The Case for Horizontal Scrolling

Source: Stack Overflow

In the last few years, I’ve noticed alot of websites using horizontal scrolling for their navigation. From a design perspective, horizontal scrolling is a type of navigation that is still not widely used. But, it seems to emerging (or-re-emerging) on some websites now. In some respects, horizontal scrolling may actually offer a better alternative to standard vertical navigation.

From a usability perspective, horizontal scrolling is generally considered a poor design choice (sources: Usability.gov, Jakob Nielsen). In usability circles, there is a funny story about how Jakob Nielsen demonstrated his thoughts on horizontal scrolling by nodding his head up and down saying, “vertical scrolling, yes”, then, shaking his head left and right saying, “horizontal scrolling, no”. A great way to make your point. As a usability professional, we need to re-think this “defacto standard”.

Here are some cool examples of where horizontal scrolling with some thoughts on why I think it works.

Portfolio Sites Use Horizontal Scrolling

Home page for The Horizontal Way (SxSW Winner)

So, you want to showcase your work in a cool and interesting way. These sites are using horizontal scrolling to draw attention to their portfolios.

Videos Would Be Hard to Watch Without Horizontal Scrolling

Horizontal scrolling is simply how we navigate when we watch videos. Consider how awkward vertical scrolling would be on You Tube. Watch Stephen Tyler mess up the National Anthem.

Sites That Use Horizontal Scrolling to Mimic Reading

Denny’s home page mimics reading.

For most cultures, the predominant way to read horizontally — left to right, right to left. Sites using horizontal to mimic reading can provide an interesting contrast to sites that use vertical scrolling or pagination. Two examples here: 1) mimicking a book and, 2) mimicking a menu.

Section Seven

Denny’s

Using Horizontal Scrolling for Fun & Games

Kia Picanto shows the car driving.

Sometimes, you just want to have a little fun. Sites are starting to play with horizontal navigation to show off their brand as fun and engaging.

Kia Picanto

Conclusion

With the wide acceptance of tablets and smartphones, horizontal scrolling is no longer a large design and usability issue. You can fin many examples of sites and apps that use horizontal scrolling in very creative ways.

As a usability expert (and a numbers guy), I have always found horizontal scrolling to be a normal user experience on most of the spreadsheets that I create. I just think designers need to make a case for horizontal scrolling from time to time.

Do you know of any cool sites or apps that use horizontal scrolling? I would love to know about them.

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