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It seems that a new design patterns is becoming more popular in mobile apps. If you look at the latest release of the App Store they use a horizontal swipe pattern in order to navigate through various sections. The use case for this pattern is that you could cram a lot of similar content into a small area.

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On a desktop device with a large screen this pattern could be translated into a scrollable and paginated area as seen on Amazon.

Amazons solution

My intuition says that users will either overlook the pattern or find it cumbersome. I remember that Youtube had a (vertical) scrollable area with related videos, but when it was removed the click through rates increased because the users were able to see more at the same time. What is your experience with this design pattern? Does it work? Should it be avoided?

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2 Answers 2

This isn't a new design pattern. It's a carousel. But, as you say, it does seem to be more popular on mobile as of late. The main benefit is that it keeps the user on the page while giving them the ability to browse more content.

Does it work? Sure, if you want to browse through some more secondary information in a small space. That said, there will be a significant dropoff in click rates after a page or two so don't hide critical information in there.

A big implementation of this pattern is on Netflix. Carousels let them propose multiple, categorized movie suggestions for users to browse without clicking into a category, then backing out to home, then clicking into another category.

I've used this recently in a mobile app where we had multiple items in a list, one of which was a non-critical photo gallery. By employing a carousel we could show a few thumbnail images, let users swipe through more if they like, then get on with the app's main activity.

For more on this pattern and others, check out "Designing Web Interfaces"

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Horizontal scrolling has become cumbersome in comparison to vertical scrolling. With mouse input horizontal scrolling is often better supported by the hardware (scroll wheels). With touch UIs horizontal scrolling is just as easy as vertical scrolling but mixing the 2 is problematic when it's not clear that part scrolls which way (could sure use some visual conventions here).

So overall I'd say there's slight net negative to horizontal scrolling but it does solve some problems when it's useful to display a collection of things in a limited vertical area.

The question is "is there a problem worth the slight increase in cumbersomeness?"

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