Horizontal scrolling

I’ve seen a fair few sites recently that have adopted horizontal scrolling and it’s a trend I’d rather not see, purely from a users point of view. I know it’s different and every designer is looking to make their sites stand out but unless you have really noticeable visual cues to tell the user to scroll from left to right instead of up & down, then you’re only going to confuse your users.

This has come about after a recent tweet from Smashing Magazine about Australian print & digital studio, Small Studio

It’s a very nice site with some really subtle details which make the site infinitely better but even though I had read the tweet about it being a horizontal scroller, I loaded the page and instantly tried scrolling with my mouse-wheel.


I instantly thought the page hadn’t finished loading. It’s clear that there should be more info but I couldn’t scroll down to see it.

Mild confusion ensued.

What might be a nice way around it is to use some jQuery to switch the mouse wheel motion from vertically to horizontally as described on this Horizontal Scroll with Mouse Wheel post on CSS-Tricks.

It’s not as if it’s the end of the world though is it? We’re merely going against convention. This has come from literally the entire lifetime of the net, pages have been… well, pages! You read from top to bottom in a vertical manner.

This harks back to what a fair few people have been saying (Mark Boulton – A new Canon & Owen Gregory – Composing the New Canon: Music, Harmony, Proportion); the web needs a new canon. It needs it’s own language. Why do pages need to scroll vertically? What do we need to have boundaries for each page, why is a page called a page?

But that is a topic for another day…


  • 02 Jul 2012 10:15:13

    I’m not a design teccy or anything but on average, I think most people generally use the traffic light code, red being bad/stop , green being good/correct , and yellow/orange being hmm this could be okay lol :)

  • 04 Jul 2012 09:22:01

    Oh – missed this post. You need to consider cultures when it comes to colour – here’s why

  • 27 Jul 2012 15:23:04

    I like this post, it’s always intrigued me as to how so-called average users interpret what we spend so much time thinking about. In most cases I think there’s a difference between comments like ‘it’s just a colour’ and the reality when it comes to their approach to interaction. What’s great about this post is it demonstrates exactly that, the user that believes colour on a UI is ‘just a colour’ is or could be the same user that later relies on that same feedback to let them know what’s wrong.

    I’m torn in the convention arguement though, I tend to find that it’s more important to be consistent than it is to follow convention – it depends on the context. It’s true if traffic lights were all changed over night I’m pretty sure there’d be some horrendous accidents but if you change your css overnight but the feedback messages, colours and structure remain consistent, I’m fairly sure users would cope.

    Great post, always an interesting topic to investigate how different types of user and IT literacy interpret interaction and UI.

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