Apple has developer videos on design, two I find particularly interesting:
- Intentional design discussing the invention of the Rollaboard Suitcase
- Essential Design Principles talking about Morty's Faucet.
The first one, the suitcase, is about how obvious yet radical the invention was of putting wheels at the bottom of a suitcase to make things easier when traveling. The other is about how impossible it is to improve something as familiar as a faucet, no matter how much better you think it is - if its too rooted into your users mental model they will never get it.
Even if a suitcase is quite familiar, having wheels are such a huge improvement that users understands this instantly and really enjoys it. The comparison is a bit unfair since when you grab a bag with wheels it starts rolling - instant feedback. The faucet requires waiting until you know if you did the right thing. But imagine if they were exactly equal: So how much better must new things be to win over old habits?
I am about to find out, since Feeds is trying to change your usage-pattern for the very familiar scrolled-feed-list. It works like this:
- You always start reading at the top, and downwards.
- Sorting does not matter - if sorted oldest first (inclusivist), older articles come first - otherwise the newest (users are free to sort the way they want).
- New items are always added below, you never need to scroll upwards again.
- To refresh the feed, you scroll to the bottom and drag downwards (where a refresh spinner appears).
This is almost the opposite of how stuff usually works today.
Twitter: you start at a random place, and newer stuff is above. To read your eyes goes up one cell, then down throughout the text, then up again to the previous cell (unless inside a conversation). New items comes in at the very top, so to read that you must scroll all the way to the top, and then items are ordered from top to bottom. But after reading a few screens of tweets, new items arrive at the top, and you must scroll up to read new stuff, then scroll downwards all the way until your previous position.
Facebook: you start at the top and new stuff is below, but as you read newer items comes in at the top. So you first scroll downwards, then need to scroll back to the beginning to read the new item, then scroll down again to where you where (the more you read the more tedious this becomes with longer distances to scroll). Not to mention the hilarious event when you select something to read - going back again can trigger complete refresh of your feed where the order is randomized...
Everyone I have showed the app to, and who is also a facebook user does not understand the app at all. Facebook has become too familiar to their feed-reading habits, making my scroller a "Morty's Faucet" type of solution. Others however do understand the benefits immediately, and enjoys the benefits of having a logical feed - making my scroller a "Rollaboard suitcase" type of solution.
It will be fun to see if I manage to convert anyone, or if this is a lost cause. I am however super pleased with the result and happy that at least one feed-reader uses the smartest and most convenient way to read a feed: Feeds-app.com
I'm calling this feature "Natural scrolling", and I hope everyone will borrow or steal it. You are welcome world!