Use and abuse of the left side link area

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Use and abuse of the left side link area

Postby Erin Paseka » Mon May 16, 2005 11:16 am

Once in a while I'm told by one coworker or another--perfectly reasonable people who have never built or maintained a website--that our primary navigation should be on the side. I make my best case but my reasoning doesn't sink in, so I resort to changing the subject to aspects of our site that I *am* willing to change, hoping the menus will be forgotten.

Obviously this is not a viable long-term solution. There will soon come a time when I can't dodge this anymore. Does anybody else have this problem? Am I right that it's a significantly bad idea? Does anybody have a really convincing low-tech spiel about appropriate use of the templates?

Here's a typical (paraphrased) conversation:
    Coworker: They've done studies--the left side is always where people look for navigation. Ours should be on the left.
    Me: Sure, left-side navigation is common, but UNL's web design guys do their homework, and they wouldn't have put the navigation on top if their research said that would confuse people.
    Coworker: Well, what if we just recreate the main menu on the side? You can still leave it on top, too, if you have to.
    Me: Visitors might never find our second-level navigation, and they'd "learn" on our site that pages that look like ours have navigation on the side, so they'd be confused on all of the other UNL sites that use the template consistently.
    Coworker: So why don't they all just put their navigation on the side?
    Me: Someday they may decide to put everybody's navigation on the side, but for now, this is how it is. We need to either share their philosophy or abandon the template completely.
    Coworker: No, I like how the template looks. We should keep it but just put our menu someplace different.
    Me [envisioning WDN lynch mob]: The placement of the menu is part of the template. Using that space for our menu would undermine the purpose of having a consistent layout that a visitor only has to learn once.
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Re: Use and Abuse

Postby rcrisler1 » Wed May 18, 2005 4:26 pm

Always a fun conversation. There are differences of opinion, I guess. The one thing we can give to the users is consistency.

And yes, there are lots of reasons to go with a horizontal toolbar for navigation. The primary one is that the full navigation ends up 'above the fold' on any screensize over 800x600. Sidebar navigation can easily be lopped off on smaller screens.

This is a something we can definitely discuss for the next iteration of the site design, though.
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University of Nebraska-Lincoln
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