Often cited usability guru Jakob Nielsen wrote the article “Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes in 2002” and placed on no 3 Horizontal Scrolling as a Web Design mistake with the motivation:
Users hate scrolling left to right. Vertical scrolling seems to be okay, maybe because it's much more common.
Web pages that require horizontal scrolling in standard-sized windows, such as 800x600 pixels, are particularly annoying. For some reason, many websites seem to be optimized for 805-pixel-wide browser windows, even though this resolution is pretty rare and the extra five pixels offer little relative to the annoyance of horizontal scrolling (and the space consumed by the horizontal scrollbar).
Even though the mentioned screen size and preferred web page width is a historical retrospect and not valid on todays’ screen width or web site width, the essence of it could still be valid. I’ve made web sites (SharePoint) wider than 1900 pixel and as an effect the web site scrolls horizontally. It still annoys me, but I’ve been wrong before.
The other view of the horizontal scrolling would be Web Designer Ledgers article “40 of the Best Horizontal Scrolling Web Sites” where they take discuss the possible issues of usability like this:
But What About Usability?
Let’s face it. Usability is an extremely important part of web design and horizontal websites are not very user friendly– yet. However usability is not the most important part of the equation. Those who elevate usability above all often minimize the “design” part of web design. Yes, you can design a very stylized and usable website, but where’s the futuristic and imaginative thinking within a vertical rectangle? The future is a horizontal rectangle. Let’s not forget that there was a time on the internet when the JPEG was not welcomed in web design, because it caused slower loading times. Technology advanced, designers created and users adapted. One day, the same will happen with horizontal websites.
Usability aside, horizontal websites are here to stay. Here’s a look at some of the most inspiring, cutting edge, in-your-face-and-not-going-anywhere horizontal sites.
So here we are, caught in the middle again between history and convention telling us not to scroll horizontal – and the future where horizontal scrolling is here whether we like it or not. Am I just an old fart who doesn’t catch up with the trends? Or have the attitude changed the last ten years on horizontal scrolling on web sites?