APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

Is your website a lefty or a righty?

© June 2008 Anthony Lawrence

I've seen a lot of nonsense around the web on the subject of left hand columns vs. right hand. Much of it is written by people who really don't have a clue what they are talking about. There are people who don't even know anything about basic HTML handing out advice about the mechanics of page construction.. and of course their lack of knowledge leads them to foolish statements.

For example, you can find a lot of people parroting wisdom similar to this:

Web pages tend to load top to bottom, left to right, so a slow loading widget in a left column could block the site content until it is fully loaded.

That was true when people used table based layouts, but nowadays almost everyone uses CSS. The left column that you see on this page actually loads LAST - if you "View Source" you'll find that it is actually at the very bottom of the page. It wouldn't matter what I put in that column: the main text will load and display before that.

By the way, you probably don't need to know anything about CSS. Most (if not all) popular blogging platforms use CSS for positioning: if you select a left hand column layout, the actual code for that will almost certainly be found at the bottom of the HTML source.

Another common contention is that left or right is preferred by users:

Usability and navigation are affected by left versus right.

Interestingly, you'll find people arguing both sides of that question, some insisting that left is better and some just as firmly arguing that right columns are better for users. The conventional wisdom in the blogging community is that left hand columns are bad (usually bolstered by the "pages load top to bottom" nonsense), but other Internet denizens tend to argue for lefty columns.

This study expected to find that right hand columns were better for usability and navigation, but the results showed no advantage to either side.

A quick look at any newspaper or magazine probably should have told them that: both sidebars and ads often are found in left or right hand columns. If one definitely worked better, you wouldn't see the other.

Though when it comes to placing effective ads, Google is strongly in favor of the left hand column. They of course have a lot of real data to back that up: they know what positions work best.

However, there's something to be said about "ad blindness". If people are used to seeing ads in certain positions wherever they wander on the Web, having your ads in a different position could be smart.. but you need to test to know that.

By now you've probably noticed that I use left hand columns here. I do that because my testing has shown that left hand placement works best for me: it increases page views per visits and ad income. But that doesn't mean that you should use left hand columns - and it doesn't mean that you shouldn't. What you should do is experiment, track and record so that you KNOW what works best for your site.

Don't listen to so-called "experts" (especially the ones with no knowledge of technology). Test, test and retest. Tools like Google Analytics make that easy to do.

Got something to add? Send me email.

(OLDER)    <- More Stuff -> (NEWER)    (NEWEST)   

Printer Friendly Version

-> Left columns or right columns - does it matter?


Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of iCloud, Fifth Edition

Take Control of Numbers

Digital Sharing Crash Course

Take Control of Apple Mail, Third Edition

Take control of Apple TV, Second Edition

More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Mon Jun 16 16:20:18 2008: 4338   EllenWilson

Hi Tony,

Finally figured out how to comment on your blog! Better late than never.

I like righthand columns because my eye is drawn to that side of the monitor. It doesn't feel balanced with columns on the left.

I suppose it all has to do with point of view, though.


Mon Jun 16 21:14:18 2008: 4339   TonyLawrence

For me, it's a matter of what's most effective. I primarily use columns to increase pageviews, and my testing definitely shows LH working far better than right.. of course that can change, so every now and then I have to repeat the tests.


Printer Friendly Version

Have you tried Searching this site?

This is a Unix/Linux resource website. It contains technical articles about Unix, Linux and general computing related subjects, opinion, news, help files, how-to's, tutorials and more.

Contact us

Printer Friendly Version

Educate the children and it won't be necessary to punish the men. (Pythagoras)

Linux posts

Troubleshooting posts

This post tagged:


Unix/Linux Consultants

Skills Tests

Unix/Linux Book Reviews

My Unix/Linux Troubleshooting Book

This site runs on Linode