An Insight a Day

Natural Scrolling or Reverse Scrolling

For years, the trackpad on my laptop was configured to scroll down when I swipe down with two fingers. But these days, it seems like new laptops are configured to scroll up when the users swipe down instead. Why is that? It puzzled me for a while until I realized the reason.

Back in the days when computers were purely text-based, the only way to scroll down a page is press the down arrow key. So when the scroll wheel on the mouse was invented, it seems logical that scrolling the scroll wheel down should scroll down the page. And when the trackpad was invented, it followed the same convention.

But when the touchscreen was invented, it suddenly feels a lot more intuitive to swipe up when you want to scroll down. This is because we tend to view the things we can touch as physical objects, so when we want to scroll down, we touch it and move it up to reveal the bottom part. Apparently, this is called natural scrolling. So what do we call the other one where we swipe down to scroll down? Reverse scrolling, go figure.

So which one is a "better" user experience on the trackpad? I don't know, I've been using reverse scrolling all my life and I've just recently (today) switched to natural scrolling. And so far, my brain hurts whenever I try to scroll, but I think I'll get used to it soon enough. I already use natural scrolling when I'm on my phone, how hard can it be to switch on my trackpad?

Sometimes, it just goes to show that what feels correct or intuitive today can change tomorrow once we discover something new.