In many places, televisions are used for display, especially airports. Some websites’ pages use the horizontal space to display the continued information if they find there is lack of vertical space. For example, showing flight information along with gate information in television screens is a common practice in airports. Sometimes I’ve seen two adjacent columns with same column titles to display gates, flight numbers and destinations. This is at times confusing or at least not comfortable for viewers as there is need to retrace the column and match the actual column. This example may be regarded to the extent of being a discomfort for the user.
When the same thing is done for websites’ pages it’s not only a discomfort for the user but there are higher chances of misunderstanding the information. It’s because the screen resolution of the user could be different and there could be horizontal scroll bars that spans across for some users who have low resolution. So they may take some part of the screen for one column and the column of the next adjacent column and match it wrongly together. That is, like taking flight number along with gate number of adjacent column instead of previous column that had the correct match.
The problem is that the viewer wouldn’t have knowledge of the order of columns in a screen.
Traffic signals are good example for this problem. Traffic signals are very much automated and act like a computer because they have their logic circuits that change according to the time of the day and could be controlled remotely as well. The signals are the interface for the driver. The signal in the following image is probably one such worst case:
I think the hanging traffic signals are more confusing, for example the ones in the intersection of Indiana 38 and US 52 in Lafayette, IN. In particular, on days when its bad weather – the signals show in a more tilted direction at times, especially with winds. One wouldn’t know for whom it’s green. I’ve at least seen few times cars mistaking red when the green arrow was for me.
I think trying to make use of horizontal space when there is lack of vertical space should be avoided whenever possible and needs great deal of analysis in such situations.