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"We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil." ~C.A.R. Hoare, quoted by Donald Knuth
November 10, 2011 5:09 AM   Subscribe

Save the Scrollbar! [slate.com] Why are Apple, Google, and Facebook eradicating a linchpin of user interface design?
posted by Fizz (82 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice shout-out to Ubuntu at the end. Yay.
posted by Mngo at 5:16 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


A successful UI gets out of the way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:17 AM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I dunno. Widget-driven scrolling is pretty old fasioned, with new touchpad and scrollwheel tech. Even before I got the "hyperscroll" mouse, I'd use the page down and down-arrow keys before my mouse cursor would linger over the up/down arrows - and I'd drag the scrollbar (which still works in Lion) for precision repositioning.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:18 AM on November 10, 2011


Poor Farhad Manjoo. Now technology is doing away with an affectation that he likes, and the argument that "it's unnecessary and therefore ugly" no longer holds water for him. Well, Farhad: they came for the second space after a period, and I did not object, because I was not a second space after a period...
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:19 AM on November 10, 2011 [13 favorites]


Now that I've discovered the two-finger touchpad scroll gesture, I barely use the scrollbar widget anymore. I don't know how often I use it for reference only, but I imagine not a lot.

The one use for scrollbars that I do miss on iOS is scrolling back to the bottom of a very long page after I've accidentally reloaded it for some reason.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:22 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even before I got the "hyperscroll" mouse, I'd use the page down and down-arrow keys before my mouse cursor would linger over the up/down arrows...

Same here. But it still serves the useful purpose of indicating both how long a document is and how far you are through it.
posted by DU at 5:27 AM on November 10, 2011 [26 favorites]


Why are Apple, Google, and Facebook eradicating a linchpin of user interface design

Because it isn't always appropriate? Because on small screen devices, every pixel you have in menus and controls isn't a pixel showing the user data? Because with many web interfaces now, a scroll bar will lie, because of autoloading more content as you approach the "bottom"?

Apple's trying impermanent scroll bars. I'm good with that, esp. since I can turn them back on, and they may not work out. And, you know, even with big desktops screens, that's a lot of pixels to run a conventional scroll bar.

(on preview)

A successful UI gets out of the way.

Yes, yes, a billion times yes -- though, in fairness, any UI change is automatically *in* the way until you get used to it. My single biggest gripe about Windows is the way that every major version of the OS brings a drastic change to the UI, whereas Mac OS brings minor changes as best, mod the very big change from OS 9 to OS X -- and even then, many OS 9 metaphors and controls did come over.*

It's the principle of Least Surprise at work. Any change to an existing UI will violate that at the start, even if it is correcting a far more clumsy element. People learn the interface.

Changing the interface can be -- and often is -- a good thing. But you need to do it carefully, and you need to accept that some will panic at the though. If you make an interface change and nobody notices, then you should consider another change -- removing that control. :-)



* Remember: in the OS X 10.0 betas, the Apple symbol was both in the middle of the menu bar and not actually an active menu, as Apple played with moving the menu bar to the app window. That (thankfully, IMHO) was almost literally shouted down by the Mac userbase, and the Apple Menu returned to its proper place (at the far left of the system menu bar) and its proper function (as the system menu) though Apple did correct an inconsistency, which, while correct, drove me nuts (moving the application quit command from the Apple menu to the new menu item next to it, which was named whatever the application was named. So, instead of " File Edit...", I currently have " Safari File Edit..."

Over time, I realized this was correct -- I would know that I was closing Safari, because I had to go to the Safari menu to hit "quit". But it changed an interface convention, which is always jarring to an experienced user.
posted by eriko at 5:28 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would miss the scroll bar on the desktop GUI as an indicator of progress but I seldom use it to move around on the page. Mostly I just use the middle mouse button to drag the page up and down.
posted by octothorpe at 5:28 AM on November 10, 2011


One, two, three, four, five, six paragraphs down:

On the bright side, there is a way to make the scrollbars go back to normal.

