My client needed to design a fully SVG animated website with reverse scrolling.

But, I heard some people say things like:

Try avoiding Reverse Scrolling, It's a sign of Bad UI design etc...

What makes it a Bad UI exactly?

And even if we explicitly notify the user that they should scroll in a particular direction, can It still be a sign of Bad design?

  • 1
    If you're saying what I think you're saying, I use reverse scrolling on my Macs and I love it. There was a training period, but mobile experiences have changed the way I think about scrolling: I'm pushing the content around, not manipulating scroll bars. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 6:51
  • @plainclothes Yes, on second thought, I think I could move the content upside down(something like parallax) rather than scratching my head with scrollbars. Thanks :) Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 6:55
  • 2
    Don't try to be clever. If the user wanted reverse scrolling, they can set that in their mouse settings. Your design should respect user's decision on whether they uses normal scrolling or reverse scrolling.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't say it is always a bad UI design, but scrolling is one of those things that should not be counter-intuitive and behave in a way the user does not expect.

On a touch device, for example reverse scrolling feels natural (as you would drag paper UP to read DOWN.

However with a desktop environment we have decades of training to tell us:

  1. Moving the caret down, means it goes down
  2. the Down arrow to scroll, moves the page down
  3. Scrolling down a page with a mouse, moves a page down

Even with a disclaimer, muscle memory and what the user is used to you will likely make the user disoriented at least momentarily. Worse it can feel uncomfortable and clunky when the feed back does not match the inputs.

A real world analogy might be to build an aircraft where the control stick is not inverted. Even with a giant label saying "This aircraft is equipped with reverse pitch control stick" won't prevent trained pilots from expecting the up position from pointing the craft down.

Even if there is a good reason to do it, your user's experience is gauged in part by how well it's responses match the expected responses. Attempting to over ride that arbitrarily is always a bad UI/UX pattern.


I think the key term is direct manipulation.

There are two ways to look around something that is too big to fit in your fixed sight:

Moving surface, stationary eye

  • Paper
  • Overhead projector

use reverse scrolling

Stationary surface, moving eye

  • Hand scanner (remember those?!)
  • Light pen
  • Computer mouse
  • Turtle graphics

use traditional scrolling.

Which of the two alternatives is a touchpad on a laptop supposed to simulate? Is a touchpad a moving surface or a stationary surface? You decide (that's what our Apple and Microsoft are empowering/burdening you to do).

To me the answer is obvious, but touchpads for laptop computers have been suffering from an identity crisis, not knowing which of the two above they purport to be. It's caused by tablets becoming the cool sexy young kid on the block and laptops trying to fit in for fear of being left out as the boring old one.

It is a failed experiment that needs to end. I have faith it will (considering how much more useful features have been discontinued by Mac OS). Or maybe we'll end up with laptops without keyboards (which would be another disaster that would set us back 5 years).

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