Has Google sparked a trend which spells the end for left hand navigation?

It may seem like a trivial change to some, but the recent update to Google’s navigation bar has, for many, signalled the end of an era when it comes to web design.

The acclaimed search engine has unveiled a subtle upgrade to it’s navigation in recent weeks – as opposed to being displayed on the left of the page, navigation now takes pride of place at the top and centre. Being a big name when it comes to the web, this may well set a trend for web developers to take note of. The reasons behind the change have not been officially cited, but we at The Studio 4 have our own theories.

Left hand navigation used to be accepted as the standard, mainly due to the way we tend to read and take in information (ie: In western cultures, from left to right). Not only this, but it provided the opportunity for an infinite amount of categories, subcategories and pages to be included, if necessary. However, the longer the left hand navigation on any given webpage grew, the larger the amount of empty space would be left in it’s wake.

That’s not to say that top navigation is without it’s flaws, either. The fixed amount of space presented at the top of a website can be limiting to a designer, for example. Sites that adopt this kind of structure also tend to require a certain amount of scrolling before the valuable content is visible to the visitor, as well.

Despite this, though, the majority of websites in recent years have been choosing the option that Google has favoured. Arguably, this could be because ‘top’ is a more universal navigation solution across a wider variety of platforms (mobile devices and tablets included), and that this shift is a sign that improvements in technology are affecting our choices in design. It’s equally as acceptable to suggest that it is simply a matter of personal taste, too. Until Google clarifies it’s reasoning, we can only speculate.

Being a household name, companies like Google are credible authorities when it comes to trendsetting and setting a standard for other aspiring businesses to follow, but whether this move will truly signify the end for left hand navigation still remains to be seen. Perhaps it is merely a matter of preference, or maybe it is a sign of bigger changes to come.

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