What's next for Manjoo--he and Siri aren't getting along, he doesn't like her occasionally smart-ass remarks? This reminds me of the guy who, not long after the Macintosh was introduced, bitched about the mouse because he had to take one hand off the keyboard to use it, something that he'd been taught never to do in touch typing class.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:30 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's better to replace the ugly scrollbar, which in my experience is very rarely actually used to scroll these days, with a more subtle indicator of where you are in a document?

Which is basically what Android and apps often do: show a sort of mini scrollbar when you actually scroll.
posted by Harry at 5:32 AM on November 10, 2011


I'm still pissed that proper focus follows mouse is not the default on every OS, and lately they (gnome developers) are even trying to get rid of it on linux.
posted by smcameron at 5:34 AM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Apple's trying impermanent scroll bars.

In Mac OS X Leaping Lion the scroll bar display is dependent upon the input device you have available.

For example, on my crusty trusty old Macbook with it's primitive trackpad (not supporting gestures and a physical button) the scroll bars are always displayed - though now they have a minimal design which is nice.

If I connect a shiny new gesture supporting trackpad, the scrollbars go away, only appearing when I scroll.
posted by device55 at 5:36 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know that on any metafilter thread longer than 2 pages of text I'll look at the scrollbar at least once to gauge how far I've gotten and how much remains. For this reason alone, any revamped or rethought scrollbar should still make this information obvious without having to begin a scrolling action.

Of course, this assumes that it's possible to make the scrollbar accurate. On many web pages these days, almost unlimited amounts of additional content will be sent to your browser as you continue to scroll down, making the scrollbar's thumb periodically jump around based on when the server decides to send more information. In this case, an unambiguous indication that there *is* no meaningful thumb would be useful too.

However, those clickable arrows at the top and bottom of the scrollbar? those should just die.
posted by jepler at 5:37 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eventually all this minimalism will lead everyone (back) to tiling window managers arranging terminal windows.

Once again, I define the trend.
posted by mikelieman at 5:42 AM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Eventually all this minimalism will lead everyone (back) to tiling window managers arranging terminal windows.

Ratpoison for the win!
posted by octothorpe at 5:56 AM on November 10, 2011


I can't stand Manjoo's writing (and his opinions uniformly suck).
posted by oddman at 6:02 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eventually all this minimalism will lead everyone (back) to tiling window managers arranging terminal windows.

Yep, that's what I use window managers for. More keyboard input space!
posted by DU at 6:02 AM on November 10, 2011


Mac OS X Lion -> System Preferences -> General -> Show scroll bars: Always
posted by rory at 6:06 AM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


The one use for scrollbars that I do miss on iOS is scrolling back to the bottom of a very long page after I've accidentally reloaded it for some reason.

Does iOS Safari not restore reading position after reload?

As for scrollbars, while I almost never use them to actually scroll, they provide crucial positional information. Even on those auto-loading pages (which I alternate between liking alright and absolutely loathing) they tell me if/when my browser needs to hit the server again.

I was once told to look up a restaurant's menu on an iPad and I almost missed half the damn menu because there was no indication that there was more text and when I tried two-finger scrolling all it did was make the whole page bounce. Turns out the menu was in an iframe/overflowing div and I needed three-finger scrolling (or something similar). Whee.
posted by kmz at 6:06 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't stand Manjoo's writing (and his opinions uniformly suck).

