I am not a fan of the horizontal scroll. There I said it upfront. Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time has heard me put that out there as one of the criticisms of Windows 8. In Windows 8.1, while horizontal scrolling remained, more thought was given to when and how much it was used.

Why does the horizontal scroll piss me off so much?

Scrolling (or swiping) across multiple screens makes no sense. It’s an unnatural motion in computer usage today. Apart from being tremendously tedious and unnatural, it’s highly inefficient. The other thing that gets my goat about this is that it seems to be chutzpah on a major level.

Microsoft is basically saying that even though the majority of the reading we will do (by far) is either swiping in place (ebooks like Kindle) or horizontal scrolling (websites), we should make room for scrolling through multiple screens as another option. It makes no sense to me.

Let’s take a look at a practical example – I like to show off my number one offender in Windows 8.1

The Windows Store

The graphical user interface of the Windows Store is rich and beautiful – no doubt about it. It’s a really artistic and beautiful way of displaying basically boring application information. I applaud Microsoft for the effort.

Let’s take a look at an example you can replicate in Windows 8.1. Open up the Windows Store and you have a page with the featured app, top categories and a partial picks for you section on the right.

The Windows Store

The Windows Store

Now already we can see that the page is incomplete. In order to fully understand what’s on the page, I would need to scroll to the right. Thats’s bad UI design but then, I digress. Let’s open up News and Weather.

News and Weather

News and Weather

OK, so the first thing to see here is that we have a lot of empty space. We can fit a lot of smaller tiles unto a single page if we want to if we want to convey information efficiently.

Keep this in mind when we look at the next image. Lets select news.

Windows-Store- news and Weather

Windows-Store- news and Weather

So there are a lot of things to consider here. First of all, there are 3,559 apps in this category. That’s a lot. The challenge is showing this information to the end user efficiently.

Next, there’s a search box. That’s great. If you know what you’re looking for, go get it and you don’t have to scroll. That makes perfect sense – more efficient.

Here’s where it gets interesting – the size of the application boxes is now larger. This does a couple of things. First, it fills up the screen so there is less white space and secondly, it gives you an opportunity to see the logos of the apps a little more clearly (since there is more room for each app box).

The Bad News.

From a UI perspective, that choice has limited me to 8 apps per screen. So in order to scroll across to see all apps, I would need to scroll 3559 divided by 8 times. That my friend is a grand total of 444.8 times!

If the page was designed differently (vertically), we could probably fit 50 to 75 apps on a page with a maximum of 1 horizontal page scroll. That would mean that the user could see all apps in 3559/75 scrolls = 47 versus 444 on a swipe by swipe basis.

That’s just one small example that I am hoping changes with Windows 9. The fact of the matter is, it is clearly LESS efficient to scroll horizontally.

This inefficiency leads to the end user being able to absorb less information at one sitting which makes for a slower information experience.

Now this rule is not so cut and dry.

Limited Horizontal Scrolling

A good example of limited horizontal scrolling in Windows 8.1 is reading short to medium length news stories. Here’s an example – a story on Bing News.

Intro to a news story

Intro to a news story

Clicking on the title here takes me to the main news story.

The Content of the news story

The Content of the news story

As you can see at the bottom right, this is a 3 page story and it is a mixture of text and graphic chunks that fill the page. This makes a lot of sense for tablets and is not (in my mind) a terrible user experience.

I just think that it doesn’t work for the Windows Store and other cases where Microsoft is trying to convey large amounts of information. Remember, the audience is a generation of people who are conditioned to scanning a webpage in less than 4 seconds and making a decision about whether to stay or leave.

End users are not patient people. Well I am hoping that this experience is streamlined in Windows 9 and Microsoft goes back to conventional vertical scrolling or horizontal scrolling when it makes sense.

That’s me – you tell me – do you like the horizontal scrolling in Windows 8.1? How would you like to see it change in Windows 9?

Use the comments below.

About the Author

Onuora Amobi is the Founder and VP of Digital Marketing at Learn About The Web Inc. Onuora has more than a decade of information security, project management and management consulting experience. He has specialized in the management and deployment of large scale ERP client/server systems.

In addition to being a former Microsoft MVP and the founder and editor of EyeOnWindows.com, he is the CEO of a Pasadena based online marketing education startup - Learn About The Web Inc. (www.learnabouttheweb.com) and The Redmond Cloud (https://www.theredmondcloud.com).

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  • Paul Schaffer

    I’m still a fan of the horizontal scroll.

    It has its ups and downs but basically it works for this new OS. I do agree that it could be used more judisciously though.

  • Robert Kegel

    Onuora Amobi I think you’re talking about that you don’t like horizontal scrolling on a PC? Horizontal scrolling on a tablet makes sense. I don’t know about ios but on Android you also horizontal scroll through your screens. Windows 8/8.1 is a tablet OS at heart and thats why they brought back the start button and now the start menu will come next.

    I think the horizontal scrolling should stay.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Hi Robert! Long time no see!

      Yeah it is a tablet OS at heart but that doesn’t mean it should be inefficient by design?

