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When I read another thread why text messages on the iphone aren't displayed at the full width the following question came to my mind: Why do my text messages appear on the right and not on the left side of the screen?

If I had to design it, it would have been my clear decision to show the messages I'm sending on the left and incoming messages on the right (corresponding to the gestures I would use for sending and receiving). I'd probably have taken this decision without thinking about it at all - just basing on intuition or a gut feeling.

One could argue that the one who started a conversation (or better sent the very first text message), appears on the left. But for the sake of consistency and perceivability, there probably had to be a decision for one of the two options.

Any ideas - or different intuition?

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  • I have some problems following you. What is this, an email client? Jun 7, 2012 at 13:32
  • @AndroidHustle As I understood it, he means the Text Messaging (SMS) application on the iPhone. Although realistically this design is something found on many phones and not just specific to the iPhone.
    – GotDibbs
    Jun 7, 2012 at 14:17
  • @GotDibbs aww, that explains it... not an iPhone user myself. Jun 7, 2012 at 14:26
  • @AndroidHustle Couldn't tell by the username :)
    – GotDibbs
    Jun 7, 2012 at 14:26
  • yeah, meant the sms / text message app on the iphone. was interrupted when I was about to upload the image which should have made it clear ... Jun 7, 2012 at 14:34

3 Answers 3

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The general thought here I believe is that the received messages are given visual priority for left-to-right readers.

When you think about the fact that you have to type out your message and hit Send before you actually see it show up in the conversation list, it makes a bit more sense. You don't really read your own replies (in the conversation view) as much in there as you do those that are sent to you.

While I agree it does seem awkward if you start reading the conversation from the top and you (the sender) were the one who started it -- it's not that bad. The gains outweigh the negatives in this instance.

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    good point. Thanks for your comment. This as well pointed me to the fact that I see the message I'm answering directly above the text field - not somewhere on the right ... might be a reason too. Jun 7, 2012 at 14:55
  • @JohnSample That's an excellent point as well.
    – GotDibbs
    Jun 7, 2012 at 15:00
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I wanted to respond to the last post (from Richard, I believe?). To me, it seems far more intuitive that, as the first person replying said, our eyes and mind give visual priority to the text on the left. Just as left-to-right readers at least.

To me, it would feel awkward to see my own messages on the left. It could be argued that this is a result of conditioning--and it may be in part--but I believe the decision to design it in the manner they did (by Android, iPhone teams, etc.) already took into account the psychological aspects like what would feel most intuitive and so forth.

As for them not questioning your design, I'm sure as long as it does the job, people probably get used to it. I imagine as a user I would shrug it off and think, "Oh well. Who am I to question another designer's work?" especially to the point of actually composing an email to complain. But ultimately, unless you read right-to-left, I think it's more natural for people to expect the incoming messages on the left. Just IMO.

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  • What happens if you start the conversation, though? Wouldn't you expect to see your post on the left, then?
    – Izquierdo
    Feb 22, 2022 at 22:14
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I agree, if I were to design the app, my messages would appear on the left. Very annoying to type a message on the left and then have it pop up on the right. I have designed messaging apps for the web and I always design them so the posters own messages always show up on the left. No one has ever questioned it, and it is much easier on the brain and eyes. Just saying. I have looked many times for an Android messaging app that functions that way....can't find one. Oh well

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