No, you need to scroll down farther. I can understand your mistake though, the scrollbar had disappeared.
posted by Fizz at 6:07 AM on November 10, 2011


Maybe I'm doing something wrong. I use the scrollbar to *gasp* scroll. Even on an iPhone it's a pain in the butt to not have one.
To get to the last comment here on MetaFilter, I have to use the "skip to menu" link and then flick flick up. Otherwise, it's flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flickflick flick fflick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick flick... . You can see how irritating that is.
Or am I missing some little trick that would make my life sooooo much easier?
And on my big box computer with no touch screen and no trAck pad, would it just be. Flick flick flick with the mouse?
posted by SLC Mom at 6:07 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't use the scrollbar on PCs, I just highlight text to scroll everything down.
posted by Veritron at 6:09 AM on November 10, 2011


And oh, on a largely unrelated UI rant... people need to stop using AJAX if they don't understand how to not break UI fundamentals. Fucking hell, what's the point of Disqus providing permalinks at the bottom of comments when they don't fucking work if they're not on the first page of comments?
posted by kmz at 6:15 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


The scrollbar is a wonderful device.

It allows you to navigate a scrollable area incrementally (by clicking on the arrows) or jumping around (click and drag the bar). It works even if you use a different scrolling method (of which there are many - touchpad interactions, touchscreen dragging, arrow keys, mousewheels, dedicated scroll buttons, etc).

It gives you a lot of visual information on first glance, without the need for interaction:
- that you're looking at a container that continues below the visible panel
- the amount of content that is currently visible, and by implication the total amount
- where you are in that content

It has all the affordances of a physical device (or at least it does on current Windows) - an obvious handle device for the bar, a space for it to slide around, a general tactile feel. [It's becoming cool to reduce the look of physicality in these devices to move towards a more minimal, graphical aesthetic, but that's a mistake if you ask me. The physical look might look "software" and "techy", but equally it's a look that's been refined over decades of use].

But despite its utility and reliability, there seems there are a whole load of trends right now that are determined to undermine the usability of the scrollbar.

Hiding the scrollbar until use or hover. This makes sense on a touchscreen, but otherwise, why do it? Why remove all that useful information that's available on first glance?

Infinite scroll (i.e. automatically loading new content at the bottom of the page). Simple horrible. In essence, if you use this you are teaching users not to trust the scrollbar anymore. No long is the size of the bar any indication of the amount of content. And dragging the bar to jump around the content becomes totally disorientating, as more content loads and the whole page resizes. What if you want to read from the bottom of a list to the top? Tough! You can never reach the bottom of the list. If you must load new content like this, at least have it pause and tell the user what's happening. Or better yet, don't load new content automatically, just let the user choose to do it on click.

Window scrollbars that only scroll a portion of the current window. This is really awful. I can see why locking various page elements in place while the content scrolls is useful, but these days it seems like 90% of the page locks down while only the content area scrolls. But that content area scrolls using the main window scrollbar? Why? That scrollbar isn't spatially and conceptually distant from the content area in-page. It means the main window scrollbar doubles up as both a window control device and an in-page scroll device, overloading its functionality.

It's taken innovation and misguided intelligence to break one of the most enduring pieces of the interaction design toolkit, and I wish it would stop.
posted by iivix at 6:19 AM on November 10, 2011 [24 favorites]


Oops, I meant:

*That scrollbar is spatially and conceptually distant from the content area in-page
posted by iivix at 6:21 AM on November 10, 2011


You realize that Mac OS X's scrollbars reappear whenever you use an external mouse, right? Apple's multi-touch 'magic' mouse doesn't make scrollbars reappear but it doesn't count as usable either.

There is a 12-dimensional chess like chance the absence of scrollbars might make users more efficient because users switch to option-click scrolling and focus upon the desired location rather than focusing upon the current location, but they should make the invisible but clickable scrollbar larger, imho.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:26 AM on November 10, 2011


It allows you to navigate a scrollable area incrementally (by clicking on the arrows) or jumping around (click and drag the bar)

This is a good point. Getting rid of the scrollbar turns a (near) random-access interface into a sequential one. That's bad. Plus it hides how big the interfaced area is and where you are in it, which are both also bad.
posted by DU at 6:26 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Veritron beat me to it, but I was reading along thinking, "I can't get by without a scrollbar!" and then realized I was at that very moment, scrolling by selecting text as I read.
posted by Erroneous at 6:30 AM on November 10, 2011


Or better yet, don't load new content automatically, just let the user choose to do it on click.

