Left or Right Rail Navigation?

I recently switched the navigation on the SEO Training subdomain to be on the left side rather than the right side. The reason for doing this was that it has folding tree navigation based on where you are in the training part of the site, and having the navigation change over on the right side of the page was probably a bit confusing for some users.

But now the navigation on the training part is on the left side and I still have the navigation for the blog part of this site on the right side. Should I move the blog navigation to the left side or no?

Potential rewards:

  • makes site look more uniform, which could aid usability and be considered important now that we have 3 major subdomains on the site (community, tools, and training)
  • this could also make it easier to run seasonal specials and marketing promotions in the navigation area of the blog

Potential draw backs:

  • Having the design look different really helps people see when they are in a different part of the site. Blending it all together may undercut that a bit.
  • I am quite used to right rail navigation on this blog...ever since 2003! but maybe sentimental reasons have little value here

What do you think?

Published: March 13, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Jeremy Palmer
March 13, 2008 - 8:50am

I personally prefer blog navigation on the right side. It's a convention that is used on most blogs and is very familiar.

While the left nav may offer more continuity, I think it helps distinguish the content by staying on the right side.

Just my 2 cents.

March 14, 2008 - 8:27pm

There actually has been a lot of testing on website navigation and website design internet marketing success.
Since there is so much I will focus only on your initial question: Left or Right Navigation.

The tests involve multi-million dollar eye-tracking, body movement, heart rate monitors, and much more...

There are three types of website users:
Ones who focus on the right hand corner, look across the top, and then drops down the left navigation. Others who do the same but drop down the center instead. The last type search the website from the bottom up.

You may have heard of something could the Famous "C" Navigation. All this means is that the navigation forms a C shape - Top Navigation, Left Navigation, Bottom Navigation (bottom usually repeats the top).

The C-Navigation has been proven time and time again to work the best, especially for e-Commerce website.

In regards to the right hand column:
This is often times called the SAVE column. The reason being is that this is the last place a customer looks before existing a webpage. Many e-Commerce website will place Discount Ad Offers here for this reason. The right hand column should have all of your special offers, discounts, and anything that you feel will compel a visitor to stay and convert - sign up for an e-mail newsletter, purchase something, etc. This is also a good place for testimonials.

I hope this answers your question.

Mantic Business Brand Solutions
Justin Pinkus
(site won't go live until next week)

November 25, 2008 - 5:07pm

I agree. I'm just redesigning a site for a major entertainment company and I'm suggesting top nav, nav down the left rail, and at bottom (footer)

I think this covers eye patterns of most users and some good SEO principles of multiple links to content areas.

March 13, 2008 - 9:43am

Many of the people I know prefer left nav. I made the nav on my blog on the right though so people can still see most of the page when viewing 800x600. As long as the nav doesnt cover the important pages when viewed in smaller resolutions thats fine with me.

March 13, 2008 - 11:09am

Personally I like left nav because it's easier to skip a set different left and start reading that start reading and then get interrupted by a nav.
I do like right Nav for looking different though, especially as Palconit said it fits on blogs because I am used to seeing it now.

March 13, 2008 - 12:18pm

I'd leave the blog with right nav to help users distinguish it from the training area. Also, eye tracking studies have shown right nav to be very effective. It's also a great placement strategy (above the fold) for Adsense or other monetization.

March 13, 2008 - 1:15pm

Hey Aaron,

Leave the navigation on the right side of your blog. I would even return the navigation on the Training page to the right side.

As like the poster above pointed ( eye tracking ), but not only that. But also because the people are used to have sidebar on the right side for most information site ( sample: blogs ).

As what I would only try is to maybe create two sidebars on your blog just to test the ad's on the sidebar.

Hrvoje Livnjak

March 13, 2008 - 2:13pm

For the training subdomain I clearly see where the left nav bar would be more conventional. Kind of like when you open a PDF training/instructional guide, and it has the index of chapters/sections on the left side.

I was initially going to say the blog sidebar should stay on the right side (normal for blogs), but I could see where it may be beneficial to have it on the left side for site consistency, or even for the potential of more clickthroughs for the promotional links (which is what is mostly on the right). Might be a good scenario for testing.

As a note, I really think on blogs the right-side is generally ignored. I recently made it a point to actually look at the ads on another popular site, because though I visit often, I'm really blind to whatever is to the right of the post.

