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I'm involved in a project that is being designed and architectured by a fairly big agency and they have just completed the wireframes. However, I have some reservations in how they have designed the navigation:

They have outlined a horizontal primary navigation with drop downs, and on child pages they have a right hand vertical nav with essentially the same links as in the drop downs.

I've seen some large sites implement this style of nav: http://www.box.net/home/ however I really feel like it breaks some fundamental UX rules (although I haven't done any UX design in about 10 years).

Is this a bad approach? How can it be improved?

EDIT: Sorry I didn't articulate my real concern well enough. I'm particularly worried about the duplication of sub navigation ie. It is represented on the right hand side AND in the drop down on 2nd tier pages (exactly like http://box.net). Shouldn't it just remain consistently in one spot; the drop down? I wasn't particularly concerned whether a right or left vertical nav is better/worse.

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2 Answers 2

It's hard to say whether it's a good or bad approach without knowing the full scope of what you want the app/site to do. With that said, I would seriously question why they are giving the child nav in a right hand pane.

One (possibly) valid reason could be that they want to focus attention on the content. If attention being focused on the content were significantly more important than ease of navigation, it may be a good choice.

I've seen some horrendous designs UX wise come out of some big agencies, so don't assume they must know what they're doing just because they're big.

If in doubt though, why don't you ask the agency in question to defend their design. Ask questions and challenge things you aren't convinced of. Either way you will learn something from it.

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My suggestion would be to ask the vendor to justify their design decision. If they can back their decision with research results, then proceed with the right hand navigation. Most websites will place their primary vertical navigation on the left hand side because it follows a very simple mental model convention - it's what website visitors expect - but others have their own stance as well.

There is evidence that right hand navigation is better (http://freeusabilityadvice.com/archive/36/right-hand-navigation) and that left hand navigation is better (http://blog.whatclinic.com/2011/04/right-hand-side-navigation-leads-to-11-8-drop-in-conversion-rate.html).

Something to ask yourself is, where is your mouse cursor sitting right now? For me, I'm right handed and when I'm reading website content I bring my cursor to the right hand side of my screen and about half way down the page...just about where a right aligned vertical navigation would sit.

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