I've been trying to design a new User Interface for the Desktop, while at it a friend has told me about his thoughts on UI design and we had a discussion about the placement of the "clock".

In various UIs such as the Windows taskbar, or the OSX panel the clock is on the right (lower-right and upper-right) this is also present in Android or Windows Phone while it isn't in iOS or Metro where the clock is on the center or on the lower-left corner respectively.

I've place mine on the upper-left corner, is there a proven reasoning behind the placement of the clock in these UIs where the clock is on the right?


4 Answers 4


I don't think it's that the clock should be in a particular location, but rather that it's not in a particular location — namely the upper left, which tends to be the primary focus for most left-to-right language readers (and the clock is usually a secondary bit of information not pertinent to the immediate tasks).

On a phone, however, it is perhaps justified to have it top and center in that a clock is given more importance on a phone than on the desktop, since there are typically many clocks in sight when working from the desktop, whereas when mobile, a user's cell phone often is their timepiece.


F-Shaped Pattern for Reading

People read by scanning to find useful information. In left-to-right languages the scanning pattern often forms an F when measured on web pages.

The same is likely true for desktops. Where the user starts by looking to the upper-left, scanning to the right and then returning to the start of the next visual row. With their eye preferring to stay to the left side of the screen.

enter image description here

On the desktop icons often default to the upper-left position, and on Windows when adding icons the default action is to stack them down the left side.

Footer Is Out Of Sight

User's need access to the task bar on Windows to switch to other applications, see what is running, etc.. etc.. The task bar is deliberately defaulted to the bottom to ensure it does not interfere with viewing the current application. The most important buttons are placed to the left.

Most Common Tasks in Upper Left

The most common task in an application is to open a file. This is why the first menu item is often File, and why the menu is placed in the upper-left position of the screen.

This is where people will first scan the screen to find that most common task.


F-Shaped Pattern For Reading


For Mac OS, the reason is mainly historical. In Mac OS 7, the menu bar did not have a clock:

System 7 menu, no clock

Mac OS 7.5 added a clock to the menu bar, and the best place to put it that didn't require any user retraining was on the right side of the menu (note that it does not displace menu items present in Mac OS 7).

System 7.5 menu, clock

You could also argue that this is because before Mac OS 7.5, the popular shareware program SuperClock that added a clock to the upper right corner did it solely because that was the only place the could prominently place it. When Apple "sherlocked" the functionality for 7.5, they made it identical to how SuperClock displayed the clock, right down to the position in the menu bar.

It is possible that Windows 95 followed this right side of screen convention established by Mac OS, although it's also possible that they independently decided to put the clock in the opposite side of the Start Menu in the bottom left corner, with left being the most prominent side for users of left to right languages. I'm afraid I don't have any evidence either way for the reasoning behind placing the clock there.

After the precedent was set for the clock being on the right side of the screen for both Mac OS and Windows, it seems that the established convention is largely what keeps it in that place on desktops, although it doesn't necessarily explain why it is in that location on mobile devices.


No, I think there is no such specific reason behind the placement of position of clock.

You can place it anywhere, but placing it on the upper right corner will grab user's attention quickly as the user usually has habit of seeing the clock on this position.

Hope this may help.

  • 7
    Hi there, Downvote should be accompanied with any comment so that the correct answer/thing should be clear to the person who had given the answer. Jun 18, 2013 at 8:21
  • 1
    I suspect it's probably just a habit as it was on the upper right on the original 1980s Mac interface.
    – PhillipW
    Jun 18, 2013 at 10:19
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    @kedar: The point about grabbing user's attention is not necessarily true. Windows users have the habit of seeing the clock in the bottom right corner, not upper right.
    – SNag
    Jun 18, 2013 at 10:22
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    Thanks SNag for being more clear. I have just added one possibility here. I am considering here the user's normal perspectives about viewing any particular thing at a particular fixed place. That's it. :) Jun 18, 2013 at 11:03
  • 2
    @kedar Though I didn't downvote your answer, but this needs to be said. Downvotes do not have to be accompanied with anything. If it pleases the voter, they have the freedom to downvote for any reason they want. A downvoter, or an upvoter for that matter, owes no explanation whatsoever.
    – Adi
    Jun 18, 2013 at 15:46

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