The importance of paging

Something the iPhone brought us was amazing scrolling. I'm not a fan of the pinch-zoom, but the flick-to-scroll has been an outstanding innovation. Macbook users will know about the two-finger scroll (which still sounds somewhat riské). We got hooked on scrolling long before that of course, when the wheel on the mouse came out.

Before the mouse wheel we worried about page folds. Would the naive mums trying Netscape 4 for the first time understand that there was more information there, just out of sight? Jakob Nielsen and his army of acolytes made you employ a usability expert to blow your budget stressing over the issue.

Scrolling is a non-issue now. Vertically, I mean. Horizontal scrolling is right out. It's a no-go, confined to designers' CVs to show just how radical and out-of-the-box they can imagine.

Paging is another issue. Frankly it's a bitch. Why should I wait for a page reload, when I can flicky-scroll? Newspapers do it to make sure you're seeing enough adverts. Tutorials do it to make sure you're not overwhelmed by learning more than one thing at once. And we hate it. It sucks.

But now the iPad is on the scene. That changes things a bit.

The iPad has a fixed screen resolution for us. And the screen is sufficiently bigger than the iPod for us to start thinking that columns might be necessary. The New York Times has their application on there. Columns and pages.

Columns are useless without paging. Who wants to read all the way down (scroll, scroll, scroll), then have to go all the way back tot he top to continue reading? Paging and columns go hand-in-hand.

A horizontal scroll is still nasty, but maybe there's a place for paging now. Not page-reloading. But nice, simple paging. Flicking through a paperback is still the best search function. If the iPad Safari lets us have the nice paging function that other apps use, our web apps will be awesomely integrated*.

So how about it? A spot of new CSS and a old-school page transition, for the new world of iPad.

CSS3 has columns, but no paging. We need both, and we need it soon. It could be the new flicky-scroll.

Until then of course, you can just play with my new js-columns newspaper columns plugin.

* One could argue that in fact Apple intentionally do not encourage web apps, because they'd rather lock developers into their app environment. Why else would the accelerometer still be inaccessible from JavaScript? Why else wouldn't bookmarks appear in your home screens? Not being cynical. Just saying.

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