The Generalist

Forward and Back

As I was working developing a website and blog for a friend’s business, something occurred to me. It was just a minor observation, but one that got me thinking and you might find it interesting. It is something that has probably, at least fleetingly, come to the mind of everyone who keeps a blog – at least if their blog is longer than one page. What is it? It’s those little previous and next links that appear after so many posts go by on a main blog page. Whether it’s previous posts and next posts, or forward in time/backward in time, or earlier posts/later posts, you get the idea. The links are either floated left and right, or centered together, one on the left, one on the right, and sometimes they even have arrows (mine do). The question is, why does one choose the left or the right?

Ok, philosophically speaking, this isn’t too important. But what IS interesting is that it actually took some thought to figure out why I felt that the previous post link OUGHT to be on the right and the later posts link OUGHT to be on the left. It might not have occurred to me at all, except that the template I was modifying had them reversed and it bothered me.

So first, I tried to justify the template author’s view. I assumed I was wrong. What would make him right? Well, I thought, you do read a book from left to right. You turn the pages left to right and so when you read a blog, you ought to read it left to right, too. When you read a book you read from earlier in time to later in time. Therefore, later posts ought to be on the right. Sounds good, right?  So why didn’t I like it?

After some thought, I decided that one does not read a blog in the same order as one reads a book. Again, in a book, you read what happens first FIRST. But in a blog it is precisely reversed – you read what happens LAST first. Hmm….

So, if a blog where a book, the first pages would hold the latest information and the last pages the earliest information. Hence, the link going to earlier posts really ought to be on the right.

What is interesting about this is that I never consciously thought about it before – and yet I had an opinion. This opinion was something I picked up entirely subconsciously. And maybe you did, too. And yet it seems to me an extremely subtle observation. Subtle enough that it took some thought for me to answer the question why I felt the way I did.

Now, I can’t say it’s wrong or right to do it either way, but at least now I know the reasoning behind what before was simply an intuitive preference. As with all of these little observations, they may not mean much, but they expose the inner workings of the human mind and I do think working out the reasoning behind our automatic responses ultimately serves us.

So there you have it. :)

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my little observation about foreign book spines.

 

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