Sunday, 12 March 2000
Where should navigation go? An intriguing question that emerged in a conversation with Count Feenstra. He is a Frisian gentleman who asked me once to develop an HTML course. That training was a success. The Count is now a certified HTML developer. He has scribbled his own Count Feenstra site (hertogfeenstra.nl, sorry all Dutch).

I'm wandering from my subject. The count has his navbar at the right hand side, against the main stream. Most sites have a left aligned navigation rail. Is that reason enough to blindly follow the masses?

No, me, myself and I don't have a lot of confidence in the collective intelligence of large groups. The masses are often wrong. Bad design can become standard (www.useit.com/alertbox/991114.html). And nobody will bother to wonder and ponder about it any more.

The Win 3.x File manager had a tree structure on the left hand side for navigating trough the directories. So did the explorers in Windows '95, '98 and NT. Harly any individual still wonders about the quality of that design. Well, the explorer even has a special page in the Interface Hall of Shame (.../shame.htm). That should tell you enough.

Designing Web Usability Still follow the crowds, says Jakob Nielsen, as that is what your readers are used to. Why bother your visitors wit a new style of design? Jakob is right, especially for commercial sites.

But isn't the web the biggest collection of pig headed individuals? There are lots of avant garde sites, who can safely explore useful an useless things.


Monty Python, Life of Brian,
You're all individuals!!!
Yes, we're all indivduals!!
Yes!! We are all different!!!
I'm not

One example is the Looka! weblog (www.gumbopages.com/looka), with indeed a right aligned navigation bar.

There are a number of reasons to go against the wind, an aligning the nav bar right, preferably without a tree structure.

  1. Content first

    A reader primarily visits your site for the content, your message. It is of secondary importance to click to your other gorgeous pages. So, the reader will ignore the links in your nabvar at first. Better align the thing right.
  2. Minimise mouse movements

    It's just a small mouse step van scrollbar to a right aligned navigation bar. Small movements are easier than big ones. Fitts's law put into practice.
  3. Stick out

    Did you notice that this Week's Nut has a right aligned navbar, and that the fist piece of text was right aligned? You did not? Hm, just forget this argument.
For now, the masses rule. Your mouse pointer will often have to run from the far right to the far left. How exhausting for the poor mouse, running up and down the beaten track of worn out pixels. How happy I am with resuable pixels.

Till next week!

Write Lieve.Lola
for questions and problems on love, relationships and happiness.