I will add one thing I REALLY like about your site navigation is the previous post/next post at the top of each entry. On other sites I see it at the bottom beneath comments, or in a sidebar of recent posts (like your recent comments section), and it is not nearly as convenient as your site.

March 13, 2008 - 3:59pm

Just a general critique of your design - - you might want to update to a more structured page (e.g. some delineated columns) given the amount of info you're sporting on the blog sidebar these days.

I like what Brian Clark did - and this site is reminiscent of the original Copyblogger theme (for good reason, considering you both used Pearson).

March 13, 2008 - 4:14pm


I have both IE7 and Firefox running. The SEO Training navigation is still showing on the right hand side on Internet Explorer 7. However, the navigation does show on the left hand side on Firefox.

As far as my preference, the left hand side navigation feels more natural to me.

March 13, 2008 - 9:46pm

Did you hit control-F5? I am hoping you have a cached CSS page there Carlos or I hosed something up.

March 13, 2008 - 10:29pm

you were correct. Nav is on left hand side now.

March 13, 2008 - 4:36pm

I read in one SEO book that the right side was better for two reasons: (a) we tend to read from left to right and (b) search engines give more weight to the items on the right. I'm not sure about "b". My navigation remains on the left side for all of my websites.

March 13, 2008 - 9:45pm

I just wanted to clarify that search engines typically look at th source code of the actual page more than the page layout and text itself. Changing the positioning of the navigation was as simple as changing a couple lines of CSS code.

March 13, 2008 - 7:59pm

I'd go for rock-solid-same on your navigations layout, but differentiate your large subsections via color scheme. Currently your site-wide scheme is green heavy (first color in your logo, solid color bar above navigational header, color of subject headers, and footer highlighting). You could trend slate blue for the training section, silver/gray for your tools (like the disabled SEOtools icon in Firefox when someone installs your toolset), and navy for your community. Also highlighting the portion on the header nav that corresponds to a visitor's current location should help remove confusion. And finally you can just write, "BLOG" or "COMMUNITY" etc. above the top of that corresponding menu. All in all, there are tons of ways you can address this via design without odd tweaks in usability, if so your reasons for making navigation universally the same stack up 3 to 1.

March 14, 2008 - 12:56am


Traditionally I've always put nav on the left or top, but I think the right side has become common and acceptable for blogs. Then again, if your target audience to the SEO Training subdomain isn't savvy in the blogosphere, it may not be as intuitive.

Keep the great content coming.

March 14, 2008 - 11:29pm

Lots of great feedback. Thanks everyone. :)

March 15, 2008 - 4:30am

Not sure as of this minute but at some point, not far back, only the first instance of anchor text to Page A on any given page would be counted. So if the left nav code comes before the copy (assuming not linked in header) then you'd get stuck only internally optimizing (via anchor text) for the one phrase.

March 15, 2008 - 5:23am

The sidebar location is entirely css driven...I didn't change the actual page code, but just the css file.

March 16, 2008 - 9:50pm

While you are at it you might look at the archives link. It took me a good while to find it. You could have it like Wp templates, a link after the last post for the archives (or previous page).

March 16, 2008 - 10:32pm

Hi Antonio
Now that I took that link out of the sidewide navigation at the top and bottom I need to add it in at the bottom of the page above the global navigation (especially the blog hompeage).

March 18, 2008 - 12:02pm

Late to the party, but I wanted to second what chuckallied said - use visual clues other than the navigation placement to indicate section changes.

Moving the navigation around based on what I clicked in the top nav is an unexpected change. When visitors come to your site, they'll create a mental model of how it works. Don't change it except to increase usability.


1) Consider changing the colour of the green bar about the nav and using h1 colours that match.

2) Highlight the current section by changing the background colour of the active section in the top nav (e.g., keep the mouseover colour when that section is active).

March 18, 2008 - 9:36pm

I still clearly have some work to do on it. I am wondering if the logo colors should change too to match the designs?

March 19, 2008 - 1:37am

I would recommend against changing the colour of the logo itself. The logo is your brand and should stay constant.

Some graphic ideas:

  • Close the gap between the green bar and the nav bar, use the green bar's colour as the highlight colour of the active section (possibly change the drop shadow colour to match)
  • The site is fixed width, so you can work with the unused space beyond the 800 px margin
  • Add a tint to the content area


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