SIGIA-L Mail Archives: SIGIA-L: RE: Right-hand navigation (lon
SIGIA-L: RE: Right-hand navigation (longish)
Date: Wed Mar 27 2002 - 17:15:19 EST
I've designed a few sites with right-hand navigation in the past. My
anecdotal experience on those projects was that users didn't have any
problems specifically due to the placement of the navigation. If you
took a well designed page with left-hand navigation and generally
mirrored the layout (flipped it horizontally), my guess is that you
wouldn't see much difference in usability. Of course I'm not talking
about putting labels to the right of fields or such, but just flipping
the big chunks of a layout (boxes in a wireframe if you will). There
is of course the ergonomic benefit you gain by having navigation and
scroll bars in close proximity.
I think left-navigation is simply a standard convention. I don't think
it's bad to follow convention, and you shouldn't do things different
from convention unless you test to make sure your deviation is actually
an improvement or at least not worse.
Croc O' Lyle
From: kalbach_at_scils.rutgers.edu [mailto:kalbach_at_scils.rutgers.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 2:51 AM
Subject: SIGIA-L: RE: Right-hand navigation (longish)
During my case study of the project Razorfish, Germany
delivered for Audi, I presented the results of a study
we plan to publish. Here is a brief summary:
We tested two clickable prototypes: one with a left-hand
navigation, one with a right-hand navigation.
With a sample size of 64 users (note: this was NOT a
sample of convenience, rather it fit our target
group), we found:
1. there was no significant difference in task completion
time for either prototype across 6 tasks,
2. users tended to focus more on the content portion
of the page with the right-hand navigation, and
3. subjectively the test participants didn't care
one way or the other where the navigation was.
Though folks like Nielsen and Michael Bernard (see:
agrue and show patterns in user expectations, they
do not correlate breaking these patterns with problems
In fact, other research shows that users are ambidextrous
in the use of scroll bars in different positions:
And, as someone already mentioned, some research agrues
for a right-hand navigation as a guideline:
Also note that perception research shows that the human
visual system naturally seeks structure in information,
often within fractions of a second. Pre-attentive processing
occurs in such a way that the interpretation of a display is
given by the design itself rather than by the viewer's prior
expectations. Recognition is based on the ability of the
user to distinguish an object and generalize its function.
With the Audi sites (Audi.com, Audi.de) it is clear what
is navigation and what is not. That is, there is affordance
of interaction and use of the navigation. We believe this
contributes most to the usability of the navigation.
(I'll admit to many other usability problems site, though).
Consistency is also key here.
Additionally, I feel the problem is may not with page design,
rather with browser design. Who decided to put the two
most-used functions - the back button and the scrollbar -
on opposite sides of the screen? Ever heard of Fitts?
I have more on this issue, and, like I said, plan to publish
the study. The presentation I gave should be made
available from ASIS shortly, I believe. Of course many
of you will attack the methodology, conclusions, etc.
That's fine. In the end, I think the jury might still be
out on this issue, and we have to remember a few things:
1. It is OK to have guidelines, but we also have to know
what the consequences are for breaking the rules. In
this case we've just been assuming usability would
decrease with a right-hand navigation. We don't
really know that to be true for sure.
2. Sometimes we care *far* more about these issues than
our users. We were amazed at how apathetic users
were about the issue, both objectively and subjectively.
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