[MUD-Dev] META: Web site backgrounds and readability

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Tue Apr 14 21:35:57 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On 04:16 PM 4/14/98 +0000, I personally witnessed J C Lawrence jumping up
to say:
>There is no navigation bar on the left.  There is a navigation bar on
>the right however, which I'll assume you are referencing.  
>This is a function of browser display width and the way tables are
>handled.  Its not cute, and it could possibly be addressed with style
>sheets were I willing to cut off the large the non-CSSS-capable
>browsing public.  

As opposed to violating the web design guidelines in HTML 4.0 ;)

>There isn't a whole lot I can do there, and there
>are extremely good reasons to place such navigation tables on the
>right vs the left

Personally, I've always balanced the right/left thing like this. 

If you put the navigation on the right, then the cursor is more likely to
be right over there since most people put the mouse on the right of the
screen and swing it outward to the right in order to get the cursor out of
the viewing area. Makes the site more ergonomic. (For everyone else. I use
a Logitech TrackMan, so it's actually more ergonomic for me to spin the
cursor over to the left. If you've ever used one, you understand.)

If you put it on the left, the user is used to seeing it there, so he feels
more comfortable. In addition, in a framed site, if the sidebar doesn't
scroll (which it usually doesn't) and the main viewing area does (which it
usually does), the scrollbar goes at the edge of the window where it
"belongs" instead of in between the frames which looks rather weird,
visually jarring, and quite annoying. 

In short, the sidebar *should* be on the right in purely technical terms.
However, when you actually do this, you'll find that the site is just plain
uncomfortable for most people... and they won't really know why. The most
verbose description you'll get from the average person would be "It just
doesn't (look/feel) right". In the end, they won't like it, and won't be
able to articulate the reasons well enough for themselves to say "Oh, that
isn't a big deal, I can live with that". This often slips by testing,
because the developer says "Oh, see, it's because of the sidebar being on
the right" and then the testers go "Oh! Okay! Yeah, that's it!" and then
they all tell each other about it, and it's not a problem. However, the
developer isn't there with the rest of the users to tell them this little
tidbit, so they end up disliking the web site for some reason and not
knowing why and possibly attaching some strange reason to it. 

So I always put it on the left. Mostly because I'm more interested in
having a wide audience than I am in having a technically perfect site. Same
reason I use FONT tags instead of stylesheets... I'd prefer to use
stylesheets, because I'm a little bit anal retentive and secretly afraid
the W3C police will come banging on my door and revoke my web developer's
license, but I just don't see the tradeoff as being worth it until the
browsers at least support the whole CSS baseline. Scratch that, IE almost
does, so: Until NETSCAPE supports the whole CSS baseline. ;)

Usability note for framed sites, considering the last message I wrote up...
putting the sidebar on the right or along the bottom and not using a top
frame might actually put the initial cursor focus in the main window where
it belongs. Hmmm.

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