I don't really know how this concept is called, but is something deeply spread across almost every digital interface. I'm talking about "left to right navigation"... like setup wizards, where backward navigation is represented by LEFT and forward by RIGHT.

So, my team mates randomly decided that our apps interfaces (which are build on this concept, where our list view items have an arrow to the right and our back buttons to the left, like, you know... any app...) should not be that way.

I, being the UX designer in this team, am struggling to convince them this is the best way to do the navigation, although I have no scientific proof other than my experience (which is not enough, apparently).

Does anyone here has any article, book quotes or anything that could help me prove my point? I failed to find anything relevant on the web or this site.

Additional information:

  • We are on Brazil (we read from left to right).
  • Our app is a digital menu for restaurants running on Android, on touchscreen 7" and 10" tablets.
  • My team mates are Programmers and Marketing people.
  • 1
    You mention that your team believes that your app "should not be that way". What are they proposing instead, and what is their rationale?
    – Matt Obee
    Oct 22, 2012 at 9:04
  • I'd say they are not being rational, actually. They say "since our application has no animation to support that behavior, we should change this concept", I tried to explain how this is strongly bound to our time perception/reading flow, but since I don't have many years of experience in this field (didn't even got my degree in Graphic Design yet) they find it hard to trust me. (been there a lot, with a lot of different teams) That's why I'm searching for some scientific proof/article to support me :D
    – arvere
    Oct 22, 2012 at 12:17
  • 1
    @gustavofritsch what concept are they proposing? Oct 22, 2012 at 19:03
  • that's the tricky part about working along with the IT people, they tend to be "designers enough" to point interface mistakes, but not to think about solutions... luckly, I already got things sorted out by now around here, but I still would find useful if someone could provide some relevant article on this matter, it could be of use for me sometime in the future
    – arvere
    Oct 23, 2012 at 23:46
  • "You" are in Brazil. Are all the users in Brazil ? Feb 23, 2014 at 14:59

5 Answers 5


Perhaps this answer could be relevant to you: Why are progress bars horizontal?

In short: we imagine time passing forward on a two-dimensional plane in the direction that we read, that is, if you're not Arabian, you generally prefer left to right.

And hey, gain some respect, it's your job to create a user experience ;)

  • nice link, thanks! and i'm finding hard to get respect being only 22 years old and relatively new to the ux field... also, people by 3rd world countries (like mine) tend to underestimate the importance of good design. I hope this come to change someday :/
    – arvere
    Oct 23, 2012 at 23:34

You could use this study to validate the left to right reading pattern. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html Also you could use colours to define primary.secondary actions("Next" = green, "Back" = grey)

  • that's really interesting... I know this is related to my problem, but I need something closer to a navigation study (how would the user picture their navigation mentally - like an horizontal line of screens from left to right)
    – arvere
    Oct 22, 2012 at 12:21
  • @gustavodritsh here is another study its not exactly on the "navigation" but its shows why putting the button on the right of the screen makes it more visible/click-able.uxmovement.com/buttons/…
    – Igor-G
    Oct 22, 2012 at 16:21
  • 1
    Also simple things like x/y diagrams that we used to draw in Maths class always started with 0,0 and moving Right on X axis would increase the number 1,2,3,4 moving to the Left on X axis would decrease the number -1,-2,-3,-4.
    – Igor-G
    Oct 22, 2012 at 16:25
  • that article is pretty interesting, but, as pointed out by some commenter there, it lacks some eye-tracking data to support that theory... and even though it doesn't provide relevant information on navigation itself, it's something nice to think about
    – arvere
    Oct 23, 2012 at 23:41
  • 1
    Colours are interesting. But colour is not enough — not accessible. Variation in the design of the buttons can help a lot here. For example, a small Back button and a big Next button — and this would be good for Fitt’s law too. Feb 23, 2014 at 15:04

It depends on the language. In L-to-R languages we read from left to right, and down. It would be awkward and counterintuitive to have navigation and workflows not following language direction.


I don't have a clear idea of how your app works, but web browser back (left arrow) and forward (right arrow) is as ubiquitous as anything.

In any case conventions, if established, are more important than any type of scientific evidence. Apple has ample iOS UI guidelines (and to a lessor extent so does google/Android). I would search through Apples iOS UI guidelines (most in PDF form) to find support for your point.


I think the left/right navigation can be best justified by the studies in eye tracking for interface design. Since users generally scan a page from left to right, elements should be organized in a logical way from top left to bottom right to guide the users throughout the interface and keep their interest. Therefore, the following item would logically be to the right or below the current item, and the previous item would be to the left or above, since this flow is the easiest to follow by users who read left-to-right. Up/down navigation isn't as practical on most digital interfaces since there is usually a header, or browser bars, that cut off this flow, while the horizontal plane can be made to feel infinitely long.

I would recommend searching for research on "eye tracking", "horizontal navigation", and other similar phrases. I did find this interesting page that shows that navigation is the opposite way in languages that read right-to-left (I didn't know this was common): http://www.quora.com/User-Interfaces/Are-the-back-and-forward-buttons-switched-in-web-browsers-for-languages-that-read-right-to-left

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