Right column navigation

It’s a brave person who challenges design conventions…

“Traditionally navigation on the web either appears on the left or at the top. Right hand navigation has somewhat been frowned upon. However, more recently this trend seems to have been changing with more websites adopting it. I think this is partly due to blogs, which seem to have right hand navigation by default. However, it has always struck me as strange that the convention is towards left. If you think about it there are a lot of good reasons for right hand navigation…

  • It puts the content first visually
  • Your cursor naturally hovers near the scrollbars on the right
  • We are familiar with right hand navigation from tabs in books
  • We know from usability research that whether navigation is on the left or right, it makes no difference in the time it takes to complete a task

Overall I am hugely in favor of right hand navigation and I am glad to see it becoming more popular.”

From: Emerging Design Trends

What do you think? Agree or disagree?

3 thoughts on “Right column navigation”

  1. Depends on the language too, some languages start from right to left (arabic) :P or top to bottom (Chinese & Japanese)?

    Hence in majority sites being in english left side menu _might_ make more sense.

    Some websites even have both left an right. For their left menu they have navigational links an for right they have more stuff like news, stats, feedbacks, about, rss etc (kind of like this wordpress).

    Some people are also left handed hence keep their mouse on left hand side of the computer. So they might find the menu to be on right some what odd?

  2. This maybe a bit obvious, but think the switch to right hand navigation also reflects how much search engines have become a primary navigation tool. Left hand nav has historically put the focus on the hierarchy as a was of navigating (think OS file systems). But when search engines work well it has the effect of flattening the structure (relevancy based, not hierarchy based) and the focus can switch to the content instead.

  3. Without knowing the size of the window people use to browse your site there is a risk that your right-column navigation panel is pushed out of view unless you restrict the display to something tight like 620px.

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