I saw these designs by Fred Nerby. He proposed adding horizontal scrolling to Facebook profiles. Is this good UI?
Adding horizontal scrolling to FB is probably not the best idea. But, like most things design, it depends.
In general, horizontal scrolling is:
Bad for Mouse Users
For mouse users, horizontal scrolling can be a jarring & frustrating UX. While nearly all mice have scroll wheels, many don't "lean" left/right, & for the ones that do, being precise is tricky. This means mouse users have to resort to using the scrollbars, which complicates the UI. I'm personally not a fan of scrollbars; they demand a bit too much attention from the user (small click target), & often lend to a poor UX.
Finally, barely anyone knows about holding SHIFT while scrolling your mouse wheel to scroll horizontally (a neat trick to save yourself from a bad horizontal scrolling UX).
Fine for Scroll Ball / Magic Mouse Users
Scrolling horizontally with a scroll ball mouse, as well as a Magic Mouse, is no problem. Those devices were designed with omnidirectional scrolling in mind, so that comes as no surprise. Of course, that's assuming the scroll ball isn't clogged with dust, as they often get.
Mediocre for Trackpad Users
Fun fact: A frightening amount of folks don't know how to "scroll" using their trackpad (e.g. 2-finger gesture for Apple users, along the sides for many PC users). I've had to teach virtually every single non-techie person I've met about this. Often, before the conversation is even over, they've reverted to the scrollbars.
For those that do know how to scroll on their trackpad, direction doesn't usually make a difference.
But, on average, the UX of trackpad horizontal scrolling is about the same as for mice users, because most folks rely on the scrollbars. Trackpads should offer a better UX here. Alas, they often don't.
Fine for Touchscreen Device Users
If we can assume that a user realizes the content area is scrollable omnidirectionally, then the UX of scrolling on a touchscreen device is pretty much perfect.
Of course, we can't actually make that assumption; ergo, the UX for touchscreen devices is more a factor of how well the user is cued into the content area's scrollability.
Personally, I think horizontal scrolling feels… awkward. Too often, it's used as a gimmick, just to make a UI feel different, but not necessarily better. Fred Nerby's proposed UI certainly looks slick, & I get why he chose horizontal scrolling in this case (to avoid reinforcing the sense that you're drilling deep into someone's psyche; big surprise: you are), but I actually take more objection to the minimalist UI (a strange thing, coming from me). We're talking about FB here, & I don't think this UI even comes close to being easy enough for FB.
Actually Ken is wrong.
The percentage of people using Facebook on mobile is greater than desktop. More than half the percentage of users come from mobile on facebook. You can read about it at Breakdown of numbers of Facebook Users Although a mobile does not necessarily indicate a touch device, but a large percentage of those would be touch itself (given their popularity).
And Facebook has over and again said that they want to be a mobile company, focusing on mobile users.
However, I believe horizontal scrolling won't work in such a use case is because if you are on a horizontal flip, it is difficult to go back (the slide is smaller in horizontal than in vertical). On Facebook, I like to scroll my wall up and down for checking updates, since I log in like once or twice a day. This would be a wee bit uncomfortable from a horizontal scrolling.
Also, if I am scrolling with a mouse, it gets frustrating to do a horizontal scroll.
Look at Dean Okley's website. This guy is known for the horizontal sidebar thing and his website looks great with it, however this is a portfolio website which I wouldn't have to expect more than 6-7 pages. My wall on Facebook on the other hand would be ever going left and right if put on horizontal scrollbar which would be bad.
Now, with that said - I would like to see design trends change all the time. People come up with innovative ideas to make one of such ideas become the next new trend. All I am saying is the horizontal scrollbar idea presented in the link you gave, is not good enough for a website like Facebook. A variation of it, which overcomes the things I mentioned? Maybe, I would like to see.
In general: I see horizontal scrolling as the equivalent to flipping through pages in a book.
It's more convenient, IMO, to scroll vertically as this resemble more with reading the page instead of flipping it every time one need to get to some information.
Users of iPad and similar devices might disagree with my opinion, but mind you only a small percentage (at his time) uses touch devices such as these.
So target group would be a factor. Considering that Facebook has about 500 million users and most still using mouse and keyboard, I think the better choice at the moment for this site is to use vertical scrolling.
If you are talking about the section starting
Personal Profile Page & Wall
Profile pages scrolls horizontaly while navigating a locked global nav. Pages triggered on click, slide effect with easeIn/easeOut effects.
then I don't think he is talking about horizontal scrolling within a page but rather a horizontal transition between sections using the navigation bar. It looks like the page content still scrolls vertically. This is made more clear in the video.
For more information on the strengths and weaknesses of horizontal and vertical scrolling it is worth having a look through the question Why do webpages scroll vertically instead of horizontally?
It's easy to imagine that users who operate this UI with a mouse will find it hard to easily understand the idea of horizontal scrolling, without proper design guides to help them.
So look at your target audience. If you can deduct that most of them (or a significant amount, anyway) use Windows or Linux based computers, you can assume safely that most of them will be using a regular mouse that operates a vertical scroll wheel.
Then you look at the type of audience you are serving. Are they technically savvy and will they understand a subtle hint? Then by all means, give it a shot. We need websites that are progressive in their UI.
Are they literally all and any kind of people, such as a Facebook-user would be, then I'm doubtful it would do any good making things unnecessarily hard for the lesser tech-savvy target audience.
That said, it's not inherently wrong. Obviously, Facebook is a huge organisation that will not take a leap of this kind without having the market prepare their users for such a change. To most users it will be too alienating. The point is not "will they get used to it?" (they will!) but rather: "Will a significant amount of people leave Facebook over this, or refuse to sign up in the first place?"
I'm guessing things like this will definitely evolve over time as the audience adapts to similar interfaces around the web. It's good that Windows Phone 7 focuses heavily on horizontal scrolling and such, this prepares people. More wide-spread usage of multi-touch devices will also make it more interesting to experiment.
There's one big thing that never fails, though: Throwing something new and shiny at many users (such as Facebook's userbase) never ends up being positive. Work in small and easily understandable iterations, test each step, alter plans as necessary.
I focus my answer only towards mobile interfaces, not just because Facebook wants to be a mobile service, but because both vertical and horizontal scrolling make sense with the medium.
Think of a Facebook wall, page or screen as an open conversation with many contributors. The scroll direction should enhance the conversation.
- The vertical scrolling stays within/follows the current conversation.
- The horizontal swipe motion is an intentional moving away from the current stream of thought. It allows for someone to move from the conversation at hand to a poster's wall, photos, conversation forks, etc.
A two-dimensional interface, up-down as well as left-right, provides easy access to information and actions relevant to the user's current screen focus, such as following a different user, forking a current conversation or moving to and/or following a new fork
- tapping on a post focuses the screen on that post and provides opportunities for posting a reply
- if no fork exists, swiping left creates a new fork
- when a fork exists, swiping left moves to the fork
- swiping on a photo moves to that photo library
- while swiping on a user might be better served with a tap event, swiping moves the user away from the current situation