Did you ever wonder why we put scrollbars on the right? I always thought that they just feel better there because they are a fairly heavy-weight UI component and it makes sense for them to live in a fallow area.

“The Gutenberg Rule, first proposed by typographer Edmund Arnold in the early 1950s, says there are four quadrants on a page: the Primary Optical Area (POA; top left), the Terminal Area (TA; bottom right), the Strong Fallow Area (SFA; top right), and the Weak Fallow Area (WFA; bottom left). The theory says that the eye enters a page in the POA and moves by the most direct route to the TA, via what Arnold calls reading gravity.” — from a Deakin University class

Alan Dix’s article tells a different story. He provides a historical perspective describing systems that positioned scrollbars on the left, and introduces some interesting theories that support the modern convention.

6 thoughts on “why are scrollbars on the right?

  1. I want them on the left! I have a tablet PC, so I hold the screen like a pad of paper – since I’m left handed I can’t read and scroll at the same time. I have to reach over to drag the scroll bars, blocking the main area of the page with my arm!

  2. In the Windows 98 Localized version in Hebrew, all of the operating system was mirrored. This was unnatural and Microsoft quickly backtracked in their future versions.
    I could suggest a special mode for left-handed persons, with the mouse buttons inverted and all of the scroll bars too, but that would cause massive inconsistencies, IMO.

  3. I think it should be an option / i.e. default scrollbars on the left or the right as a browser setting. As a right hander, I would feel like my wires were crossed if the scrollbar was on the left. I imagine many left handers feel the same way..

  4. Personally I don’t care where scrollbars are :))
    But it might be more comfortable for right-handed people to have them on the right.

  5. I think it really should be a browser option… like what we can do in a mouse, we can make it left- or right-handed-friendly…

What do you think?