The mind is a funny thing. It’s really quite amazing that it can be trained to act so differently on two different screens.
On an iPhone or iPad, no one (that I know of) has ever questioned that you should pull down to move up. I suppose it’s because the iOS interface does such a good job of emulating a physical piece of paper or tape. You slide virtual objects just as you would physical objects.
Meanwhile, on a computer, no one questioned that screen objects should move in the same direction as your finger—though this is the antithesis of reality in the physical world.
And so like others who have taken to natural scrolling in Lion, I now feel like I’ve been doing it “wrong” on my keyboard-bound machines all this time.
What goes up must be... new?
There is a subtle similarity between iOS and desktop operating systems that’s now been broken by natural scrolling, however.
In iOS, we typically find new information at the top of ticker tapes. Any app that makes use of “pull to refresh” behaves this way.
On a desktop, we normally find new information at the bottom. For example you would scroll down to advance a PDF, word processing document, or email.
In both cases, down resulted in new. With natural scrolling, even though it’s physically equivalent to the behavior in iOS, down now results in old.
Of course, we all read PDF and email on our iOS devices, too, and natural scrolling still seems, well, natural. But I can’t help but wonder whether part of the reason my mind wants to pull down (when it should push up) is because it knows that’s how to get to the new stuff.
In any event, I find that natural scrolling works best if you pretend that everything on your screen is a physical object that can be pushed, pulled, or slid. That’s clearly the future envisioned by the constant-creators of our electronic universe.
Who knows. Maybe I'll write documents bottom to top in twenty years. We know not the limits of iOSification.