Infinite scroll is a data bandwidth hog on prepaid data bundles used vast parts of the internet, usually where they just don't sell Apple products or the prices are equivalent to a few year's salary.

What this thread describes is the emerging first world web - granted mobile will be the other end of this with iOS and Android.

We;re in transition right now between the past and the future of the preferred device (until the next big transition)

People like me in the middle into Windows netbooks with regular old mice are screaming but at least reading this made me realize I'd better just get used to the inevitable or hope that like "classic windows" options, these new personae online like Google or whatever offer some "classic version" options until we grow too old and simply fade away.
posted by infini at 6:31 AM on November 10, 2011


Veritron beat me to it, but I was reading along thinking, "I can't get by without a scrollbar!" and then realized I was at that very moment, scrolling by selecting text as I read.

Wait, I thought Veritron was joking. That's actually a thing?
posted by kmz at 6:33 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I turned scrollbars back on by default in OS X Lion, and did the same for various family members after they called up complaining about the "upgrade" I had foisted on them.

I understand the logic of keeping them out of the way where display space is at a premium (like iOS), but on the desktop, it's very handy for people to be able to simply glance at the screen to know where they are on the page.

(at this point, let me mildly rant that Lion featured a number of these alleged improvements borrowed from iOS, most conspicuously the 'natural' scrolling method which, again, makes sense when you are physically touching the screen you want to move (iOS), but not when the input remains external).
posted by modernnomad at 6:35 AM on November 10, 2011


look, everybody who matters is using a phone to do computer stuff now and you're just going to have to get used to it
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:39 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I truly hate that autoloading "infinite scroll" business. I'd be very interested to hear why folks like it, if you do.

I often find myself needing to scroll rapidly through a page to look for something or to get to something that I know is located late in the document, and the infinite scroll/slow-loading thing gets horribly in the way. Or else I want to know something like "is this [THING] too long to have people read for [meeting]" and I can't tell without load/scroll/load/scroll ad infinitum.

I like regular scrollbars, actually, because I do like knowing how much of a document is left. Whether I'm reading academic stuff (can I finish in time? how can this person possibly make this argument in such a short text?) or for fun (gee, I hope this is a really long thing!) I really value being able to see where I am.
posted by Frowner at 6:43 AM on November 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now can we talk about the green button on OSX windows that keeps life exciting by doing something completely different every time you click it?
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:44 AM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


What I wish I could implement all across the internets and on every device I use is the incredibly handy "skip to menu" (i.e. bottom of the page) link on mefi's mobile OS. So awesome.
posted by rtha at 6:48 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've got mice with scroll wheels, I've got a touchpad that supports swipe-scrolling in the old-fashioned way finger-on-the-edge way and the newfangled Apple multi-touch way. And the 40-year-old scroll bar - which indicates position and length of the page to boot - is still both faster and more precise than any of those things.

In fact, now that even the cheapest computers are so terrifyingly fast compared to the once-heavy demands of a GUI, scrollbars work better than they ever have before. There was once a time when dragging the thumb only changed the display after you'd let go of it; now the page you're looking at flies by in real time sync with the flick of your wrist.

UI and UX design have a congenital problem, a bad pattern that we see again and again, where the designers of fancy new things don't quite grasp how much care, effort, and benefit of experience went into the design of the old thing they're trying to replace. I do not believe that old is always better or that new is always worse, but I do think scroll bars have been around a long time because they work really, really well.

I'm surprised there isn't more effort to develop and improve the scroll bar paradigm instead of replacing it outright. Why not make them even wider, making the thumbs easier to grab, but also make them transparent (but not invisible) when you're not using them, for example? Why not use the space above and below the thumb to show useful information, like an explicit page count, making that space multi-purpose and thus more space-efficient?
posted by Western Infidels at 7:00 AM on November 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm just glad Apple no longer makes them look like blobs of toothpaste.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 7:01 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


In any case, I'm pleased by how transparent scroll bars conserve screen real-estate, nothing clickable occurs over there anyways. I've started trying the "Jump to the spot that's clicked" option under General System Preferences, which might resolve everything.

