Scrollin' scrollin' scrollin', keep those pages scrollin'
November 6, 2019 11:00 PM   Subscribe

 
Apart from missing out on an entire Cambrian radiation of scroll bars from various Linux desktops through the years, the first article is nice.

The review shows its newer-is-better bias: the XP scrollbar is clearly the best of the bunch and should have been scored as such, even by the metrics apparently used by the reviewer. It's unobtrusive until actively used, at which point the active element's contrast is nicely increased; thumb height is nicely proportional to the amount of content visible in the window vs. total content; and the thumb affordance actually looks like something you'd want to put your thumb on and shove, rather than some idealization of that that's been stylized to an extent where the entire point of it is lost.

Scrollbars that disappear entirely until you manage to stumble over and activate them are the New Hotness and I find them totally irritating. It's nice to be able to just glance over there and see how far through the content I've got, without needing to Do Something to one of the increasingly impoverished and unpredictable control surfaces that also seem to be all the rage these days.

As for infiniscroll web page designs that just break the scroll bar functionality entirely, the less you have to endure hearing me say about those the better.
posted by flabdablet at 11:47 PM on November 6 [19 favorites]


I’m actually pretty happy with the current macOS design when “Show scroll bars” is set to “Always.” Arrows weren’t that useful, and, since the advent of two finger scrolling on a trackpad, I almost never directly interact with a scroll bar.

I opened an issue on the GitHub project because the default on Macs is for a click in the track to cause it to jump a page forward or backward, rather than to jump to the location of the click. I don’t think that was the case on Windows, since I have this vague memory of being irritated that I couldn’t page down with the mouse. Maybe that was on Linux, though.
posted by danielparks at 11:48 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


I'd like to have the "ghost" function back. It's a nice bookmark when going back and forth in a long page.
posted by Harald74 at 11:59 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


It's no use. I've been wound up now.

BUTTONS, motherfuckers. GIVE ME THEM.

I want controls that have actual controls on them. I do not want a single unified Does Everything control surface that requires me to remember a slew of magic gestural incantations. Give me controls that are obviously there so I can try them out and see what they do. I do not want to play your silly tap, press, long-press, double-tap, swipe, spin, pinch, twist and slide games, fighting with the control surface every. step. of. the. way! to make sure it interprets whatever gesture in the way it was intended.

I like trackpads where I can turn tap-to-click off, so that the only time the machine registers a click is when I click the fucking button. It drives me insane to try to get anything even vaguely fine done on a tap-to-click trackpad where precise cursor positioning for a click is impossible because every tap comes with a potential unintended mini-drag included.

There is a special place in Hell reserved for designers of trackpads that apparently do have buttons, but where the buttons are actually implemented as reserved regions of an extended trackpad. The entire point of a trackpad button is to generate unambiguous clicks that cannot induce further cursor movement. If you've made it possible to drag the cursor about by touching a button, your button design is broken and you are a bad person and should feel bad.

Reserved regions near the sides of the trackpad for manipulating scroll bars: DO NOT WANT.
Two finger drag: DO NOT WANT.
Scroll inertia/momentum: DO NOT WANT.

I am so over machines that "helpfully" try to guess what I want instead of providing the actual controls I actually need in order to actually tell them. Fucking AI. It's all broken.

Also, audio mixing should be done on real mixing desks with real knobs and real sliders. That is all.
posted by flabdablet at 12:06 AM on November 7 [26 favorites]


Hey you kids get off my scrollbar!

Watching my dad work his mouse curser alllllll the way over to the side of the screen, find that little slider button, ready, steady, aim, ...scroll! is both frustrating and fun to watch all the same. How do people live without two finger scroll gestures?

Still, not knowing if a window/webpage is scrollable: not a good design pattern. My browser or OS should give me a that feedback. It shouldn't be up to app and web developers to have to come up with "Scroll down for more!" buttons.
posted by romanb at 12:31 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Tangentially related: will someone please make a smartphone with a jogwheel for scrolling so I don't have to keep mucking up the screen with my greasy fingers? Pretty please? Said jogwheel should of course also be clickable and I wouldn't complain if it could be used to waken, zoom, and release the shutter of the camera.
I can't possibly be the only one who is no longer tickled by the novelty of touch screens.
posted by St. Oops at 1:20 AM on November 7 [12 favorites]


How do people live without two finger scroll gestures?

