I've been noticing an increasing number of new dashboard design that use an icon based left sidebar as oppose to top nav. Is there a UX reason for this change or is this strictly a design trend?
JIRA as of last week
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It is likely to give the content more height to work with.
The various ui elements at the top and bottom of the screen, menu, address bar, favourite, other toolbar, footer, start-bar/dock and you end up with a very letter boxed view of the content.
Particularly as websites depend on scrolling and don't have control of these other desktop level ui elements, moving their own ui elements off to the side could reduce scrolling, as more height to a page can be shown at any one time.