Rob Griffiths recently penned a piece for Macworld, grumbling about Mountain Lion. He tore into two aspects of the OS: Apple’s tendency towards removing colour, and its decision to mess about with scrolling. On colour, I absolutely agree with Griffiths: colour is regularly used by people to rapidly differentiate objects. Cognitive load is lowered, enabling you to get to something far more quickly and efficiently. This is a trend in Apple’s interface design I’d like to see reversed, and perhaps it will be if the no-longer monochrome prefs icons in iTunes 11 are anything to go by.
The other points in the piece centre on scrolling. First up, hidden scrollbars:
Of these changes the invisible scroll is the worst: an invisible scroll bar is a useless scroll bar. Without a visible scroll bar, a user is required to take action to reveal the fact that a dialog or window contains additional information.
This is something that used to annoy me about iOS, and I thought it would drive me nuts on OS X. In reality, it’s bothered me little. Perhaps it’s because I’ve often attached the idea of scrolling to pages, and pages are rarely relevant any more. Perhaps it’s because in the majority of cases, it’s obvious if there’s more content outside of your view (due to the way in which it’s cropped). Maybe OS X’s little ‘scroll preview’ that pops up on opening an item that’s bigger than the viewport is enough for me. Who knows?
Where I very much disagree with Griffiths is on the subject of scroll direction.
The backwards scrolling also drives me crazy; Apple calls this “natural” scrolling, while I call it “insanely stupid scrolling.” The change was made to match the way people scroll iOS devices. However, interaction on an iOS device is directly with the screen, and it makes logical sense that the content moves the direction your finger moves.
I don’t see the opposite as being any more logical on OS X. It’s certainly what people have been used to for a long time, but I’d say Apple’s ‘natural’ scrolling makes at least as much sense. The old system evolved from you manually dragging a scrollbar. This was further abstracted on laptops that made it possible to scroll a viewport without you having to bother with clicking on the actual scroll bar. Therefore, your cursor could be over some content, and you’d be two-finger scrolling, updating the position of the scrollbar, which updated what you saw in the viewport.
The current system is simpler: you’re manipulating content. This is how things always worked on iOS, but with multitouch trackpads being extremely commonplace on Macs (since laptops are by far the most common type of Mac sold, and trackpads are also a built-to-order option for laptops), it makes perfect sense to me. You push up and the content moves up. You pull down and the content moves down. This isn’t backwards at all—and you can still, if you want, grab the scrollbar and move content that way. (Additionally, you can go into System Preferences and click [x] I HATE CHANGE—possibly actually labelled ‘scroll direction’—if you like.) As a sanity check, I asked my parents about this, whose Macs were recently ’forcibly’ upgraded to OS X Mountain Lion when I got sick of doing Snow Leopard support. “Oh, it makes much more sense,” said my dad, dismissing any notion in my mind that scroll direction was a big deal for the most part.