...or scrolling the content vs. scrolling the window (video for Apple's "natural scrolling")

I'm a happy Lion user now and (as many of us know) by default, the scrolling mechanism is reversed. The first tip on every Lion related articles is about how to change it back to the normal way.

I think that the scroll function is a highly well known pattern, so it's hard to explain to users why the new mechanism is better.

Personally, I didn't switched back because I adjusted to the new system super fast. In my opinion scrolling the content is much more comprehensive than scrolling the window as we used to.

Is there any research to confirm which method is better? Are we able to teach the more straightforward but less known pattern or will everybody change back to the good old regular scroll?

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    Opinion questions are frowned upon on ux.se, any way you could edit this to ask for a more fact based answer? Aug 31, 2011 at 13:07
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    What I mean is change it from asking "What's your opinion" to "Is there any research to confirm which method is better". That should be enough to make it a legitimate question. Aug 31, 2011 at 13:18
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    That's all you have to do is ask for it though, whether the research is out there or not. It might be. Maybe you will only get "opinions" for answers and maybe that will be fine for you, but the way it stands now people are going to close it. Aug 31, 2011 at 13:23
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    @DA01: I just added a video link to the question
    – Phil
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:20
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    This is the kind of thing I expect Jakob Nielsen to tackle in the next 5 years. So just be patient :-)
    – Rahul
    Aug 31, 2011 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


Thanks for adding the video link. Interesting.

As to answer your question "is there research..." my guess is no, probably not. Apple tends to go their own way and not pay too much attention to focus groups and the like. I'm sure they have done some form of testing and research, but they're not likely sharing it.

But I see what they are doing...this is a natural progression from a mouse interaction to a pure touch interaction.

When using a mouse, you are interacting with the scrollbar. And the scrolling there makes sense. When using a touch device, you are scrolling the content directly, where the 'reverse' does make perfect sense.

Where it's odd is on the hybrid devices...such as the macbook. So the fact that they left this in as an option is the key feature, IMHO. Some folks may still have the mouse mental model in their head, in which case they'd want the touch scroll to emulate the scroll bar, while others that are more purely touch-centric would prefer the latter.

I don't think either is better...merely two different mindsets. Apple probably figured that with the proliferation of touch devices it was now time to change the default.

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    Apple does a tremendous amount of user testing; they just are very quiet about it... Aug 31, 2011 at 15:30
  • Hence the "but they're not likely sharing it" ;)
    – DA01
    Aug 31, 2011 at 16:02
  • Yepp, I'm sure they did that - definitely not with mouse :) I know that it's an old way to control interfaces, but still many people are using them - I guess that they really want to make another "big shot", and thats fine this way :) Aug 31, 2011 at 17:49
  • You're spot on here: both totally different metaphors: on touchscreen devices you interact with the interface directly where the natural gesture makes total sense, but when you act with a mousepad, mouse or scroll bar you interact with the interface indirectly through a proxy where unnatural seems, well, more natural. Maybe because we associated the proxy mechanism to real world mechanisms like pulleys and the like?
    – colmcq
    Sep 1, 2011 at 15:41

I don't think there is any research yet and I doubt there will be any. I guess it's more about getting used to it because there are no obvious advantages or disadvantages. I'd compare it with driving on the right or left side: It doesn't really matter as long as it's the same everywhere.

The logic behind it seems clear to me: Moving the content is consistent with touch interfaces and Apple's moving towards touch with Lion (some interesting thoughts in this techcrunch article).

I personally switched back because I have to use other PCs from time to time.

  • Disagree, it would be easy to test the difference. You would create a scenario where people have to scroll in different ways (all at once, jumping around, page by page) and measure how long it takes. Aug 31, 2011 at 22:46
  • @sbwoodside: I didn't say you can't test it, I just think a test wouldn't show any difference because it all comes down to what you are used to.
    – Phil
    Sep 1, 2011 at 6:30

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