Typically primary nav at top and left, secondary nav at right.


 3:52 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Can anyone explain "Source Order"? Is this a way of telling the spider which content to read in which order?


 4:05 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

read that you should put your vertical links on the right side of the page

I've done that for years and it has worked just fine for me.

I don't particularly worry what part of the page my users might look at first, as long as they can easily identify the things they need and where they might want to go next.


 4:09 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

telling the spider which content to read in which order

Spiders will read your source code from beginning to end, plowing straight through without jumping around. So you don't exactly "tell the spider", you just control what they see first or last by the way you organize your material and the order things appear in your source code.


 4:24 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

poet, here is a bit more explanation on SOC...

SOC - Source Ordered Content
What is it? How does it work? What benefits are there?


 7:39 pm on Sep 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks, pageone.

The SOC url is not connecting at the moment. I will try later unless you have a better idea.

Thanks to all for the great discussion!


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