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David Pogue Calls Out 18 Sites For Failing His Space-Bar Scrolling Test ( 309

An anonymous reader quotes Yahoo Finance's David Pogue: You know this tip, don't you? When you tap the Space bar, the web page you're reading scrolls up exactly one screenful... But in recent years, something clumsy and unfortunate has happened: Web designers have begun slapping toolbars or navigation bars at the top of the page. That's fine -- except when it throws off the Space-bar scrolling! Which, most of the time, it does.

Suddenly, tapping Space doesn't scroll the right amount. The lines you were supposed to read next scroll too high; they're now cut off. Now you have to use your mouse or keyboard to scroll back down again. Which defeats the entire purpose of the Space-bar tip. Over the last few months, I've begun keeping track of which sites do Space-bar scrolling right -- and which are broken. I want to draw the public's attention to this bit of broken code, and maybe inspire the world's webmasters to get with the program.

Pogue's article announces "the world's first Space-Bar Scrolling Report Card," shaming sites like the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Yorker, and Scientific American for their improperly-scrolling web sites. (As well as, ironically, Yahoo -- the parent company of the site Pogue is writing for.) Pogue writes that web programmers "should get their act together so that the scroll works as it's supposed to. (And if you work for one of those sites, and you manage to get the scrolling-bug fixed, email me so I can update this article and congratulate you.)"
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David Pogue Calls Out 18 Sites For Failing His Space-Bar Scrolling Test

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  • Space-bar? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Never realized that key performs scrolling.
    Why don't people use the Page-up/-down keys anymore?

    • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @08:51AM (#53462543) Homepage

      Never realized that key performs scrolling.
      Why don't people use the Page-up/-down keys anymore?

      It's almost as if you've never seen an Apple keyboard.

      • The space bar is better than the page-down key because the space bar is big and easy to find without looking, even if you've removed your hands from the keyboard.

        Page-up is a different question; you could in principle use shift-space or s.t., but I don't know of any browser that does that. Fortunately the need for scrolling the view back up is rarer than the need for scrolling the view down, apart from these badly designed websites.

    • I remember this action on a CDC Cyber editor, and on a DEC VMS editor back in the early 80s. but where did this useful function really come from ?

    • Page-up/page-down are subject to the same problem. I know not everyone scrolls in this manner, but if you do (as I do) it's extremely annoying on the type of site mentioned in TFS.

      But it's a symptom of a larger problem, alluded to in the "list of historical problems" post above. Web designers care about pushing their products and their adverts and little else. If the site isn't especially usable or even downright annoying, they could care less. And people keep coming back to such sites, which in the designe

  • aka PgDn "trick" (Score:4, Informative)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @08:59AM (#53462561) Homepage Journal

    I wouldn't call it a "tip" or "trick" if the meaning of the key is obvious. Of course, kids these days might not see an actual PgDn key any more, and there are probably other reasons for the (unix)? tradition of using space for the same action, like HJKL for arrow keys.

    Speaking of tradition, if browsers can respect the traditional space key, how about basic text manipulations like Ctrl-K, Ctrl-A and Ctrl-E?

  • Perhaps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @09:13AM (#53462607) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps he should check sites for whether, when you follow a link and return, it takes you back to where you were or to the top of the page.

  • by cycler ( 31440 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @09:30AM (#53462653)

    Well, the fact that some of the text gets obscured by a toolbar isn't the problem.

    The real issue IS all the toolbars that remain in place when you are scrolling.
    Who ever thought it was a good idea to steal my vertical pixels should be shot at dawn.

    Even with Full HD screen there is still LESS vertical pixels than what I had 15 years ago on an old 21" 1600x1200 CRT.
    "Progress" my as.

    Seriously, could someone in web design please explain WHY keeping a toolbar on the top is a good idea?


    • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @12:23PM (#53463299)

      > Seriously, could someone in web design please explain WHY keeping a toolbar on the top is a good idea?

      Graphics Guru here. (I've been programming graphics and doing UI design since the mid 80's)

      I used one for the first time on one of my web pages a few months ago where I show the Section name, Page Number, and other misc info -- some which is clickable to navigate to a different section. Basically a "sticky floating header." I also have an option where the viewer can toggle color on/off (since I use color highlighting to show categories.)

