In Firefox, you can make the page text larger and smaller by holding down the Control key and rolling your mouse scroll wheel up and down. Before continuing to read, I want you to think about which direction makes more sense: should scrolling down make the page get bigger or smaller?
My natural intuition is that I should scroll down to make the page get bigger. This doesn’t match the default Firefox setting, or my wife’s natural intuition. For a long time I’ve wondered why I would have such a strong feeling that scrolling down would make the page bigger. Today, while doing morning browsing activities, I’ve finally figured it out.
When the page gets bigger, the bottom of the page scrolls down. The opposite happens when the page scrolls up. So I’ve been using a visual cue of the page scrolling for the scroll wheel. My wife thought about this and said “I’m not a visual learner, so I never thought of it that way. I just thought ‘up is zooming in’.” (She’s a teacher, can you tell?)
I have the exact same problem in Google maps: I think of it as “zooming down to see something” and consistently get it wrong. I’m not proposing that we change the default: my intuition is probably a strong minority. I just wonder whether there are other people like me, and whether there are common UI interactions where visual cues and logical cues don’t always match up.
For those of you who care enough, you can change the default in Firefox. Navigate to about:config in your URL bar, click through the scary warning, find the pref “mousewheel.withcontrolkey.numlines” and switch the value from “1” to “-1”.