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Left-Leaning Layout Conventions Rule!

By Andrew Tetlaw

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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?

iOS Developer, sometimes web developer and Technical Editor.

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