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I make feeds for a living and unless I'm mixed-up, on all the feeds I can think of, from Whassapp down, of course new items appear at the top of the page, the top of the list. (I.E., the old items move down. So on a feed you push the content up with your finger to see older posts. You pull downwards to see newer posts, with ultimately the most recent at the very top. {Indeed you pull down "even further" to typically refresh.})

But it occurs to me. Text in the West grows downwards: "newer" items are, of course, at the bottom. If you're, simply, say using a text editor to make a list of notes, a diary, or TODO items, of course it "grows downwards" - the newest stuff is at the bottom, and when you add one it's at the very bottom.

So,

i) In fact are there any major examples of feeds (feed apps, social apps, social in-browser apps, etc) which indeed grow by adding on the bottom? (Newest item is on the bottom; you push up (exactly like any text at all, any typed page) to see the newest stuff at the bottom.)

ii) Has this issue been explored? Is there a reason that (unless I'm mistaken) new is always on top?

iii) In fact should the new item be at the bottom? Any obvious woes I'm missing or any thoughts?

iv) Why (what cultural, technical, historical or accidental reason) is the new-at-top seemingly dominant in feeds??

(Note that certainly on device apps, the bottom is "always there", since the window is the glass: sure, in a web browser you could maybe "not see the bottom", you tend to "see the top" of a web page: of course these days you could shape it to the local height of the page ("just like an app"). Indeed perhaps, is the only reason we now apparently traditionally put the new item on top in a app feed, that, traditionally on a web page you see the top, not the tail?)

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Perhaps the most notable example of a feed where the newest items are at the bottom is forums. Although not a "feed" in the very strictest sense of the word, forums wouldn't work any other way. In my experience, whenever context demands that you have read the older stuff first (like forums), then the new content is always at the bottom.

On the other hand, this is certainly not a rule. Take text messaging applications, for example. I've never seen one where new text messages came in at the top, even though texts tend to be short and spaced out through time such that it would work perfectly fine flipped.

So I guess my point is that in things like news feeds where one item is unrelated to the next, all the user cares about what is newest, so the newest content is made prominent. But where context is necessary and the old is just as important as the new, the new stuff comes in at the bottom.

  • great point ... text messages come in at the bottom, indeed. Whassapp etc. – Fattie Aug 18 '15 at 0:42
  • This seems to best actually address the question (missing the danger of restating the question); since it was not anyways a very popular question, I"m ticking it! Thanks all ! – Fattie Aug 19 '15 at 15:54
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In one line,

The user must see the most important content first, hence remove the need for scrolling for them.

Which means:
When a user is viewing messages/ news or any items which may be dependent upon time, the newest things must be seen first.

But if the same list of messages contains information about tasks to be completed within given time, Older messages become more important(as less time is left to complete those) and should be displayed first.

So it all depends upon needs, what type of feed are you making?

We can take examples of Gmail- mailbox. A very well usage of this. Segregate content by types - Primary/Social/Promotions etc first and then order them by time. Newest emails at top, so that they get the most attention.

In email types: primary is the first tab, other tabs are after that so that it gets the most attention.


Regarding default scroll display down
As I said, the important information must be shown first, and as you said, you want to show scrolled to bottom by default, and if a user wants to see previous information, he may scroll up instead.

While this is fine and looks & works okay, just imagine the implementation part.

If we have 100 messages, and as we have derived 100th message is most important, hence user must see the 100th first. But since we are appending it at the bottom, we got to load 99 messages which are less important than it before it.

Consider the time consumption/ external dependencies e.g. let us say there is a spam message at 59th position, which is extremely less important and has dependencies of images on an external server. It takes a lot of time to load, and is not worth the hassle, in the mean time user is waiting for his most important message to load.

The curious case of Text Editors

Even in text editors, the most important information is shown first. The start of a sentence is more important than its ending, as it sets up the context. Hence it is loaded first.
The beginning of a stanza is more important than its ending (for the same reason) hence the flow is downwards. However, this is not the case always, sometimes middle or ending of an article/sentence are deemed more useful than other parts. Hence the formatting/ highlighting comes into picture.

The Messages and the Chat View

If we talk about messages, the last received message is considered most important, hence loaded on top. (Consider the list of unread messages in whatsapp, the sender of last received message is shown at top.)

But if we go to Chat view, the last received message is shown first (at the bottom) and previous messages are loaded above. The list grows upwards (as you said) with older messages.

  • hi Mohit ... hmm, nicely put but I'm saying why not have newest items at the bottom? Exactly as in any other writing or any other list, text editor etc. And you'd keep it scrolled to show the bottom by default (rather than the top by default). – Fattie Aug 17 '15 at 12:43
  • @JoeBlow can I ask why you want to change the convention of having items that are new put at the top then at the bottom? Is there a specific reason behind that thinking? – Majo0od Aug 17 '15 at 13:55
  • Also to clarify @JoeBlow, I'm not sure I've seen your example of writing or lists or text editors. All of the lists, text editors and writing applications I've seen have had new items put at the top. – Majo0od Aug 17 '15 at 13:58
  • Hi Maj. A simple example is these very comments! Also, quite simply, say you are writing using a word processor. (You're writing a poem or novel.) In that case the new stuff grows at the bottom. Certainly in Western languages where you run top-downwards... – Fattie Aug 17 '15 at 19:34
  • @JoeBlow I have updated my answer. – Mohit Kanwar Aug 18 '15 at 5:10
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Blogs are typically ordered new-on-top, aren't they?

I use Feedly to read lots of feeds, and it gives me the option to sort newest-first or oldest-first. My choice depends on the content, but usually I read oldest first. Some things (e.g., comics) should be read old to new. Other feeds (e.g., Metafilter) I get behind on, so I want to clear the old before getting to the new.

But news feeds, where timeliness is important, I want to read new-first.

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