Left-Leaning Layout Conventions Rule!

When I started my career as a web developer in the nineties, the convention of the day was a two-column approach: a table-based layout with a vertical navigation menu on the left-hand side, and a content column. These days we’re more likely to see the main navigation in a horizontal configuration across the top, starting on the left. Left-to-right and top-to-bottom is a long-standing convention among English-speaking websites — unsurprising, since that’s how English speakers read.

Last month Jakob Nielsen published a very interesting report titled Horizontal Attention Leans Left. Nielsen’s group has done testing that confirms the validity of a convention that began in the mid-nineties. What was surprising, though, was the amount of users’ attention given to the left-hand side of the screen: 69%. This leaves little time for the stuff on the right-hand side; hence, that right-hand column of miscellaneous stuff on your blog is hardly ever read.

So, what about your work? Do you design for left-to-right consumption? Does this study reinforce your approach or change it? Are you dismayed that few visitors care about what you put in your widget column?