Not that long ago the more common computer resolution setting was 800×600 pixels. This meant that if your website and page template had a width setting of more than 800 pixels your visitors would need to scroll to the right to see the rest of your content. Because of this you would find a sidebar on the right side of the page. You probably want your visitors to see your main primary content without having to scroll. At the same time, it meant that a lot of visitors didn’t bother scrolling to the right just to see advertisements and promotions.
As computer monitors improved and we have pretty impressive resolution capabilities the need to scroll to the right is becoming obsolete. There are a few 800×600 users out there yet, but the numbers are shrinking substantially. Less than 1% of my visitors had an 800×600 resolution in 2011, and less than 5% with all resolutions of 800×600 or less. Put another way 95% of my visitors in 2011 all had 1024 x 768 or higher setting.
What that amounts to is since my site and pages are set to approximately 1000 pixels 95% or my visitors don’t have to do any scrolling to the left or right. It all fits on the screen for these visitors. The only thing they have to do is scroll up or down the page.
It still leaves 5% that would need to scroll to the left or right, but I would be surprised if the 5% doesn’t continue to drop. I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming years if 1200 to 1400 pixel width doesn’t become more standard, but that is another story for another day.
If you review the monitor resolutions I posted in: Ads Above the Fold Don’t Get Hit by the Google Hammer you can see the majority of visitors have a 1024 or above setting.
For some reason a right sidebar has stuck all these years because it is by far the most common location today. There are left sidebars out there, but the right side continues to be the popular choice.
I haven’t performed any extensive testing on left sidebar vs. right sidebar, and I rarely see it talked about. I am wondering if moving it from the right to the left would have any noticeable effect.
One article that I did manage to find said:
People spent more than twice as much time looking at the left side of the page as they did the right:
- Left half of screen: 69% of viewing time
- Right half of screen: 30% of viewing time
The remaining 1% of viewing time was spent to the right of the initially-visible 1,024 pixels.The article is from April 2010 so it’s not that old. You can check it yourself here: Horizontal Attention Leans Left.
I think people are pretty good at tuning out the sidebar and contents because they assume there will be ads and things they are not interested in, and website ads seem to be on the rise. As they read a blog, article, or post their focus is the top left side of the page because that is where they would start to read. Not that they wouldn’t see the right sidebar either, but I am really starting to think most people focus on the left side of a page more.
If that were the case your most important content at the top in a left sidebar could see an increase in click through and visits. Of course there are a lot of things to consider from the percentage of visits with a 1024 resolution or greater, to how your template/theme is designed, and more.
Am I saying re-code or switch your site all around? Heck no! I am just wondering if there would be any noticeable differences between the two. One of these days I may have to run a test of my own for a month or so to see what happens. If an 800×600 resolution was still popular and widely used I wouldn’t even think about it. However, since they are a dying breed it is definitely something I am considering at least testing.
What do you think? Does it really matter what side of the page the sidebar is on?