What we do is, we scoot our little cursor all the way over to the side of the screen where the scroll bar thumb is just sitting there waiting for us to hit it, using our well practiced trackpad cursor control skills. Then we dump our left forefinger on the left trackpad button, and leave it there. Then we stop looking at the scroll bar, and start reading content, and gently use the tip of our right forefinger to nudge up or down exactly as much on the trackpad as we want, secure in the experience-supported belief that as long as we don't let go of the button, that trackpad is going to do nothing but slide that thumb up and down the scroll bar.

What it's specifically not going to do is to lose track of one of our dried up horny old fingers halfway through a two finger scroll gesture and convert the last half of it into some completely random sequence of control requests that takes five seconds to work out what it was and another five to reverse it.

Until you've experienced what it is like to live in a body with low-capacitance fingertips, you cannot begin to imagine how frustrating the ensuing randomly intermittent failures of touch screens and multitouch glide pads to respond to them can be. All of these things are designed by young people whose capillaries are still within cooee of their surfaces.
posted by flabdablet at 1:57 AM on November 7 [8 favorites]


Fair enough, I see how my comment was insensitive and would take it back if I could. I've used my share of unresponsive crappy touchpads (I am not young, but clearly unwise nonetheless) on various pieces of hardware and yep that ain't enjoyable.
posted by romanb at 3:12 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


How do people live without two finger scroll gestures?

How do people live without a mouse? Using a trackpad is like trying to write wearing boxing gloves.
posted by pipeski at 3:21 AM on November 7 [14 favorites]


There’s a big quality threshold for touchpads: Apple’s designs work quite well, to the point that I use a trackpad with an iMac because it’s faster, but even equivalent-or-greater price Windows devices often use cheap hardware and untested software, and since Microsoft spent a decade discouraging its employees from fixing non-critical bugs the behavior isn’t even consistent across their own apps, much less system-wide. It is much easier to develop a competent mouse +wheel system than a touch interface which performs better.

I’m otherwise with flabdablet on this: the flat UI trend has been an ergonomic and accessibility disaster. Watching people try to figure out basic tasks which were obvious 20 years ago makes me feel embarrassed for the field, especially since the results usually don’t even look better from a design perspective and the cost savings were minimal.
posted by adamsc at 4:48 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


Apple’s designs work quite well

People say that. But every single one of their keyboards, pseudomice and touchscreens that I have ever had my lumpen mitts on has given me cause to swear repeatedly at it. Every. Single. One.

I don't ask for much. Give me a $15 wired rubber-dome keyboard with working scissor lifts under the keytops and a generic $15 wired two-button optical wheel mouse and I'm a happy camper. But even after exposure to as much IT-directed cynicism as years in the industry have given me, I still find it shocking just how much gear exists that's priced way over that baseline and consistently works so much less reliably.
posted by flabdablet at 4:57 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Watching my dad work his mouse curser alllllll the way over to the side of the screen, find that little slider button, ready, steady, aim, ...scroll! is both frustrating and fun to watch all the same. How do people live without two finger scroll gestures?

And another thing. Full of things tonight.

You know what makes finding that little slider button, ready, steady, aim ten times as frustrating as it needs to be? Hipster fucking UI designers who think that scroll bars are an anachronistic waste of screen space (in a way that fucking camera notches are somehow not?) and deliberately make them not only half the width they used to be in the previous release but completely fucking invisible until the mouse pointer finds its way to somewhere within two pixels of the edge of the window.

Wanting to drag an onscreen control that's been made as difficult as possible to aim for, apparently for no better reason than that some wanker thinks it looks better that way, is just fucking enraging.

One of the things that the Breeze desktop theme I'm using right now on this LXQt installation gets right: when I'm working with a maximized window, just slamming the cursor all the way to the right and clicking the mouse button will engage the scroll bar thumb. Mile-wide scrolling thumb. No aim required.
posted by flabdablet at 5:08 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


How do people live without two finger scroll gestures?