There is however one extremely moronic feature of Lion's invisible scrollbars, namely they appear only once the scrollbar is selected, not anytime you mouseover, which make learning your current location challenging. I've posted a question about fixing that.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:11 AM on November 10, 2011


I had to fool around with the Lion scrollbars a bit to even notice them, which means they work well for me. I have a wireless mouse that I use with my new macbook, and when it's plugged in the scrollbars are always there. When I unplug it, they scrollbars fade out, but if I double-finger scroll a little bit, they appear and I can see where I am. I agree with Jeff, though, mousing over them should make them appear.

Interestingly, though, if I unplug and plug in my mouse while the comment box is open, the box and live preview shift up and down and render text over each other. I guess I'll report that to Apple.
posted by Huck500 at 7:29 AM on November 10, 2011


It's weird because when Google recently updated Gmail, they decided to put 3 extra scroll bars where there weren't any before. I gave feedback that the new UI had too many scroll bars.
posted by CrazyJoel at 7:40 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's taken innovation and misguided intelligence to break one of the most enduring pieces of the interaction design toolkit, and I wish it would stop.

Try finding a specific MetaFilter post by clicking on the scroll bar where you think the post is. Good luck, because the scroll bar does not give you that information in any way that's precise; and the longer a document, the less useful it is. At the same time, the shorter a document is, the less you need a scroll bar, because there's not much scrolling to do.

The 'overview' a scrollbar gives for bigger documents is just that, an overview. So it makes sense that it's evolving into a position marker and its other uses are being degraded. I'm looking forward to seeing better ways of getting around large documents.
posted by romanb at 7:47 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like that overview myself. I read a lot of long articles/threads in various places and I like knowing where in said article/thread I am.
posted by Samizdata at 7:56 AM on November 10, 2011


That's it. No more computers for me. I quit.
posted by Splunge at 8:00 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I wish I could implement all across the internets and on every device I use is the incredibly handy "skip to menu" (i.e. bottom of the page) link on mefi's mobile OS. So awesome.

You would think somebody can come up with a gesture that does the same thing as the "End" key on a keyboard.
posted by kmz at 8:11 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like infinite scrolling websites, and use an extension to add infinite scrolling to sites that don't have it. For example, on most google searches I want something in the first few hits, but sometimes I'll want to go down to result #30. I like that it just loads the first ten hits at first, but if I scroll down then new hits fill in until I find what I want. Same goes for Amazon searches or articles spread out over 5 pages. So yeah -- I mostly notice it helping me rather than hurting me. And I do find the scrollbar helpful to know when it's happening.

Re: Lion, I'm kind of tickled at how many people Apple is annoying at once, with reversed scrolling, tiny hidden scrollbars, weird background killing and reopening apps and documents, etc. It feels like they're willing to try experiments, even experiments that make longtime users learn new things and that might turn out to be a bad idea even once you're used to them. Ten years from now, say, I think we'll be better off if OS makers are willing to do that.
posted by jhc at 8:13 AM on November 10, 2011


I find it really strange that no one ever seems to talk about the ability to middle-click on a scrollbar to go to exactly where you want in a page. As cool and space-conserving as Ubuntu's new scrollbars are, they're are missing that crucial feature. This isn't the same as dragging the thumb to the position you want it at, because that requires finding the thumb, moving the mouse there, clicking and holding, dragging, and letting go. Lots of effort. This way, you just move to where you want to end up on the page, and middle-click. It's almost exclusively how I interact with a scrollbar (besides position and length reference) when I don't have a scrollwheel or touchpad with scroll area.
posted by cthuljew at 8:15 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


