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UI Evolution vs Revolution (Part 1): Scroll Bars

(this post started as a comment so I might come back to it - or I might just start a series on UI changes)

I read
Why Windows 8 Might Fail | John C. Dvorak | ,typical Dvorak, whom I've been reading for , ouch, just about my entire life in computers. That seems strange to write. But every article I read on Lion and Windows 8 seems to talk about this strange trend of removing scrollbars. (Comment starts now):

The proof is scrollbars? Really?!?!?

How many of you actually use scrollbars? I'm not talking about moving up and down through a page, I'm talking about using the scrollbar as a tool instead of just a means of identifying where you are on a page.

If you're on a laptop, chances are you either a) use the keyboard or b) have gesture support which means you gesture "up" to move the page down.

If you're on a PC, I still say the above still counts. New users will be confused initially but they will get it.
If you're on a Mac, you're used to multi-gesture already.

Scroll-bars work as a tool to indicate where you are. They aren't gestures - get over it. Granted, if they changed the visual clue (the thumb being at the top of the page meaning they were at the bottom), then it's a big thing. But no one is talking about this.

If you believe in gestures, pulling something to the right makes the left move visible. Pulling something down shows the top of it. (try it). A scroll bar on a book would mean moving the thumb to the right would take you to the end. But with gestures, you would PULL the page to the left.

Getting rid of scrollbars makes sense only if you start using Up and Down arrows on the page to indicate there is more or less text.

But Letting the user choose how scrollbars work is about as idiotic as letting users reverse what mouse buttons do what. How annoying is it when you are used to using a Right mouse and then go to someone who uses a left mouse? We're not talking about moving to a different country and seeing the wheel on the different side of the car or reading right to left instead of left to right - we're talking about letting the user decide that the reverse method of doing something is the right way. Apple had this right years ago - put your mouse on whatever side you want but don't change how the mouse works.

The idea of an "evolutionary" interface is tough to build - because users all "evolve" at a different pace. That is why it's taken 10 years for people to start getting over XP.

Apple's approach has always been to revolutionize the interface and then slowly evolve certain aspects of it but then revolutionize it again. (System 1-7, Newton, OS/X, iPod, iPhone/iPad). Don't go to the "Apple steals what works" argument - this is their history.

Microsoft's biggest successful contribution to revolutions was Excel but I'm sure there are others. The Office Ribbon wasn't a revolution but it came close. How successful is it really? What Microsoft "revolution" do you like?

[Update: Yes, I would say Kinect makes a pretty good case for interface revolution, especially in how it allows developers to make it better.]


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