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  1. #1
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    right-hand side navigation menu

    Many websites (at least ones in which the language reads left-to-right) use a menu on the left and text on the right. I have been recently wondering about putting a nav menu on the right side of the screen for an English language website. How intuitive/ergonomic would this be? I was reading on another forum at another site and some people felt that this is more ergonomic than the traditional left-hand side menu.

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    Sidewalking anode's Avatar
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    Razorfish did some testing on it a while ago (for the German Audi site) and apparently the right-side menu came off better than left in their test. They did a write-up about it on Boxes and Arrows - I'll post a link if I find it.

    EDIT: http://www.boxesandarrows.com/archiv...redesigned.php
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  3. #3
    gingham dress, army boots... silver trophy redux's Avatar
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    i've had a recent discussion with a few colleagues on this, and my take on it is as follows...from an ergonomic point of view, it seems true that having menus on the right-hand side reduces the distance of mouse movements and, after a while, can become very intuitive...however, taking the "don't make me think" http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...2716?vi=glance approach, it's a fact that left-hand navigation menus are still the most common form of side navigation...so breaking this "de facto" standards may disorient some users, resulting in an adverse effect on usability.
    for an upcoming large-scale redesign project, i'm sticking with a left-hand navigation bar, but i'm going to offer an alternate stylesheet which positions the navigation to the right...so users can choose whatever suits them.
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    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    I like the right-side navigation more personally, but as redux said, left-side nav is still the most common. I've actually taken a combined approach in the past: main site navigation on the left, "extra" nav on the right (i.e. digging deeper into a section of the site, search, etc.), and content in the middle. I find that this approach works well with a lot of menu information, as it's not all cluttered on one side and makes links easier to find.

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    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    Research shows that users click on topics in the right margin with much more efficiency than topics placed on the left because they are located much closer to the scroll bar. This allows users to quickly move the pointer between the scroll bar and the index items. Benefits are particularly strong for laptops.


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    SitePoint Wizard DougBTX's Avatar
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    If it looks like nav, I'll nav it.

    If it don't look like nav, who cares, I'll click on it anyway.
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    I must say I've never considered putting a menu on the right but there are some good reasons why, particularly what Webnauts said, it makes sense. I think I'll give it a go in the future!

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    SitePoint Wizard Ian Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Webnauts
    Research shows that users click on topics in the right margin with much more efficiency than topics placed on the left because they are located much closer to the scroll bar. This allows users to quickly move the pointer between the scroll bar and the index items. Benefits are particularly strong for laptops.
    I wonder if scroll-wheeled mice lessen this argument, though: I don't think I've touched my scroll bar in week, personally. * Redux's goanna have a field day with that statement :-p

    Also, I was thinking an effective argument could be made about left-flanking navigation pushing the content into the middle of the screen, where a lot of people tend to start viewing a page. And does the fact that a lot of sites use the right side to display ads train people to put on blinders there?

    That said, I like right-flanking navigation about as much as left-flanking navigation.

    ~~Ian

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    A very good example of a right-hand nav can be found here...

    http://www.alistapart.com/index.html

  10. #10
    gingham dress, army boots... silver trophy redux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Glass
    I wonder if scroll-wheeled mice lessen this argument, though: I don't think I've touched my scroll bar in week, personally.

    [...]

    Also, I was thinking an effective argument could be made about left-flanking navigation pushing the content into the middle of the screen, where a lot of people tend to start viewing a page. And does the fact that a lot of sites use the right side to display ads train people to put on blinders there?
    i was thinking along the same lines as well the other night. i guess giving the users the choice via switchable styles could be a good option...

    * Redux's goanna have a field day with that statement :-p
    too easy
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  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard Ian Glass's Avatar
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    Aye, but the problem with alternate styles, is that they're not advertised by any browser--people don't even know they exist. And the fact that your choice isn't remembered across pages makes navigating a site with alternate styles nightmarish. So then what, you're left having to use a hard-coded, JavaScript-dependent, style-sheet-switching widget to change your navigation scheme--and just where are you going to put that widget?

    Seems like clutter to me. Anyway, I couldn't imagine the choice between left- & right-handed navigation being nearly as important as what goes in the navigation. :-)

    ~~Ian

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    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    A source concerning placing navigation on right:
    Bailey, R.W., Koyani, S. and Nall, J. (2000), Usability testing of several health information QWeb sites, National Cancer Institute Technical Report, September 7-8.

