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I apologise if this question is a duplicate. On a quick browse I couldn't see anything referring to this. I've always aligned my navigation icon on mobile to the right. Mainly because I just assumed this aligns with most users mental model. However, there are quite a few examples of navigation being on the left? Is either correct or one better than the other?

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To add some thoughts to this question, I notice that for many responsive web design layouts, mobile webs also have a lot of navigation placed at the top of the page. So when you are talking about mobile navigation, it is good to consider whether it is in the context of apps or mobile web pages. –  Michael Lai Apr 18 '13 at 23:12
    
Possible dupe: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/31031/… –  Charles Wesley Apr 19 '13 at 15:34

5 Answers 5

In left-to-right languages people are used to reading from the left, and so objects on the left hand side get more attention than those on the right (all things being equal of course). Menus and navigation have traditionally been on the left, but many sites choose to put them on the right so that the content can have focus (on the left).

So even on PC's there is no clear side which navigation should be on.


Unlike when designing for a pc, for touch devices you have to also take a person's hand into account. Given that most people are right handed, and are more than likely going to be using their right hand more than their left, there is an argument for having right handed navigation. Mainly because it is easier to reach, and you then don't have a hand blocking the screen which you would have if you.

However, mobile navigation is almost always on the left hand side. So moving it to the right is likely to be seen as confusing. Hence I would usually have navigation on the left to maintain consistency.


In the end, there isn't any better side for all applications. You need to evaluate your goals and make a decision based on your situation. However, especially if you are breaking the norm, you should test this with your users to be sure.

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Most(if not all) of the navigation menus on mobile applications are on the left hand side. http://www.mobile-patterns.com/custom-navigation and http://inspired-ui.com/tagged/navigation

The reason being, most people will be reading from left->right and hence the first thing they notice is on the left side. Though, on a mobile this argument does not hold that much weight.

I would assume it is just a carry forward from the web design. Since, there you also had the benefit of the visibility of the menu; when kept it on the left side, the menu will always be visible no matter what the window size is.

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From a design standpoint - So long as you don't align centre (out of lazyness instead of intent) and you're consistent, I'm not sure it matters.

Most design manuals will agree - Left align is tradition, right align is attention-grabbing.

Alignment is a fundamental aspect of graphic design. Get it wrong, and nothing else works. Get it right? Your design will usually look decent.

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Can you give some more reasoning as to why? It just reads like your subjective opinion. Are you basing this answer on anything in particular? (Observations, research, experience...?) –  JonW Apr 19 '13 at 6:11
    
Alignment is a pretty fundamental issue with graphic design. Consistency, balance and visual space all proceed from layout - and layout is nothing without selecting the appropriate alignment. –  David Clarke Apr 19 '13 at 22:55

I've recently started putting mobilized navigation on the right hand side for this very reason. A few nights ago I was using Pinterest, among other sites, and I could not hit the menu toggle at the top left the way I was holding the phone. It's not the first time I've made the awkward movement with my thumb to try and reach it, but the first time I was so tired that I tried it multiple times and got annoyed :)

For some of the mobile sites we build, this isn't too big of an issue anyways - the menu toggle area actually stretches the width of the page. In some cases, our clients want to include other icons on the row and in this case, I'm going to start recommending right aligned menu toggles.

I think this is a gray area right now, most sites have it one location - but that location makes the least amount of sense. I feel in this situation it's more than okay to go against the grain.

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If there is only one navigation for your app then it is better to align it to left because usually when you do your eyes automatically gives it more focus than usual. A good example for this would be Google+, Gmail and many other good apps like Mailbox and Pinterest where the navigation comes into focus from left. Navigations kept on the right often get missed from what I have seen.

If on the other hand your app is having some extremely important elements which you would like to show the users upfront and using which users will interact with the app mainly then it is better to keep it on the top or on the bottom. If it's a feed kind of an app then keeping it on top will obstruct the view so if there's lot of information overflow then keep it to the bottom otherwise if it's something used for switching view then keep it on the top.

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