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