I had a thought inspired by the name of this post on qcdesigners: http://qcdesigners.com/index.php/forums/topic/79/scroll-up-vs-scroll-down

For a long long time, we have had scroll bars at the edges of content areas when the content overflows the visible area. To see text or an image that is cut off by the lower edge of the visible area, one would either grab the scroll bar and drag it down, or use a mouse wheel or trackpad and perform a downwards gesture. I think we’d all agree to call that action ‘scrolling down’.

A different interaction method, brought to the mainstream by touch screen devices, lets you touch the content directly and drag the way the content should move. To reveal text that is overflowing off the lower edge of the screen, you touch the content and drag your finger upwards.

What do you call this upwards gesture?

I would guess, that most people would still refer to it as ‘scrolling down’. Maybe that’s due to the fact that you are able to read content further down the page. Maybe it’s because of the ingrained action of grabbing scroll bars and moving them downwards.

But what if that history with scroll bars hadn’t existed… What if this ‘natural scrolling’ had always been the way? What might a newer generation of users consider this action as? One perception might be that you are actually moving the content upwards. Nothing is moving down. To a technically illiterate person, a very young child who can use a touch device for example, what is ‘scrolling’ anyway? They are just moving content around.

As touch becomes more prevalent, and scroll bars feature less and less in user interfaces, I wonder if it’s time to change how we refer to certain actions that may have a more intuitive description.

I find it fascinating going through these thought processes. I didn’t come to any real conclusion on this, but I find it great as a thought exercise to try to open up a response or action we just take as given. Just don’t get me started on people who still insist on using a floppy disk as a save icon….