What is it about a printed and bound stack of pages that makes flipping through them so irresistable? I’m not talking about those animation-faking flip books, where the stick figured fella skitters across the page as you thumb through the stack. Instead, look at anyone picking up a magazine, a cookbook, or even an essay collection. If it’s their first time through the material, they’ll probably flick through it. Maybe they’re a fingerpad licker—the better to swipe individual pages—or a fan-the-page type. Maybe they’re a signature grabber, pulling a few dozen pages at a time. Whatever...
Figure 1-3. Left: In their shrunken state, the Popular Mechanics page icons reveal nothing legible, but are good for fast swiping. Right: Expanded, the icons are big enough to skim.
The layout here also showcases a convention that seems to be emerging. To move between book chapters and magazine articles users swipe horizontally; when they want to actually start reading they scroll vertically. Kinda makes sense when you think about it: the former is akin to scanning the horizon, whereas the latter suggests a drilling down action, which is what you do when you’re ready to read in depth.
Readers want to choose, but they also want guidance. That’s why, for example, the New York Times home page isn’t an alphabetized, equal-sized grid of news categories. Instead, the website’s layout, like the print edition’s, promotes what the editors think is most important. Through font size, page positioning, and amount of real estate occupied, the message is subtle but clear: hey, reader: this article here is more important than those ones over there.