There is a huge trend out there on horizontal sites. They look modern, simple and on a first moment the new way to go. Not everything that looks cool works!
But are they the best choice for you?
Here are a few things you should know before deciding which way to go:
Always something to consider is the age of your target market. Remember that some age groups are more resistant to change than others.
In this case we also need to take into consideration some basic human patterns before we make this type of decision. It might seem just a design decision but it is much more than that because it will impact how many people engage with your site and how many leave before doing what they are supposed to do on your site: Buy, read etc.
Our brains like to recognize patterns that have previously led to successful interactions. We produce dopamine which gives us pleasure when we recognize familiar patterns around us.
Our recognition of objects relies mainly on their shapes. In the very early stages of recognition, our perceptual system uses information on the retina to identify the object by primitive features like lines, edges and angles. This helps our primitive brain to make fast decisions.
Our mind tends to complete incomplete shapes and create mental objects even if only a small part of the shape is displayed. Our mind does this by ignoring gaps and completing contour lines to form shapes already represented in our minds.
That is one of the reasons why you should question a horizontal layout : The horizontal box construction implies closure and is a pattern more typical of the bottom of a page.
When we see the closed horizontal structure, we do not look for more information. So we don’t see the rest of the page.
In a study done with heat maps, showed that visitors would scroll 34% less in horizontal site. That is significant when you are looking for engagement. This fact besides the results on your site would also impact how you rank on Google since it has and tracks metrics of engagement.
Engagement means not only sales but also time on site, pages viewed per visit, and so on.
Now, maybe you just changed your site and going back is not an option. What can you do to improve engagement?
Here are a few tips:
- Add a down arrow. You can locate the arrow on the lower end of the content block. Make it obvious there is more below.
- Add a vertical element or an element in half. This will make the visitor want to scroll down.
- Populate the sidebar. This is easy in some WordPress themes.
- Use floating arrows. They are a constant reminder to keep going down.
- Eliminate boxes and horizontal lines. Rectangular boxes and horizontal lines add a visual indication that the content has ended. Eliminating these will increase probability that visitors will scroll down.