      I have mixed opinions about this:

      * (+) It looks sexy as hell so I can understand why people want to use it. As you scroll the page up the last section you come across "sticks" to the top of the screen until the next one. It helps "anchor" the reader by showing them useful information relevant for the current section.
      * (-) Calculating where to scroll now needs to be intercepted / adjusted to account for the sticky header height.
      * (+/-) If used the ancient iFrame that would solve the scrolling calculation problem but I lose the graceful "scroll up into fixed place".
      * (-) I hate the fact that I'm losing vertical space which is already at a premium.
      * (-) Treating it as a "sticky footer" solves the scrolling calculation problem, but it just looks weird as the reader is mis-led into believing what the "next" section is, not the "current" section.
      * (-) I really wish there was an option to auto-hide it -- but that has it own's problems. What triggers it? That forces the reader to press a key or move their mouse to make it visible. UGH.

      With all the problems it creates I'm not convinced the sticky header is the right solution -- it has a limited usefulness. It definitely should be used sparingly, but I lament that there really are no good alternatives.

      i.e. Form without Function is useless visual vomit.

      Unfortunately too may UI / UX "experts" get dazzled by the "bling" forgetting WHY people are reading in the first place. i.e. They want to solve a task: either linear reading, or non-linear navigation.

      This is why I constantly asked myself 4 questions when I was deploying it:

      * What purpose does this sticky header server?
      * What problem does it solve?
      * Does it create more problems then it solves?
      * What are the alternatives?

      Good design is almost always a trade off. :-/

      The problem modern Web designers don't know what the fuck they are doing anymore. They don't understand the _context_ of the problem that has been "solved" for 20 years. Instead they want to dumb their UI down to tablet / phone standards tossing out all the UI advantages that people have come to expect as standard behavior. UI has become a "lowest common denominator" -- the worst of everything. Even worse these UX designers think they are doing god's work unwilling to listen to feedback on all the dumb shit they are doing, unable to learn.

      This current fad of "flat design" is one such idiocracy. Instead of empower the view to use different colors to help distinguish icons you force them to decode similar monochromatic silhouettes. *face palm*.

      It is good someone is starting to call out these dumb web designers.

    • Ha ha, did you not get the memo saying that all devices were to be used to watch advertising video in the standard wide screen format. Moron you have no idea how to give your money to big corporations.

    • "Who ever thought it was a good idea to steal my vertical pixels should be shot at dawn." I don't understand, why wait?

    • I have a Greasemonkey script that works wonders in this situation. Any site with annoying toolbars gets added to the list in the script and "position:fixed" is gone!

  • I scroll through pages with the mouse wheel. I also have the middle button (wheel) set to Browser Back. It's really annoying these days that the most frequently used button in a browser [] is so often broken.
    • by Luthair ( 847766 )

      The author of that page is wrong as fuck.

      • People do not expect the lightbox to be part of their back stack, the understand it as part of the page they are viewing.
      • Filtering - it depends on the page behaviour, if most of the page doesn't reload and its snappy then the expectation is different than if everything jumps around.
      • And yet it still breaks the back button, because people DO expect only an overlay that suddenly popped up after the page was rendered to disappear when they click the back button, not the whole damn page.

        Mind you, any site that pops up an overlay that blocks what I'm trying to read with something like "give us your email address to receive blah blah blah", I'm quite happy to leave anyway. I'd label such cases as BROKEN_DO_NOT_FIX.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        He's not wrong. Read what he wrote:

        The short version: users expect the back button to take them back to what they perceived to be their previous page. The notion of perception is the key factor here, since there’s often a difference between what is technically a new page and what users perceive to be a new page – which can create discrepancies between where the user expects the back button to take them and where it actually takes them.

        People expect Back to take them back. Anything else is broken. If the framework you use has implemented it wrong, your framework is broken.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 11, 2016 @09:32AM (#53462659)

    Huge fonts, toolbars, mystery hamburger navigation and goddamn parallax scrolling.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Yep, why can't we separate mobile and desktop viewers? I was OK with this! Argh.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Say you have a 12" tablet and a 10" laptop. Which is the "desktop computer" and which the "mobile device"?

        You appear to recommend the use of a separate m.-site. If a phone user shares a link through e-mail, Usenet, or more recent web-based substitutes for the above (forums, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with a desktop user, which version should the recipient see?

