I saw these designs by Fred Nerby. He proposed adding horizontal scrolling to Facebook profiles. Is this good UI?

  • 1
    Are you asking whether horizontal scrolling in general is a good idea, or whether horizontal scrolling is a bad idea in the context of Facebook?
    – NotSimon
    Jan 5, 2013 at 2:26
  • @Simon: Interested in this specific use case (as illustrated in the link)
    – Casebash
    Jan 5, 2013 at 2:55
  • @Casebash This site isn't for reviewing specific examples. You need to make your question more generic so that more people can learn from the answers.
    – JohnGB
    Jan 5, 2013 at 13:54
  • They're nice designs - could you add a few of the designs to your question to prevent linkrot?
    – icc97
    Jan 5, 2013 at 18:38

7 Answers 7


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.

  • It's not * necessarily* bad for mouse users. For example, the heavy focus on horizontal scrolling for the new MySpace actually works rather well and feels remarkably slick, to the point where you feel it wouldn't work if it were vertical. It does have to be incorporated as a part of the overall design however rather than 'for no apparent reason'. Jan 5, 2013 at 23:45
  • @RogerAttrill Could you provide a link? I don't usually browse MySpace and can't seem to find the area with horizontal scrolling that you're referencing. Jan 8, 2013 at 12:53
  • send me an email via the address on my profile and I'll send you an invite to the new MySpace - it's invite only at the moment. Jan 8, 2013 at 13:36
  • Actually, when I scroll down on my mouse wheel (a logitech mouse, using OS X 10.8 and Google Chrome) the page scrolls sideways - hence (for me at least) I don't find the vertical scrolling to be hard to execute. Jan 24, 2013 at 10:27

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.

  • You can of course turn your phone sideways. Would be interesting if the design would change from vertical srolling when your phone is vertical and horizontal sliding when your phone is sideways
    – icc97
    Jan 5, 2013 at 18:36
  • Yes, you can but then it takes away longer posts from the user. For example, I have joined a lot of groups and they usually post long notes. Long notes would be literally killed in a horizontal scrollbar and the design in OPs web link.
    – user22624
    Jan 5, 2013 at 18:41
  • I suspect Ken was speaking in general, not specifically about FB. Jan 5, 2013 at 21:47

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.

  • 1
    Hi, and welcome to the UX SE! +1 for suggesting that the change would need to be gradual and that the devices used by the target audience should be considered. Please back up your assertions with research or empirical examples whenever possible. Jan 7, 2013 at 0:31

Photos on mobiles typically horizontally scroll - so if the push is to mobile, and the major part of facebook is the photos, then it makes sense to optimise the site for having your phone horizontally.


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
  • Welcome to the UX Stack Exchange! Interesting first post. You suggest many intriguing features, but I'm not sure how closely your answer addresses the OP's (original poster's) question of whether allowing such scrolling would be good UI. Do you have any evidence that might indicate that the features would be intuitive to use? or easier to use than other methods? Also, what's your evidence for your assertion that "Facebook wants to be a mobile service"? If you have a link, it might strengthen your post to add it. Jan 7, 2013 at 0:19
  • Thanks for the welcome, @3nafish. My reference to Facebook's intentions in mobile were quoted from a previous answer. All I can offer in way of evidence is my own anecdotal experience observing all ages (esp children) of users trying to navigate the traditional HTML-centric links currently used in many websites and the visual nesting/intention used in blog replies and other online content to signify a sub-conversation. We (the royal We) define the future of mobile UI and UX, users struggle between the current web conventions (such as found at Stack Exchange) and ideas that abandon the past. Jan 7, 2013 at 3:33
  • Interesting. You might want to incorporate something from your observation of children into your answer above. Using child learning as an example of how people without preconceptions associate with interfaces is an angle not often seen on this site and could really contribute something. Jan 7, 2013 at 3:41

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