I have a question about sidebar navigation.

I am designing a web page for latest news and placed the sidebar (news navigation) on the right side. My logic was that "On the news page at first people just want to see updates, the other things are secondary. They will go to the sidebar if they want to read old news, but it is a secondary action."

My Team-lead told me that it is principle to have sidebar always on the left side.

I want to know "How to choose better placement for Sidebar."

  • 1
    I'm a huge fan of left sidebars. The reason is that then the main content starts from a more central position. Otherwise my head is always unnaturally facing the left edge of the screen, not straight. It's especially annoying with sites that take the full width of screen.
    – aedaf
    Aug 6, 2014 at 19:27
  • 1
    Looking for an answer but end up more confused. Seems contradictory when sidebar is on the right for UX SE.
    – Jake
    Sep 10, 2014 at 14:26

3 Answers 3


He's correct. The reason is that typical western style of reading is from Left to Right. You can see point #2 at: http://sixrevisions.com/usabilityaccessibility/10-usability-tips-based-on-research-studies/

There are also a great number of additional points you might want to look at while there.

  • If by "he's correct" you mean the team lead being rightin wanting the navigation on the left, I'd say he is wrong. And points #2 and #6 in the article you reference actually dictates that the primary content be on the left and secondary content like navigation on the right. Dec 27, 2012 at 19:46
  • I consider the rule about "Left to Right" that's why Most important thing should come first(left) and secondary should come second(or in right side). To create a better user-experience We should break the rules some times. Jan 3, 2013 at 18:55
  • 1
    Trust me I'm all about breaking rules. Just know that when you do there is a price to pay for breaking them.
    – Tony
    Jan 3, 2013 at 19:05
  • Yes Tony, I am totally agree with you. I think principles & rules are just based on Human's Mental Models and Human's common sense about using electronic products are continuously increasing, So Rules can be changed. Jan 5, 2013 at 6:17

Putting navigation on the left is very orthodox and through repetition it has become enshrined in the cannon of UI dogma.

However that doesn't necessarily make it true.

Jared Spool wrote on this subject:

In my opinion, you shouldn’t care what I (or potentially most others on this list) like for navigation. I don’t even think you should care what your users like.

You should only care about which one best accomplishes the objectives of your users and the objectives of your organization.

That being said, having tested a ton of users on bundles of sites, we’ve learned over the years that navigation placement doesn’t matter one whit. Put the navigation practically anywhere on the page and users will find it when they need it.

(emphasis added)

On the subject Paul Boag wrote:

Traditionally navigation on the web either appears on the left or at the top. Right hand navigation has somewhat been frowned upon. However, more recently this trend seems to have been changing with more websites adopting it. I think this is partly due to blogs, which seem to have right hand navigation by default. However, it has always struck me as strange that the convention is towards left. If you think about it there are a lot of good reasons for right hand navigation…

  • It puts the content first visually
  • Your cursor natural hovers near the scrollbars on the right
  • We are familiar with right hand navigation from tabs in books
  • We know from usability research that whether navigation is on the left or right, it makes no difference in the time it takes to complete a task

(emphasis added)

This is not an argument to authority in an attempt to prove that right-hand menus are correct, it is merely to point out that two thought leaders in the field don't automatically default to the position that left is always better.

Right hand nav is a perfectly valid option, and shouldn't be discounted out of hand merely based on dogmatism. Especially in your use case where the content is news-related, considering the right-hand convention is very common with blogs.

If you have the time or budget, try some usability testing with both left and right side navigation and see if there is any measurable difference.

Update: See this related question for some additional discussion. That thread leans more heavily toward left-hand navigation.

  • Hi Charles, Thanks for reply, It's really eye-opening for me. I think "Design should be based on context & content", Shouldn't blindly follow the rules & principles. After all Principles also born by research. As Paul Boag says " Put the navigation practically anywhere on the page and users will find it when they need it.", because now a days people have more conman-sense to use web than before, but still they want ease in use, for this we have to break rules some times(many times). Thanks Jan 3, 2013 at 18:45
  • From the first cite : "...navigation placement doesn’t matter one whit." Sorry, but this is nonsense. Try for example this readme site. If you can "invent" something better, then I would be very surprised. So it's kind of dogma and good dogma is good.
    – Mikhail V
    Feb 3, 2016 at 5:10

Your team leader is right in a conventional sort of way but wrong otherwise.

The sidebar traditionally goes on the left or the top side because usually a sidebar containing important links which are much needed for quicker access and need to be drawn attention to by the user.

For example, most of the university websites would have a top horizontal bar or a left sidebar for "Admissions, Faculty, etc". These links are pretty important for a university, garners most interest and hence need to be drawn to the site visitors at first glances.

This is in alignment with the fact that people tend to read from left-to-right, so the things on top and left get the foremost attention.

However, the point is that the navigation links you are putting up on your website are secondary and NOT the primary data. Since this navigation is a secondary action, this navigation bar (lets not call it sidebar now to avoid confusion) goes on to the right.

This is again why blogs usually have a right side navigation bar by default. Because the latest post on a blog is the most important thing. It should come on the left side. Archived posts from last-times is something that is a secondary option for user to look. Hence, on the right side. I believe yours is a similar case with latest news instead of latest blog post.

And as Charles mentioned, right hand navigation is perfectly valid option. You should make your decision solely based on the functionality/data that the sidebar/nav. bar is going to perform i.e. if it is primary or not.

  • Hi Sylar, Thanks for your answer. I am almost agree with you. I think If we categories application in a broad term, there are 2 types of applications. 1)Function Based 2)Content based. Function based application like Emails, Skype, Gmail etc. If people are using functionality based application, where they need to complete a task, they want to see function list on left, example gmail, skype, yahoo etc. But if people are using content based application like Newspaper, Blog, etc. They want to see the latest content in first sight, means in left side. Jan 3, 2013 at 18:48

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