Going Horizontal

by Ian W. Parker on August 14, 2008

(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.