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I'm building a web interface with two panels. On the right one there would be a map, on the left one there would be some places, similar to Google Maps. We are considering having the scrollbar of the left panel on the left. The reason we find is that it doesn't visually block / separate place from map.

However most of Desktop Programs have this kind of scrollbar on the right (Pages, Keynote, Spotify) and most webpages too (Google Maps). I'm sure they have done many User Experience tests, but I would love to know more about why is better to have the scrollbar on the right on this case.

What do you think?

Draft of the structure

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Just looking at the mockup here it "feels" wrong to me. Probably because of ingrained bias from years of having it the other way, but it feels like you are performing a fine motor skill with the wrong hand. Do left handers always have that feeling with our "normal" right hand scroll bars? – phinetune May 27 '11 at 23:37
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's "better" on the right because, like you said, it likely tested better. It's a fact of reality that the scroll bar has always been on the right of some scrollable canvas, and that's where users will look.

The best thing you can do is create a prototype where the scrollbar is on the left and then create a user scenario where using that scrollbar is required. Then grab whoever you find at the coffee machine and ask them to follow those instructions. Watch what happens. I think you and your team will quickly change your minds :) (but maybe not!)

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we have tested it with some people and we haven't found a problem with the scrolling. However we are going to test it more and ask specifically for it after the test. thanks! – fesja May 27 '11 at 18:08
I agree, I havnt read anything about this and so you may just need to do a simple A/B test and find out. Please return to tell us what happend if you do! I am very curious. – jonshariat May 27 '11 at 18:36
we have tested it and we haven't found any problems with the scrollbar at the left. However we are going to go with the right scrollbar, the main reason is that we could have another 2 other vertical scrollbars on the page; so it makes to have all of them in the same side. When the page is live, i will go back to you to receive your suggestions! – fesja Jun 15 '11 at 23:11

What if you took away the left scroll, but on hover made the scroll on the right visible?

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I think it would be strange because if we do that, we can't use that space for anything. So why removing the scrollbar then? – fesja May 27 '11 at 18:38
@fesja, But currently you cant use the left side space for anything either, it would be a trade off – Matt Rockwell May 27 '11 at 18:39

Worth trying out a variant with no scrollbars on the map. Just drag-and-zoom. Then you could put the places on the right, and have its scrollbar on the right, and see how users get on with that.

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The problem for me is that it's just inconsistent (with the OS and even within your application) and provides no value. So, why break a trend when there is no real need to do so?

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