The scrollbar (imho) should fade in as an overlay without repositioning content whenever a scroll is in progress and/or the mouse pointer is positioned at the right edge of the screen and then fade out within a couple seconds of either of the two aforementioned conditions ending. Eliminating the scrollbar is utterly annoying because I have no idea how long the page is or where I am within the page.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:24 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the important distinction is how valuable the scroll bar is in the program you're using at any given moment, and it should be dependent on that rather than a system-wide design. I wouldn't mind if the scroll bar begins disappearing, or being minimized in some way, in my browser, for example. I hardly pay attention to it there at all because it has become so rare that a website is not either a predictable standardized length, or an endless feed, and in both cases the location and size of the scroll bar is pretty ignorable. In a PDF or a Word document, on the other hand, the scroll bar is very important because one is often unfamiliar with the length of the document.
posted by jrking at 8:26 AM on November 10, 2011


You would think somebody can come up with a gesture that does the same thing as the "End" key on a keyboard.

It;s the three-fingered down-swipe which can be re-implemented using"BetterTouch Tool" (its free) in Lion
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:26 AM on November 10, 2011


I've never found 'focus follows mouse' to be correct. I've worked on systems with this enabled and I've found myself accidentally knocking the mouse with my arm and having text go in the wrong place.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:37 AM on November 10, 2011


Previously
posted by Artw at 9:20 AM on November 10, 2011


As for scrollbars, while I almost never use them to actually scroll, they provide crucial positional information.

This a thousand times. Any page of finite length should include something that tells me:

1) Where I am within the content.
2) How long before I reach the end.

This not only allows me to read more effectively, but also lets me find my place later if necessary.

The older version of Lotus Notes -- still a shit product, btw -- had a scroll bar, but it was the same size no matter how long the content of a page was. It was a fucking usability nightmare, but better than no scroll bar at all.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:32 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


SLC Mom and Erroneous: On Windows, at least, you can click and hold the scroll wheel and drag down or up. That's how I scroll.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:34 AM on November 10, 2011


Yes, I hate the lack of scrollbars. It's ridiculous.
I dunno. Widget-driven scrolling is pretty old fasioned, with new touchpad and scrollwheel tech.
That is 100% wrong. Sure I can, in theory, scroll to the bottom of a page using the scroll wheel, swiping with my finger or whatever, but how long does it take? It's a huge pain in the ass and can take several seconds for a very long document or list.

I don't use the scrollbar to scroll when I'm just reading a page on my computer (like right now, for example, I'm center clicking). But on my phone if I'm scrolling a large document, or list it's a huge pain to 'swipe' my way through the entire list if I want to get to the bottom of the page (an example would be a metafilter thread I'd read, then coming back to it a few hours later to read the new posts. Or, if I want to go back through my phone log to a few months ago, whatever)
Hiding the scrollbar until use or hover. This makes sense on a touchscreen, but otherwise, why do it? Why remove all that useful information that's available on first glance?
On android you have a 'scroll indicator' a few pixels wide that shows you were you are on the page. It's nice and doesn't take up much room. It's possible for an app to attach a 'handle' to it, but most don't.
Infinite scroll (i.e. automatically loading new content at the bottom of the page). Simple horrible. In essence, if you use this you are teaching users not to trust the scrollbar anymore.
I hate this. If you have a huge amount of information to display, like an infinitely long list, you should figure out some other way of getting to it.

