Against the flow; Horizontally scrolling sites

We’ve come a long way since the early days of the web in terms of being able to navigate around a site easily. We’ve moved from keyboards to button-only mice, from scroll-wheels to mighty and magic mice and mutli-touch trackpads. Getting around a webpage is easier than ever.

Horizontal websites scroll-bars

Horizontally scrolling sites have always been in a minority but seem to have increased in popularity in recent years. We’ve never made one ourselves, partly as it’s only a choice suitable for a certain projects (nearly exclusively portfolio sites) but also the combination of hardware limitations, finger dexterity and need to include additional UI instructions make it a difficult decision to justify. The experience of navigating a horizontally scrolling site with a mouse is simply too much of a usability obstacle.

But the mobile revolution has thrown an interesting curve ball into the mix that few (if any) have yet to exploit. On a smart phone the traditional scroll direction of up/down is maintained for most experiences that with one-handed operation must be used by the thumb. The thumb moves left/right almost as naturally as it does up/down (something the index finger on a mouse does not), a point that has been utilised by some native app experiences such as turning the page in iBooks or accessing additional information in tweetbot. With the introduction of tablets the gesture of swiping your hand led by a finger is as natural as turning the page in a book, but the convention has mostly been to skeuomorphically imitate that page turn metaphor or simply access an additional layers of information inside a traditional vertically scrolling interface. Or simply unlock your phone.

Skeuomorphic iPhone unlock screen

We think it might be an interesting experiment to use a horizontal scroll to deliver a complete mobile web experience. A browser detect could be used to serve a vertically scrolling site to the desktop experience, and a reformatted horizontally scrolling one to a mobile/tablet. We imagine media-queries could probably be used in much the same way with a bit of customization. There would certainly be some limitations with regards to fixing the height as any device rotates but these variables can also be detected today and so the format could rearrange responsively to fit. See our rough example below. We imagine there would other technical challenges in implementing this solution but none so insurmountable to make the idea an impossibility.

Horizontally responsive mobile example

Clearly limited to less-copy driven sites still, as the natural reading format of left-right top-bottom, but could this be an area yet to be explored? Have you seen any examples of horizontal scrolling and responsive design used in this way? Is it even possible? We think there’s some untapped potential in this usually unpopular web-design choice. Keen to hear all and any thoughts.

If we get the opportunity we’ll also explore the idea further ourselves. If it works we may even use this in a future project.

 

Creative Design May 6th 2012

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A call to action is a marketing term that refers to a prompt that invokes a response leading to a sale. When referring to a call to action (CTA) in the digital design world we usually mean the interactive element that leads to the next step in the experience - something that needs to be clicked or tapped.

User testing

User testing refers to a technique used in the design process to evaluate a product, feature or prototype with real users. There are several reasons why you might want to undergo usability testing, the most common is that it allows the design team to identify friction in a user experience they are designing, so that it can be addressed before being built or deployed.

WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG (pronounced WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get". It helps identify an an interface that allows user input resulting in an output that is rendered in a similar way. For example; a word processor application interface might resemble a piece of paper,so when printed the user can see how the output will appear.

Content Management System

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Responsive Web Design

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User Stories

User stories allow the functionality of a product or service to be expressed as written descriptions of an experience as seen from the users perspective. The writing of user stories creates a list of design and development tasks to complete in order to create any required functionality.

User Interface

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Card sorting

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Brainstorming

A technique used to generate ideas around a specific topic. Often done in groups, but can be done individuals. The process usually involves writing down all ideas around a topic onto paper, a whiteboard or stickies often implying some kind of association.

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User journey

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Prototype

A prototype is draft representation built to test ideas for layout, behaviour and flow in a system. Prototypes are an indispensable tool for resolving a large number of potential issues in a concept or business before too many resources are deployed to put a design into production.

Wireframes

A Wireframe is a visual schematic that conveys a basic level of communication, structure and behaviour during the design of a system. Wireframes are low-fidelity designs that bypass including a detailed user interface or visual design, conveying just enough to get across the core idea.

Usability

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Information Architecture

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UI Design

User Interface Design is the discipline of designing software interfaces for devices, ideally with a focus on maximising efficiency, responsiveness and aesthetics to foster a good user experience.

UX Design

The practice of User Experience (UX) Design is the coming together of many specific design related disciplines to improve the usability, responsiveness, uptake and aesthetics of a product or service.

User Experience

A general term that covers all aspects of a user's participation while engaging with something that has been designed. Usually when talking about User Experience in the digital design field it refers to the interactions, reactions, emotions and perceptions while using an app, service, website or product.

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