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I'm working on a (web) design that implements both an identity (user) context, and an organization context -- similar in the way that GitHub allows you to log in as yourself, then be a member of one or more organization and switch between them.

The site design as it currently exists today has a side navigation, and a top context bar, with the identity control residing at the bottom of the nav bar:

[ logo         bread > crumb                          ]
[ nav ]
[ nav ]
[ nav ]


[ usr ]
[ org ]

This obviously deviates from some of the more conventional placements of such a control -- most big players place it top-right, while some do top-middle or top-left.

My question is twofold:

  1. Is there a behavioral or psychological benefit to placing the identity control in the top-right?
  2. Is there a usability downside (or upside) to placing the control in the bottom-left or top-right?
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Is there a behavioral or psychological benefit to placing the identity control in the top-right?

Reading Gravity - Top-right is a 'strong fallow' area

Various models that describe reading gravity (for languages that read left-to-right) make the top-right a 'strong fallow' area. So it's not a primary location in the reading/scanning process, but it gets seen early on, making it a great location for important but secondary actions (actions that are important overall, but not related to the primary function of a specific screen/page)

enter image description here

Is there a usability downside (or upside) to placing the control in the bottom-left or top-right?

Bottom-left doesn't meet users' expectations

Putting links relating to account (login/out, switching, etc.) in the top right is a very common design pattern, and part of designing good interfaces involves meeting user expectations.

By putting this links elsewhere, you're messing with a strong design convention, and potentially making users think and scan unnecessarily.

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The simple fact that "everybody" put the avatar in top-right means it's a well stablished convention. Don't worry about it.

As your design has a side navigation, you can trace a parallel to Google's Material Design: it has a side navigation with a prominent user avatar in top left: https://www.google.com/design/spec/layout/structure.html#structure-side-nav

  • Definitely agree with that it's the right call, but I'm more interested in the why -- hence my accepting Dennis' answer. Thanks for the MD link though, that's a great +1 for the debate. – brandonscript Apr 28 '16 at 20:08

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