It seems like companies are intent on dumbing down their UIs to the point where they actually lose basic utility.
posted by delmoi at 9:41 AM on November 10, 2011


My wife has a new MacBook Pro. I have tried to show her how to scroll with two fingers on the trackpad, and have done this in front of her countless times. She still insists and locating the cursor at either the top of bottom of the scroll bar and navigating that way. If Firefox ever does away with this, she'll just stare at whatever screen she clicks on.
posted by Danf at 9:54 AM on November 10, 2011


Trackpad gestures are just not for everybody - TBH I flounder with them utterly.
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on November 10, 2011


So nobody really uses scrollbars to scroll, but rather to simply judge the length of a document? Sounds like a problem just waiting for a solution.
posted by kpmcguire at 10:14 AM on November 10, 2011


So nobody really uses scrollbars to scroll, but rather to simply judge the length of a document? Sounds like a problem just waiting for a solution.
You use the scrollbar to scroll quickly
posted by delmoi at 10:30 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Superb insight on all this stuff A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design by Bret Victor

Even if you've never heard of him, Bret Victor ought have some credibility as a former Human-Interface Inventor for Apple, where he worked on "pervasively direct-manipulation interfaces (where the user does his thing by moving and gesturing with meaningful objects, instead of relying on verb buttons and other indirect controls)" among other things.
[...]
On his blog, Victor lays out a well-considered and well-communicated diatribe against current touchscreen technology, dismissing it as "Pictures Under Glass [which sacrifices] all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade." His suggestions for what interface designers ought be looking into for the future is pretty exciting, and we won't spoil it for you by revealing it here. Go read his essay. Now! (Even if you're on a touchscreen.)
via Core77.
posted by infini at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's being talked about here as well, infini.
posted by kmz at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe we've gotten a topic on Scroll buttons/bars and no one mentioned STRONG BAD:

"Scroll button, scroll button, one two, one two, and if you swing by my crib then I can scroll with you!"

"The scroll, the scroll, the buttons, the buttons, scrolling so smooth like the butter on a muffin."

"Hold it. Control it. And buttons, come on, let's see you scroll it! "

"Huzzah, on the mic I'm droppin' scrollable science, and I'm scrollin' through the 'hood with my e-mail client. Huzzah!"

"Scroll buttons never looked so good! Scrollin' up and down like you knew they would..."

"You've never seen anything quite like these buttons! Come on, y'all, give me a little scroll lovin'!"

COACH Z: And if you're tryin' to fade me then ya must smoke crack!
STRONG BAD: Scroll buttons, oh yeah, like that heart attack.

"Dear scroll buttons, let's not mince words. I love you guys!"

posted by FJT at 10:51 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remember that little phase web designers went through where they'd take out scroll bars and give you little up and down buttons? That was the worst.
posted by Artw at 10:53 AM on November 10, 2011


I'm on Lion. I have configured my scrollbar to be always visible (it's under System Prefs -> General -> Scroll Bar Behavior). I tried using the automatic visibility options, but (1) it broke TextMate in ugly ways, at least back in July, and (2) I like having the scrollbar as a wayfinding cue. I certainly don't mind it being about 3/4 the width it was in prior versions of the OS, though, since I almost never actually click on it.
posted by Alterscape at 10:59 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The vertical scrollbar should behave just like the horizontal one, i.e. disappear when theres nothing to scroll to. Once we all have 95" monitors you'll never see them again!
posted by Lanark at 11:12 AM on November 10, 2011


Thanks kmz, missed that
posted by infini at 11:27 AM on November 10, 2011


I never used scroll bars when browsing even on Windows. Middle click scroll and the scroll wheel only. And I'm so used to the touch scrolling on the trackpad on my macbook that I actually get angry when I have to us a windows laptop that doesn't have it.
posted by empath at 11:37 AM on November 10, 2011


> Changing the interface can be -- and often is -- a good thing.

CLI hasn't changed significantly since terminals replaced punch cards. It's the closest thing yet invented to input by thought control.
posted by jfuller at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Think in batch files...
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on November 10, 2011


Count me in with those skeptical of this UI development. I've noticed recently when I'm reading page-y eBooks, one of the things I miss about a real book is that there doesn't seem to be any convenient way to skip a few dozen or a few hundred pages, flip to an approximate location where I remember something was.