  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @09:38AM (#53462687) Homepage
    Scrolling isn't a problem. There are a lot of ways to scroll.

    What IS a problem is damned hover menus. They should be banned from the universe.
  • Web 3.0 - design websites that make the hipster website designers happy, but are less than usable for the people who want to read them. Web 3.0 has a wealth of special features including, but not limited, to:

    - low contrast text. The lower the contrast the better. The goal is text that is all but unreadable for a pair of 20-year-old eyeballs.

    - expected functionality of the webpage UI is sabotaged. Make sure that "space bar to scroll down a page" continues to work, but works incorrectly

    - lots of meanin

    • by asylumx ( 881307 )
      Don't forget the parallax scrolling!
    • - low contrast text. The lower the contrast the better. The goal is text that is all but unreadable for a pair of 20-year-old eyeballs.

      ^^^^ THIS.

      Also include:

      - weirdo color schemes like soft-pink text on a gray background, yellow on gray, pink on white, etc etc
      - super-tiny font size,
      - page elements that zoom in and out, bounce, or elastically jitter or shake for no reason,
      - form elements that are basically invisible until you click into them (i.e. no outlines so you can't tell that they're for elements)
      - custom JS-rendered form elements that don't work in some browsers or mobile devices and/or can't be accessed using the keyboard
      - numbnut

  • Oddly enough the article is on Yahoo, which breaks the rule. I can tell Yahoo why their eyeballs keep dropping. It's because crap like this makes your pages hard to read.
  • The article mentions scrolling up/down small abounts with the keyboard, presumably by using arrow keys. They are also handy for browsing pages wider than the browser window. Alas, many sites break the sideways logic -- when pressing left or right, they send you to the prev/next section of the site. For example, next topic on a discussion forum.

    I wonder who actually uses such a "feature" -- surely the kids today don't even use a keyboard, that relic from the 1960s terminal world.

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      I usually have a 1920 wide screen divided equally into two browser windows. That allows me to organize my tabs into multiple windows by task or web site instead of having them all run into each other.

      With that layout, most web sites do fit inside each window. However, there has unfortunately been a convention to design web sites for 1024 pixels width... which is slightly above 1920/2. That means that on some sites, I would have to scroll just a little bit left or right to make certain elements visible.

  • There's been a trend since the last few years making websites scroll via javascript, which completely takes over the user settings. I always turn off the annoying "smooth scrolling" feature, but since those damn scripts take over the browser built-in scrolling, I'm forced to see their so-called "smooth scrolling" which is slower than the built-in one and is overtaxing my old CPU/GPU. The end result is a forced choppy scrolling that looks like crap and make me hate your brand/company.

    The second annoying tren

  • I've noticed this issue for a couple years now, but I scroll down by clicking the scroll bar above the "down" arrow. Am I the only person who scrolls that way?
  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @12:43PM (#53463375)

    And while we're at it, can we name and shame the fucktards who implement the "infinitely scrolling" page feature?

    I hate that shit- you can't bookmark the page properly, and if you back up to it then it either loses it's memory of where you were (forcing you to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll down to where you were) OR it forces you to reload 150 pages of crap back to get back to where you were. Either way its a pain in the ass and a hostile UI design.

  • Hitting "return" also doesn't bring you back to the left side of your sheet of paper and to the next line with the "ding" of a bell anymore, either, and rotary-dial phones are becoming increasingly rare. Just do like everyone else and press the buttons on your new-fangled wireless mobile phone gizmo and hit the damn "page down" key or scroll on your mouse or touchpad when you want to move down a web page. The web isn't all plain html these days, if you hadn't noticed, and a lot of page views are on devices
  • I'm wondering if the guy who wrote the article has a dodgy plugin or browser that doesn't work correctly. I took a random selection of his websites and not a single word was obscured on any of the following:
    - The Wall Street Journal
    - The New Yorker
    - Tumblr
    - FiveThirtyEight
    - Kickstarter

    I'll leave it to someone else to check the rest but frankly this article has been the biggest waste of my time today ... and I spent 4 hours in a car today.

  • Web pages should never, ever be able to remap view control keys such as cursors, page up/down, space, end or home, without a very prominent warning and permission prompt.

    I'm looking at you, Google.

    Cursors: they scroll the page. They always have. Stop commandeering them for bizarre behaviors.

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.