Going Horizontal

(via Smashing Magazine)

Edison Morais over at Smashing Magazine has authored a post dis­cussing hor­i­zon­tal nav­i­ga­tion lay­outs in mod­ern web sites and web appli­ca­tions. This was of inter­est to me as I had toyed with the idea of pre­sent­ing my site in a hor­i­zon­tal lay­out sev­eral years ago. I man­aged to cob­ble together a work­ing pro­to­type and was iron­ing out some final details when I decided to scrap it.

The lay­out worked well and nav­i­ga­tion was not hor­ri­bly tedious, but the con­tent did not fit well with the lay­out. Edison gives a few exam­ples of hor­i­zon­tal lay­out use. The first is Plurk, a micro blog­ging social net­work. The sec­ond item men­tioned is PicLens which is not a web site, but rather a Firefox plug-in for photo and video nav­i­ga­tion on the web. The last exam­ple is a designer Dean Oakley’s web site.

I would argue that the only one of the three that is com­fort­ably usable is Dean Oakley’s site, and this is only because he has taken time to cre­ate a good nav­i­ga­tion scheme with promi­nent quick­links through­out. Horizontal lay­outs tend to favor a slower pace when being used. This is in large part because our sys­tems are designed for ver­ti­cal layouts.

I dis­like the use of the hor­i­zon­tal lay­out on Plurk. Aside from the spo­ken name sound­ing like one of my cats vom­it­ing, the lay­out is one of sev­eral rea­sons why I decided not to use Plurk; but that is another story for another time.

Is hor­i­zon­tal lay­out fea­si­ble from a usabil­ity per­spec­tive? With the pop­u­lar­ity of the iPhone and the par­a­digm of “slid­ing” appli­ca­tion menus from side to side, will users become more accepting?

Of course, inter­face changes would need to be made to mimic the behav­ior, so per­haps hold­ing down a mouse but­ton and flick­ing the pointer  to one side could pro­vide the same user expe­ri­ence. I am tempted to res­ur­rect my hor­i­zon­tal lay­out and have another go at apply­ing it to some­thing fun.