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We are building a webapp, so everyone asks me what content should be in header and why you are using a header at the top.

So my question is why are we using a header and logo at the top, we can use it at the right or left or bottom?

And what content should be in the header?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The header is usually at the top because it's convention. Why is it convention? Probably because you want to introduce the title and brand of the website you're visiting to the user immediately when the page loads. So you put it at the top. And then it gets out of the way quickly when you scroll down. Sounds like a pretty good solution to me.

Why not put it somewhere else? Well, putting it on the left would put it in the middle of the content. On the right would put it out of the way in a place where your eyes don't necessarily scan immediately (given that most of us read left-to-right). Putting it on the bottom raises the question of "what is the bottom?". The bottom of the window? Or the bottom of the content?

You can put the header anywhere you want, but you should specifically think about why you're putting it wherever you are. Following my first paragraph about convention and use of a header, you should also ask what content to put in it based on that: what's relevant content for initial page load? What should people see before they see anything else? What do your users do with content in the header?

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The main reason is convention: This is how it has always been done. This convention was probably inherited from print media. For example newspapers, company headed paper etc. Also it's the sensible place to put it as the first thing you do is identify with the brand via the header. Generally when you launch a website you start at the top of the page.

Regarding what content should be in the header this depends on what is important. If you are wanting to create a strong brand maybe you would have a larger header with strong graphical elements in it. If you are creating an intranet presence for hosting research papers then not as much priority would need to be given to having a strong brand. The point I am trying to get across is it's all dependent on the specific situation you are designing for.

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People (generally) look at the center of the screen for content.

Putting up a header on top of the page makes it easier for the visitors to actually see the content and creates a continuity for focus on the content and a safe place to 'return' home.

Its a convention but one grown because it works so well. Putting something on the right side of the screen can lead to 'hidden' parts of the website on bigger screens or smaller screens. Placing items on the left side gives them a Menu feeling or a banner feeling.

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+1 People (generally) look at the center of the screen for content. –  pir abdul wakeel Oct 14 '11 at 17:57

A header is usually for branding, navigation and to provide a consistent look and feel on your site.

The reason logos are used in headers is to give an instant impression of who owns the site and what kind of site it is. If you stick your logo at the footer people may never see it, and the site may look unbranded, a lone stranded bunch of content with no home!

Putting this content on the side is possible, but unorthodox; it's also impractical on vertically arranged screens (mobile). Leaving it at the side makes it into a sidebar; this complicates matters if you want a secondary navigation, as sidebars are the standard there. Nested sidebars get ugly fast, and eat into your content space. Nested horizontal bars are relatively compact and affect content in a predictable way, always pushing content down exactly by enough space.

In addition, keeping the header at the top means the content is always in the same place. This means that in addition to branding it's a great place for navigation; putting top level navigation in a hard to find place or a place that moves (the bottom of the page) can make things frustrating.

A nice bonus of the logo/navigation situation is that you can use your logo as a link to return to your "home" page, a trick many companies use, but one that shouldn't be your only link to the home page; not all users think to click this.

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