      • Arnold

        My GOD it is not inefficient. Its the same as vertical scrolling on any other device just horizontal and not vertical. What are you smoking, scrolling is just scrolling

      • Robert Kegel

        Yeah I saw you took me off the list to post. I like the new design.

        Horizontal scrolling is natural for a tablet though. Like flipping pages in a book. Could you see having turn pages in a book vertically? For people who use mouse and keyboard are in desktop most of the time which is the regular way (and will soon be more like the old Windows 7 way) of using a computer. To me it makes sense. A phone should be vertical scroll because you use your thumb…but horizontal wouldn’t be to bad either, but for a tablet I think horizontal scrolling makes sense.

        Happy New Year!

        • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

          That does make a lot of sense for tablets and reading the news. I’m not sure about for the Windows Store?

          • Robert Kegel

            Even the Windows Store on a tablet it works. Maybe they should some how give you the option to scroll horizontal or vertical and change tile sizes? This way for people with keyboard and mouse can have the more natural for that situation, but for tablets horizontal scrolling is natural.

          • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

            That might work as an option.

            The bottom line seems to be that it’s really hard to design an OS that works for BOTH a tablet and a desktop.

          • Robert Kegel

            Well Windows 8.2 will have both the Windows 7 type desktop and Metro and from what I understand Metro apps will be able to run within desktop.

            Wait to see if 8.2 is more of what you like. I’m personally fine with 8.1…but I was ok with 8.

          • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

            Yeah I’ll keep a real close eye on that.

            It’ll be interesting to see…

    • Dave Harler

      No, I think they brought back the start button because so many people complained about there not being one. I never found any problems navigating through Windows 8 due to the lack of a start button. I think the main issue there is people don’t like change!

  • Arnold

    The only thing I agree with in this article is the wasted space in some apps like the store, The whole mathematical computation you did was nuts because I don’t know what you are looking at but I can clearly see more than 8 apps at a time on the screen when i go into categories and it does not take me that long to go through all the list. And here is a news flash on the App Store on IOS the scrolling of apps has switched to horizontal as well. I do agree that the Windows App store need some refinement. I believe a blend between what it already has and the WP app store would be great.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      We agree on some of that.


  • David Farris

    I thought people should wait till April 1 to post things like this?

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      LOL my critics say April 1 is every day on this site.

      All good.


  • mgp

    If Apple had come out with the horizontal scroll you’d love it! STOP writing about Windows, you’re an apple fanatic. There is NO WAY, you can be fair. And in fact you’re not!!!

  • Readiy

    I will have to agree somewhat. Horizontal scrolling just doesn’t work when you are holding your device in portrait mode. Its just easier to flick up/down vs holding your device in one hand and scrolling with the other on the form factor. Personal choice? Maybe. Or just try using your device in portrait for a while with horizontal scrolling and you’ll know what I’m talking about. FWIW, I’m putting my money where my mouth is, so my app uses vertical scrolling in portrait mode (after much work – but that’s just the right thing to do)

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi


      Good to hear…

  • quadtronix

    I agree that there is a lot of wasted space in the windows store. For the modern UI it doesn’t bother me cause a) I love the modern UI as is, it just feels clean and neat to me and b) I didn’t have that many apps on my Surface RT (before I sold it) so it wasn’t that much of a problem. The horizontal scrolling on the home screen does not bother me, again I don’t have that many apps, I didn’t on my Surface and I don’t on my laptop. I recently ordered a Dell Venue 8 Pro 8″ tablet and it should be coming today! I’m very excited!

    Also I’d like to point out that for me, in regards to the Windows store…. As long as you can do a search for the app you’re looking for it’s not that much of a problem how many pages of apps there are. Its only if you don’t know the name of what you’re looking for that it becomes a major headache. But I do see the author’s point.

  • Rodney Longoria

    I got used to horizontal scrolling when I got married and crawled into bed.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Longoria classing up the joint!

  • Darlington Jones

    How much time do you spend in the store scrolling through apps? Is it really that big a deal ? I’ve never noticed horizontal scrolling until you pointed it out. My biggest problem is how things switch in between Metro and Desktop. For example, if I’m reading a web site on the desktop and click a PDF link and it switches to the Metro reader app, after I close the reader app, it returns me to the start screen instead of returning me to the desktop. That is SUPER annoying

    • Bart

      I am not a fan of the PDF reader app and yes I do agree the switching not take you back to where you started from either desktop or a previous app is annoying. At least for the pdf since it is Windows Adobe Reader is still a free alternative.

  • Bart

    I get 6 across on my 24″ monitor. The biggest gripe I have is with things like reading in the news app. On the horizontal scrolling it jumps the whole page not just a little as a go like with vertical scrolling in a browser.

    • As Meyer

      I second this mention! The horizontal scroll should be limited in a fashion. Able to click fwd/bkwd using page numbers would help.

  • As Meyer

    White space- I am good with it myself. Take for instance Netflix. That’s a dense display of movie/tv covers with little discernible space. Much harder to focus in. AT least in the Windows 8 app version.