Left Sidebar vs Right Sidebar – Which One Performs Better?

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Lots of people have lots of opinions on whether a left sidebar or a right sidebar is better for conversion.

There are a bunch of posts about it across the web but no one ever backs it up with data.

So I decided to run an experiment on this blog to see which performs better, a left sidebar or a right sidebar.

Personally I’m expecting the left sidebar to perform better than the right sidebar, but let’s see if I can back that opinion up with some data.

Left Sidebar Vs Right Sidebar – Fight!

I setup a split test on this blog, all I had to do was change one CSS value from right to left, and another CSS value from left to right – simple!

This is what the blog looked like-

sidebar split test

I think the left sidebar looks pretty ugly to be honest, which is actually a good thing.

I don’t know why but for some reason ugly designs generally convert better – I suppose the same is true in the pub when you think about it ^^

Desperate nerd humour, I’m here all week!

Anyway – I setup the test on May 13th and let it run until May 24th exposing both setups to a total of 8,428 unique visitors.

Left Sidebar vs Right Sidebar Test Results

I decided to look at how the change in the left sidebar and right sidebar affected key metrics such as-

  1. Bounce rate
  2. Visit duration
  3. Pages per visit
  4. Conversion (email subscription/affiliate click/resource downloads)

I also decided to segment the data in 2 ways-

  1. All Visitors – A look at all traffic both new & returning
  2. New Visitors – Just new visitors – it is likely that returning visitors are already ‘trained’ to use the site. New visitors provide a ‘fresh’ look

You can click on any of the images below to get the full versions.

So first of all let’s take a look at how it affected all visitors.

All Visitors

Bounce rate, visit duration & pages per visit are up first-

left sidebar vs right sidebar engagement results

And then conversion…

left sidebar vs right sidebar conversion results

Let’s break it down in table format to make it a bit easier to read, digest & compare.

Sidebar Pages/Visit Visit Duration Bounce Rate Goal Conversion
Left 2.35 00:03:56 60.76% 7.88%
Right 2.39 00:04:00 61.42% 8.13%

As you can see the differences really are marginal at best. The right sidebar does seem to perform slightly better, but its nothing to write home about.

Perhaps this is because my returning visitors are already ‘conditioned’ or ‘trained’ for the blog to look a certain way.

Let’s take a look at how new visitors react to sidebar alignment.

New Visitors

Bounce rate, visit duration & pages per visit are up first-

new visitors traffic engagement

And then conversion…

new visitors conversion

Let’s break it down in table format to make it a bit easier to read, digest & compare.

Sidebar Pages/Visit Visit Duration Bounce Rate Goal Conversion
Left 1.89 00:02:39 70.92% 6.27%
Right 1.92 00:02:54 71.22% 6.32%

As you can see there really isn’t much in it!

Although the right sidebar does perform slightly better as seen with the all traffic segment above.

Wrapping It Up

Based on my data I’m lead to believe that the sidebar position is mostly irrelevant.

Although the right sidebar did offer better pages/visit, visit duration and goal conversion there was barely anything in it.

Kinda feel cheated now after reading all of these exciting theories on which performs better =/

I’ll be honest I did expect the left sidebar to perform better due to the way we scan content and take it in.

It seems that as web users have become more savvy and particularly in this niche people are pre-trained to certain elements.

So as long as the sidebar is where people expect it be, at the side – it doesn’t matter if its left or right aligned!

You would be much better off worrying about the colour of your buttons or identifying & focusing converting traffic instead!

What Are Your Thoughts?

101 Responses

  1. After exploring a handful of the blog articles on your web page, I honestly appreciate your way of blogging.I book-marked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my website as well and tell me what you think.

  2. Excellent article! We will bee linking to this particularly great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  3. I think results will depend on what you actually put in your sidebar. if your objective is to have people read and take action on your main content, rather than click on links in the sidebar, i would stick with the sidebar right layout, because by reversing it, you are forcing people to adjust their natural eye scanning. Natural scanning starts top left and works its way down a relative narrow path, with occasional glances to the right. When reversed, you are continually interrupting the flow of what the site visitor is expecting to see on the page. So unless you want visitors to be continually interrupted – which i think would also be subliminally annoying, keep right on!

  4. How about not having a “sidebar”.I think because of the “banner blindness” phenomena, people no longer look at what you’ve in the sidebar.A Minimalist theme without a sidebar looks much better to me, as it has a focus on content more, and makes people feel more engaged with your “awesome” content.I remember seeing a test somewhere about this – “sidebar” vs “no sidebar” thing.It would be great if you can test this out!Cheers,

  5. I just building playing around with the sidebars on my site and was wondering, “Has anyone tested this?”. A quick google search revealed that there was indeed an awesome person who tested it and posted their results. Thanks man, appreciate it.

  6. I vote for no side bar. The content is much more immersive without a sidebar, especially one with ads, flashy banners and the like. If I must, I’d have aside content under the main article on post pages. On archive type pages or category pages it doesn’t matter so much.

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