Getting rid of the scroll bar is a lot like that. Gesture-based scrolling definitely has its merits, and scroll bars are problematic on mobile touch devices, but they're not a problem that really needs solving on the desktop, and removing them means destroying (or relocating, in the best case scenario) some real cues and functionality. How you feel about that probably depends on whether or not you use them.
posted by weston at 12:26 PM on November 10, 2011


The vertical scrollbar should behave just like the horizontal one, i.e. disappear when theres nothing to scroll to.

That's how they work in pretty much any program I can think of.
posted by kmz at 12:46 PM on November 10, 2011


Ratpoison for the win!

My love affair with Ratpoison lasted many, many years. Then I got a 2nd monitor, and discovered that Ratpoison really didn't handle that elegantly. That's when I switched to Xmonad.
posted by mikelieman at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2011


Now that I've discovered the two-finger touchpad scroll gesture, I barely use the scrollbar widget anymore.

Thank you! I didn't realize that my touchpad did this.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:51 PM on November 10, 2011


All I know is, on my smartphone there is no draggable scrollbar when I browse, and when I'm reading metafilter comments and have scrolled away from the link to jump to the bottom nav links, I'm stuck going swipe-swipe-swipe-swipe upwards or downwards to get where I want to go, and I just want to grab and drag the damn bar.

its not much of a rant but there it is
posted by davejay at 2:08 PM on November 10, 2011


And I'm so used to the touch scrolling on the trackpad on my macbook that I actually get angry when I have to us a windows laptop that doesn't have it.

I get frustrated just using my old MacBook Pro with 10.6, because I've grown so accustomed to all the haptic gestures that Apple added to Lion.

I can now three-finger through apps, two-finger through web history, pinch-and-zoom gesture to manipulate images, and five-finger-star to get to the Launchpad. It sounds silly to describe it in words, but adding touch gestures really has been a step forward in computing — albeit a quiet start to that revolution.

It was a bit frustrating to learn them, but I'm glad Apple added all these features, because fewer clicks has made using a laptop so much more pleasant, productive and almost natural.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on November 10, 2011


How are those gestures haptic?
posted by kmz at 6:58 PM on November 10, 2011


yeah, i thought 'haptic' referred to touch-based feedback, like vibration.. but I might be wrong.
posted by modernnomad at 7:24 PM on November 10, 2011


The disappearing scrollbar shit exists on IE in WindowsPhone 7 as well. So, per Manjoo's reckoning, it's effectively dead.
posted by the cydonian at 7:36 PM on November 10, 2011


Weird that when I think "scroll" my right hand whacks the space bar without any sort of consideration of mousing at all. You guys are making me feel old.

I do like the visual indicator of where I am on the page, though. It's like being able to see the chunk of book you've finished and compare it to how much is left.
posted by troublesome at 9:37 PM on November 10, 2011


"Suddenly it all clicked: Unity was the beta of a touch interface. In that form factor, it will probably work wonderfully. But I can’t help but feel like Canonical misled its users. Unity isn’t a user willed push; it’s a way for Ubuntu to branch into what’s hot — the mobile market. Business-wise, it’s a secure move. As a user, though, I feel cheated; fooled. Disappointed."

Linux Mint: The new Ubuntu?
posted by weston at 10:55 AM on November 11, 2011


heh. I saw taht and thought about trying it. On the other hand, Ubuntu on my netbook is basically about getting me into Open Office as quickly as possible, so I doubt it would be worth the messing about.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on November 11, 2011


> Linux Mint: The new Ubuntu?
> posted by weston at 1:55 PM on November 11 [+] [!]

Ubuntu Satanic Edition doesn't appear to be afflicted with Unity either. A thousand screaming, burning devils, sure, but not Unity
posted by jfuller at 4:50 AM on November 12, 2011


It's pretty trivial to install a different desktop on Ubuntu and run that instead of Unity. At work, we're still running 10.04 which doesn't have Unity but I was able to switch from Gnome 2.x to XFCE in about ten minutes.
posted by octothorpe at 8:51 AM on November 12, 2011


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