A large pro­por­tion of the in­for­ma­tion I con­sume on my mo­bile comes from two app­s: The Economist (iOS, An­droid), and a whole lot of feeds via Feed­ly (iOS, An­droid). They both present text in nar­row columns and share a love­ly, sim­ple nav­i­ga­tion metaphor which un­for­tu­nate­ly has re­cent­ly bro­ken (on An­droid at least­).

In both cas­es, each sto­ry is pre­sent­ed in a sin­gle col­umn that fills the screen from left to right and ex­tends ar­bi­trar­i­ly far down, as long as need be for the piece’s body. The sto­ries are side by side. There are on­ly two ways to nav­i­gate: Up or down the column­s, and right or left be­tween sto­ries. Here’s a pic­ture.

Columnar navigation

I’m sure oth­er news­pa­per and information-dense apps must have adopt­ed this metaphor be­cause it’s just so in­tu­itive. It works great on mo­bile be­cause no mat­ter how fat-fingered you are, the app on­ly has to dis­tin­guish be­tween vaguely-North/South and vaguely-East/West and the right thing al­most al­ways hap­pen­s.

Now, there’s a sub­tle­ty: If you swipe left to go to the next sto­ry, you want to bounce up to its top. But if you swipe back, you al­most cer­tain­ly don’t want to bounce to the top of the pre­vi­ous sto­ry, be­cause you al­ready read that, and you prob­a­bly are go­ing back be­cause you ac­ci­den­tal­ly swiped while reach­ing for a drink, or re­al­ized a mi­crosec­ond af­ter you swiped that that para­graph was more in­ter­est­ing than it’d seemed when you launched your fin­ger.

And if you’ve read a ways down sto­ry B and swipe back to A, then for­ward again to B, once again you don’t want to pop to the top of B. Which is to say, it should re­mem­ber your scroll po­si­tion, at least for the im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor and suc­ces­sor of what­ev­er it is you’re read­ing.

And, both apps used to. But some­time in 2017 they stopped, snap­ping re­morse­less­ly to the top of what­ev­er col­umn you swipe to, for­ward or back. It’s an­noy­ing as hel­l; maybe be­cause I of­ten change my mind about leav­ing an ar­ti­cle and de­cide to go back. And the fact that it hap­pened in both the Economist and Feed­ly makes me won­der if some­thing in the An­droid app frame­work broke.

So I’m not sure who I’m mad at; the de­vel­op­ers of two of my fa­vorite apps sep­a­rate­ly, or just some­one in the An­droid group.

If you’re read­ing this and you think it’s you I might be mad at, well hey, no big­gie, but please fix?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: David Carlton (Dec 27 2017, at 21:59)

The iOS Feedly app started doing that earilier this year, and I was similarly annoyed; fortunately they switched it back maybe a month ago. So, with luck, it’s the app’s fault and Feedly on Android is behind iOS for some reason?


From: Richard Smith (Dec 27 2017, at 22:47)

I don’t use the economist apps but use Feedly everyday for everything (including your blog) and I just tested this behavior on iOS. Works (still). Thank goodness. How annoying for you. Let the Feedly folks know? They are usually very responsive.


From: Pete Forman (Dec 28 2017, at 03:44)

Along with many others I moved to Feedly when Google Reader was closed down. However on mobile I never got along with their app. The alternative I chose was gReader Pro to consume the Feedly content. Actually the free version worked well enough, it is one of the few apps that I have been happy enough with to upgrade to paid. There are other apps but a major criterion of mine is to be able to read the content offline.


From: Eric D Hanchrow (Dec 28 2017, at 07:06)

I use "Palabre"; works fine.


From: J. King (Dec 28 2017, at 16:13)

I don't use Feedly; I administer my own newsfeed sync server, by which I mean the software I wrote myself. On Android I use OCReader, and it operates in the way you would consider correct, Tim.


From: Bob Monsour (Dec 28 2017, at 16:51)

I don't typically read the Economist on my iPhone, but just checked and it takes you to the top after reading some swiping to the next piece, and then swiping back. Can't tell if this is a change, as I read it mostly on my iPad or in print.


From: Paul Clapham (Dec 28 2017, at 23:02)

I'm using Inoreader on Android and it works the way you (and I) would like.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

December 27, 2017
· Technology (81 fragments)
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are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

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professional interests is
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