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    gingham dress, army boots... silver trophy redux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Glass
    So then what, you're left having to use a hard-coded, JavaScript-dependent, style-sheet-switching widget to change your navigation scheme--and just where are you going to put that widget?
    not necessarily javascript dependent..it can be done server-side (or a mix of the two, with the server-side one being the fall-back if js is disabled). as for the widget, it doesn't have to be on the page itself. you could, for instance, have a "preferences" type page that sets this kind of stuff, then sets the appropriate cookie (or entry in the db if you use a db-driven login system, etc)...

    but yes, i hear ya
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    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    I much prefer top navigation. I find side navigation to be hard to fit into 800x600 screen size, so either a dynamic width table or a specially coded 1024x768 site would result.

    (I dislike dynamic tables because I'm lazy when designing and prefer to have everything as close to what I see as possible).

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    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amorya
    I much prefer top navigation. I find side navigation to be hard to fit into 800x600 screen size, so either a dynamic width table or a specially coded 1024x768 site would result.

    (I dislike dynamic tables because I'm lazy when designing and prefer to have everything as close to what I see as possible).

    Amorya
    You are right! Top Navigation is from the usability point of view objective.
    No arguments about that, so far I know!

    What I do not agree about, is designing for certain screen resolutions.
    That is not a good usability.

    The most recommended design is with Fluid Layout (width 100%). [img]images/smilies/wink.gif[/img]

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    Quote Originally Posted by Webnauts
    You are right! Top Navigation is from the usability point of view objective.
    No arguments about that, so far I know!

    What I do not agree about, is designing for certain screen resolutions.
    That is not a good usability.

    The most recommended design is with Fluid Layout (width 100%). [img]images/smilies/wink.gif[/img]
    I agree half-way with that... In some cases, when working with images, it can be a real pain to get your site looking EXACT on all screen sizes. I've found that when working with background images, it can be a nuisance... Not so much images that can be easily repeated, but certain images (ie: live shots) that add an empty space to the right when the page is stretched to accomodate larger sizes.

    If there is a decent way around this, I wouldn't mind hearing your take on it!

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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Pras
    Many websites (at least ones in which the language reads left-to-right) use a menu on the left and text on the right. I have been recently wondering about putting a nav menu on the right side of the screen for an English language website. How intuitive/ergonomic would this be? I was reading on another forum at another site and some people felt that this is more ergonomic than the traditional left-hand side menu.
    I have recently been tasked with building a web site for the LightHouse for the Blind in California. Many of their users use screen readers such as JAWS and Window-Eyes to access the web. One of the main complaints people using screen readers have is "getting to the content". Since screen readers “decolumnize” web pages (read information from the top-left to the bottom-right), sites that use top and left navigation are especially troublesome because the screen reader reads the site navigation (and possible side-bar advertising) on each new page before getting to the content. One solution is to put a hidden “skip to content” link at the top of each page. Instead, we chose to use a right-hand navigation and it seems to work quite well. The site is still in development, but if you are interested in getting a sneak peek, please email me directly.

  19. #19
    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    I always use the "skip to content" link on the top of the page, and I never have been convinced that instead is better to have the navigation on the right side.

    See what I am working on at the moment: http://www.webnauts.net/css/third.shtml

    Though I use a visible "skip to content" link. Why visible?
    More here: http://infocentre.frontend.com/servl...article&id=150

    Why internal links on the left?
    http://psychology.wichita.edu/optimalweb/position.htm

    And the main links are at the top, to avoid any conflicts between the concurent theories: Left or Right Navigation?

    I would like to view your work. Can I have the link?

  20. #20
    SitePoint Addict hurricane.uk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdmcnitt
    Since screen readers “decolumnize” web pages (read information from the top-left to the bottom-right), sites that use top and left navigation are especially troublesome because the screen reader reads the site navigation (and possible side-bar advertising) on each new page before getting to the content.
    Do you find that's still an issue if the content and navigation are reordered in the markup, so that content comes first and nav second, with CSS used to reposition them?

  21. #21
    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hurricane.uk
    Do you find that's still an issue if the content and navigation are reordered in the markup, so that content comes first and nav second, with CSS used to reposition them?
    I would like to know that too!!!

  22. #22
    SitePoint Zealot HardinComp's Avatar
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    I played around with a right side nav section for a while, but I found that if my users ran a smaller resolution sometimes my nav bar was off the screen. Granted this was a few years ago and I was coding for 800x600, and hopefully most users have upgraded their systems to show a larger resolution than was the norm then, but you may want to keep that in mind as well.
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  23. #23
    Forensic SEO Consultant Webnauts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardinComp
    I played around with a right side nav section for a while, but I found that if my users ran a smaller resolution sometimes my nav bar was off the screen. Granted this was a few years ago and I was coding for 800x600, and hopefully most users have upgraded their systems to show a larger resolution than was the norm then, but you may want to keep that in mind as well.
    That is a general problem, if you design with absolute width values!


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