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Only a year ago, I was against infinite scroll. In design meetings, I’d point out the way it breaks various aspects of the scroll bar. (You can’t tell how far through the full data-set you are; dragging the “thumb” down causes it to suddenly change place, etc.)

But now, I almost expect it when I’m scrolling through certain types of web pages. It’s slightly disorienting to me when I bump into the bottom of a page and have to manually click “next” or whatever.

What happened? In a word: New Twitter.

Okay, it’s not really “new” Twitter any more (it was rolled out from September through October of 2010 — less than a year ago, but those 9 months are an eternity in Internet time). But still, that roll-out was the impetus for my change in opinion. Twitter, a site I use every day, changed its UI and started doing infinite scroll. And now that interaction is a part of my daily life, and somewhere along the way, I got used to it. And now I expect it, at least in certain cases.

And it’s because one site changed its interface. And because that one site is one I use many times every day.

Logically speaking, there’s no reason why I should expect, for example, Google’s search results or my Dreamwidth reading page or TechCrunch’s front page to behave like Twitter does. One site’s UI shouldn’t — and doesn’t — have a damn thing to do with any other site. But the things we use frequently shape our habits, and that includes habits of thought.

As a side effect of my having gotten used to Twitter’s infinite scroll, I’ve gotten far less inclined to check the position of the scroll-bar “thumb” to see how far through the page I am… except on the kinds of pages that I expect to not have infinite scroll. For example, an article or story has a natural end, and it just makes sense for a calendar to be paginated.

But blogs? Or search results? Or anything that doesn’t have a natural break-point in it? There’s no reason why these things should require me to find the “load more” link. And there’s really no reason why that link should load stuff in a whole new page. Dynamic pagination with URL parameters like “?skip=40″ was always a kind of awkward idea; it’s just that there didn’t used to be anything better. But now there is.

Right? I mean, that really is the case, isn’t it? I don’t just think so because one of the sites I use every day has retrained the way I think… right?

Originally published at Coyote Tracks. You can comment here or there.

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July 2011

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