Literally every single mouse gesture I do is a two finger one, because I use the one true trackball. Designers, please make good and functional scollbars, and always allow cursor and pageup/pagedown navigation because not everyone has a scroll wheel.
posted by Dysk at 5:13 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


There are situations where having a 'disappearing' scrollbar is nice, because it makes for a cleaner user interface and allows more room for content. But other times it's a pain, because there is no constantly visible indication of how much text remains to be scrolled or whether more controls or buttons can be accessed that are not currently visible.

Perhaps a small triangle/arrow could be shown at the bottom right to indicate "more below." It could be a slightly different shade from the background color, and shaded darker depending on how much more there is to scroll.
posted by jabah at 5:28 AM on November 7


It could be a slightly different shade from the background color, and shaded darker depending on how much more there is to scroll.

This sounds like a potential accessibility nightmare. You can't expect people to be able to accurately differentiate similar shades of the same colour, or indeed even necessarily see something that is only slightly different to the background.
posted by Dysk at 5:34 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I just want to say I really, really enjoyed reading The Man in the High Castle (for the first time) on an iPad with no scroll bars etc and thus no indicator of how much story was left.

Made the experience much more mentally cinematic.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 5:47 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


To add to my earlier thought and re: Dysk's input, the 'down triangle' in the bottom right corner could be fully black to indicate 'not much more to scroll,' or filled with a gradient (background color at top to black at bottom) to indicate 'lots more to scroll.'
posted by jabah at 5:53 AM on November 7


Live updating on the NeXTs of my memories actually sucked because they couldn't render fast enough, a lot of the time, and like, low-framerate live updating is fucking worse than no live updating.

(Also, double arrows on both ends was the obviously superior solution on both NeXT and Apple but IDK if that was an interface option or one of the many plugins; gotta have plugins.)

Arrows weren’t that useful, and, since the advent of two finger scrolling on a trackpad, I almost never directly interact with a scroll bar.

Yeah I can't live without two finger trackpad scrolling. It's far superior most of the time. I feel sorry for the benighted few.

I also still want scroll widgets though. There's still times when documents or parts of documents are hard to render. And sometimes, when the view is too small, it becomes impossible to precision scroll with a trackpad because it just whooshes too fast around the content. I want to be able to click a button that moves the view a precise amount.

Also with a trackpad, sometimes you have to position the cursor on the widget you want to scroll, and this can be a nightmare, like when you hit the comment box near the bottom of the page. Or another example: there was a Chrome build a few weeks ago (fixed now, it seems) that had this feature where you could trackpad scroll between open tabs. Here is how it functioned: 1. You open a healthy working set of tabs. 2. You click on a tab for some article and start reading. 3. You almost immediately need to scroll down because there's four thousand square miles of aesthetic at the top of the page. 4. You scroll down w/ the track pad. 5. Because the cursor is still up on the Chrome tab, Chrome thinks you are trying to scroll between tabs, and because web pages are pretty chunky to render, you end up "scrolling down" sideways a random number of tabs, your screen flashing obnoxiously as it tries to render each one. Enjoy!
posted by fleacircus at 6:38 AM on November 7


the one true trackball.

This is the only trackball you need.
posted by meehawl at 6:42 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Apart from missing out on an entire Cambrian radiation of scroll bars from various Linux desktops through the years, the first article is nice.
Every X toolkit since 1985 would like a word also. Not to mention Domain/OS, NEWS, &c. Should be "scrollbars of mass-market consumer GUIs through the ages."
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:03 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Pity that disappearing scroll bars and tiny scroll chicklets are stealing the scroll bar nadir crown from late 80's X Windows. Left click to scroll one way, right click to scroll the other way, middle click to jump to a point, with no UI indication of any of that.
posted by joeyh at 7:04 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


To add to my earlier thought and re: Dysk's input, the 'down triangle' in the bottom right corner could be fully black to indicate 'not much more to scroll,' or filled with a gradient (background color at top to black at bottom) to indicate 'lots more to scroll.'

