“Pagination is obviously an artificially bolted-on construct on the iPad and iPhone, especially when the source content is unpaginated web articles,” Arment says.“The most ‘authentic’ web-article advancement method, to me, is just scrolling. But I can’t deny that I like pagination better. Scrolling through long articles just feels tedious.”
I tend to agree with Marco’s design sense, and Instapaper is a terrific, use-it-every-day kind of app, but I think he may be missing something here. Pagination absolutely is a bolted-on design holdover from a non-digital technology. But that doesn’t mean that using it is bad or unnecessary design.
It’s almost as if Marco (can I call him that instead of Mr. Arment?) is apologizing for a feature he knows will be looked down upon in some circles. He should instead be proud of his inclusion of such a feature and use his own intuitive tendency toward pagination as a prime example.
Why is it that pagination feels natural or comfortable to many, even if the source material is a continuous scrolling page? My answer is design. Design places a construct upon content (even punctuation and paragraphing can be considered as such). If I handed someone the current draft of my novel without punctuation or paragraphs, it would be nearly impossible to follow. Pagination is an extension of this concept. Each page is an acceptable breakpoint for the reader, a place to pause, process, choose whether or not to continue. The fact that the page-flip animation is “slow,” that’s a feature. As someone who teaches literature and language every day, processing time can be a huge factor in a reader’s ability to internalize and apply information. Pagination can be helpful in doing so with digital content.
“But pagination in Instapaper and other apps is automatic!” you say. It is, but the benefit doesn’t come necessarily from the author breaking up the text at his or her perfectly chosen point, it comes from the sense that the text allows the reader room to breathe, as a period or comma does, as any whitespace does in design.
As everyone knows (or at least pretends to know) computers process information as 0’s and 1’s. There are no spaces. Humans, on the other hand, can’t process this information at all—or do so incredibly ineffectively at best. Instead, we place layer after layer of design constructs atop the binary code to make it more easily accessible. The page-flip is just another in a long line of “unnecessary” features to help us poor humans understand the content.