I experience the disorienting loss of vertical scroll position in many of the apps and websites I use. Twitter and other stream interfaces update the feed while you’re scrolling, losing your place. Page and card interactions often plop you back at the top of a list when you hit the back button, especially if there are filters active.
I’ll illustrate with wordpress.com since I use it a lot and helped make it.
In the screenshot below, I scrolled the theme browser down a bit.
And then clicked the “Shoreditch” theme.
And then clicked “<- All Themes” to go back.
And lost my scroll position.
A gallery style browser that loses vertical scroll position is very frustrating. Repeated grid and list scanning is headache inducing and exhausting.
I spend too much time getting back to where I was, trying not to fall out of high memory state, trying not to crash my stack. Vertical scroll position is sacred. The back button should take me back to where I was, not respawn me at the checkpoint at the beginning of the dungeon. It should not be a quest restart button.
Here’s another example on wordpress.com. In the following shot, I scrolled some search results down a bit.
And then clicked on a post in the list to open the editor and peek at the contents.
And clicked “Close” to go back to the blog posts list.
And lost my vertical scroll position. During searches, I often dip in and out of the editor looking for what I want. Repeatedly losing scroll position makes this so frustrating and slow.
One more example, this time with Netflix.
Click a show to start playing.
Click the back button to go back to the video grid.
Lose your place.
I felt frissons of frustration and loss back in the 1980s when my fingers —my little stack pointers and quest markers—slipped from the leaves of my choose your own adventure books. Now, I experience those feelings with regularity in my relationships with software. I regret associating those physical memories with a common software interaction bug: one that, seemingly, many of us can’t reliably fix.
The occasional slipped finger added to the sense of journey and questing. Repeated, daily loss of scroll position merits no associations with nostalgic sepia. The complex software interfaces I use today fail as custodians of context more reliably than did my 10 year old fingers.