I have seen research* noting that there are performance advantages to having scroll bars on the left. But I must admit to being surprised at seeing my TypePad posting interface do this after I tried to paste a URL (using the keyboard) into the active text area. I wasn’t fond of the right-aligned text, but it was kind of cool to see the scroll bar on the left.

I don’t know if what I did with the keyboard did something to the interface, or if it is an IE for XP bug, or what. Anyone know?

* I can’t find it at the moment, but if you have it please post it in the comments.


  1. Wow! Now THAT’S something different.

    Well, without actual facts to back me up, I think there are two good arguments as to where to place vertical scrollbars on an interface. In English speaking countries (or, at least countries where their language is read left-to-right), a person’s eye starts at the top left of an interface, just like they were reading a book. It would appear natural to have scrollbars in the leftside of the interface, just because our eyes would naturally float there anyway.

    However, everyone who uses a computer is conditioned to look for scrollbars on the right side of the interface, since the rest of the world is like that. They bring other knowledge they have from outside, and apply it to the interface that they are looking at right in front of them.

    That is why Dr. Nielsen talks about how there are certain web design standards, and is best that you do certain things if you want your users to be able to understand the information you are trying to portray. Logo is in the top left. Search is near that. Links are underlined. Etc. etc.

  2. You are correct, sir! I should have added that the performance benefit impacts user groups that read primarily left to right. However, I do not buy into the idea that we should continue to use design “standards” just because we don’t want to upset the user.

    QWERTY, QWERTY, QWERTY. For speed and accuracy of data entry (in an era where we don’t have typewriters used much anymore (or at least don’t design for them) the QWETY layout is inefficient. I remember in a class I took about 3 years ago, we designed a key layout to improve data entry speed. All the most common letters were on the “home” row, alternating left and right of the middle keys. Then we added the next most common letters around these accordingly.

    Would a company take a speed hit if we introduced this key layout? Yes! What if it did take a month for most people to catch on… If you could show that once the user group learned to use the new layout that data entry speed and accuracy (data integrity is everything!) would increase by 40% and 30% respectively, how do you weigh that against the learning process?

    I don’t buy that all interfaces should be intuitive as possible. There are many cases where a company’s goal is to increase speed and accuracy. Our usual solutions? Put this list in alpha order, move these fields together, prepopulate this field. Not bad ideas, but I am talking about looking at problems and seeing opportunities, not just solutions.

    On a related note, all my links on this site are blue and underlined. I did that because of the “standard” that URLs are blue and underlined. I realize this standard is broken everywhere and perhaps it is becoming less of a standard. I suppose I should find the stats. Of course, I couldn’t help by bucking the system and choosing my own particular… idiom of blue.

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