This seems very vague and imprecise compared to the information a traditional scrollbar provides at a mere glance - better precision, but also an idea of the absolute scale of scrolling, based on the size of the indicator in the bar.
posted by Dysk at 8:21 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure exactly the point at which affordances stopped being seen as desirable in UI designs, but I sure as hell wish they hadn't. This fetish for "clean" designs that require the memorization of a user manual apparently available only via telepathy, where subtle misinterpretation of gestures routinely yields wildly unpredictable accidental control inputs that it's usually not immediately clear how to recover from, just gives me the shits.

There are just too many ways to do things by accident on a touchscreen, and since the UI Gods decreed a few years ago that Everything Is A Touchscreen Now, UI usability in general and discoverability in particular has just gone monotonically backwards. And I am fed up to the back teeth with being told that noticing this is equivalent to yelling at clouds or shouting at kids to get off my lawn.

If your design includes scrollable content, it ought to have a visible, discoverable scroll bar. End of.
posted by flabdablet at 8:46 AM on November 7 [7 favorites]


I'm glad that the scrollbars that failed if the pointer went outside their track have gone away. I think that was a Windows 3 thing.

Be thankful you can scroll. For no good reason, I've been converting old TTY BASIC games to the ZX81. If you don't issue a SCROLL command for every line, the text cursor will hit the bottom of the screen and your program will stop with a Report 5 (No more room on the screen) error. I'm surprised that the machine didn't come with an end of line warning bell and a manual carriage return lever …
posted by scruss at 8:48 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that the machine didn't come with an end of line warning bell and a manual carriage return lever

If it had done, they would have been kind of a weird shape and rendered in some kind of ultra-low-cost plastic almost, but not quite, entirely unsuited to the purpose.

Some minimalist designs are truly elegant, but no self-respecting Z80 deserved to find itself coming out of reset inside a ZX81; that design is just cruel.
posted by flabdablet at 9:17 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


(Also, double arrows on both ends was the obviously superior solution on both NeXT and Apple but IDK if that was an interface option or one of the many plugins; gotta have plugins.)

Ooh, I’d forgotten about that. I found a TidBITS article about it from 2003 that mentions double arrows going back to MacOS 8.5. Double arrows at both ends required a plugin.

Also, apparently jump-to-click was new in OS X.

If your design includes scrollable content, it ought to have a visible, discoverable scroll bar.

QFT.
posted by danielparks at 3:21 PM on November 7


I gave up when they started allowing two-finger rotation of maps. Like, does anyone read a paper map in any orientation other than up == north except for comedic effect in a buddy road trip movie involving a chain-smoking monkey?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:36 PM on November 7


Scrollin', scrollin', scrollin'
Though the 'Net is frozen
Keep those pages scrollin',
slide guide

posted by WCityMike at 5:50 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Like, does anyone read a paper map in any orientation other than up == north

Yeah, north=north. But only when using one "in the field" so, like a paper map, you can reorient your phone. I guess if you're on a touchpad specifically? But I'd always go with up=north with anything with a vertical screen.
posted by Dysk at 9:58 PM on November 7


Any GPS I get my hands on are instantly set to "2D map, north is up" at once. Anything else is detrimental to actually finding your way.
posted by Harald74 at 3:19 AM on November 8


Tangentially related: will someone please make a smartphone with a jogwheel for scrolling so I don't have to keep mucking up the screen with my greasy fingers? Pretty please? Said jogwheel should of course also be clickable and I wouldn't complain if it could be used to waken, zoom, and release the shutter of the camera.

...

Also, audio mixing should be done on real mixing desks with real knobs and real sliders. That is all.

Tangentally to this, at my computer, I have a Presonus HP4 headphone amp fed from the PC's line-out.

This -- in addition to letting me plug in good headphones -- gives me a "Volume Knob" to make adjustments quick and intuitive.

Anyone remember Sony Jog-Shuttle on umatic editors?
posted by mikelieman at 4:49 AM on November 8


Are we all going to ignore the fact that this website presents a collection of items to scroll through but does not offer a scroll bar with which to do so?

The only real innovation in scroll bar design that I'm aware of (in the last 30 years or so) is the way fancy programmer scrollbars use a mini-map of the document itself as the scroll bar's background. And those aren't included here. Pity.
posted by Western Infidels at 4:38 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


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