Categories
Internet Web Development

Good Sites Bad Design

This article tries to explain why some websites with really ugly designs do so well regarding usage. I think it dances around the reality of the situation. These sites are ugly because they weren’t professionally designed. They were implemented to be functional and to get into the marketplace (budget/time/resource limitations). The reason they are successful is because they were either: innovative, viral (word of mouth), or just plain useful.

Design doesn’t make or break a website, the ability to expose usability and functionality of your product in a way the user can grasp with minimal effort is what ultimately is important.

The sites mentioned (Craigslist, MySpace, and Google) all have rather humble beginnings. None were started by the big companies. They were created people with an idea, not a design.

I guess it’s all about how you view things. You can either be vein, or be functional. In my opinion the gifted are the ones who are rather balanced between the two.

Categories
Mozilla

Milestone Tracking

Does anyone know of a way to get Bugzilla to give output similar to how Trac can report on milestones?

That is a really great way of viewing things. It lets you know where the release stands really easily.

Categories
Mozilla

Confusing Cross Browser UI Design

Most have heard by now that Internet Explorer is adopting the Firefox RSS icon to standardize and help users who hate having to remember what equivalent icons are. Of course this is great for users. Though I wish they were a bit more consistent with their practices. UI design cross browsers is important simply for security purposes (as I will demonstrate). IE has apparently made some great strides in combating Phishing. What I disagree with, is how they implemented the UI. I think it’s confusing, and could easily be fixed, should they decide to do so.

Their scheme essentially works by coloring the URL bar based on how suspicious the website is. Known scammers get red, suspected get yellow, and a potential good site would be green. This is obviously modeled after a traffic light.

What I dislike is how that can be confusing to the end user. Right now, the colored URL bar technique is used by Firefox and Opera to distinguish a secure website (since it’s more obvious than the little lock). Take a look at the little demo I have here:

Good Site Opera 9

Opera 7

Good Site Firefox 1.5

Firefox 1.5

Bad Site Internet Explorer 7

Internet Explorer 7

Screenshot from IE Blog.

For an end user, who doesn’t follow browser changes, and perhaps first encounters IE 7 at work, or in a public terminal. Seeing the yellow bar is familiar. We know that as being safe. I think many wouldn’t even notice the “Suspicious Website” text on the right side. The shield even looks a bit like the Lock icon in Firefox. Very confusing.

My suggestion is to use another color, in particular, one that I call “orange”. I release the color “orange” under a Public Domain License. Anyone may use it, however they may wish, no need to credit me 😉 (though I’d appreciate it).

Bad Site Internet Explorer 7 + My Solution

Internet Explorer 7

This would distinguish the site as a possible fraudulent website, but still avoid using Yellow, which many users now view as “secure” aka “safe”. This solution solves the problem of conflicting UI design between browsers.

Categories
Mozilla Software

Pavlovian Vulnerability

It seems like Ivan Pavlov’s theory of Classical Conditioning is demonstrated every time I install an extension. You follow the same mindless task of white listing the domain, so that you can install, then wait for the delay, and install. Restart your browser, and your done. It rather quickly gets to the point where you don’t even think about it. Is that a good thing? Is this a bug?

I hope at some point, we get to the point where there’s a secure repository of extensions, ones that have been tested and known to be “evil free” (spyware, adware, virus, etc.). A source of safe and effective extensions that you can use without worry. It would likely be hard to review them all, but some. That can be installed easily, and the user can know that they are safe.

My objection to the current system is that it does little but block “drive-by downloads”. It requires a few clicks, so you don’t install something by accident. But other than that, what have you prevented? The extension can still be literally anything in the world.

How many end users really understand the risk? How many actually understand the dialog presented by those prompts that we bypass without even thinking about? I’m guessing most people just few these as annoyances, and still open and install stuff indiscriminately.

The problem with security is eventually people get used to it, and life goes back to normal. It’s something faced by national security experts, as well as programmers. Special security measures are only special when used in a limited way. Otherwise they become the norm. Right now the US threat level is “elevated”. How many people are doing something special as a result of that? Yea, most are just living their normal lives. Does this “elevated” level serve a purpose (other than PR)?

The big question is how do you clearly distinguish between safe, and unsafe to end users? I’d love to hear some comments on how to prevent these current security measures from becoming a Pavlovian Vulnerability.

Definition

Pavlovian Vulnerability – the susceptibility to a security risk due to a learned response almost automatic in nature in reaction to a monotonous situation or predictable chain of events.

Note: this is different from carelessness or negligence because Pavlovian requires it be learned, either by training, repetition or some other means.

Note: Yes, I’m discussing extensions here, but it also applies to how IE handles ActiveX, Safari and Dashboard Widgets, or how all browsers handle downloads. No browser that I am aware of is exempt from this issue.

Edit (10/15/05 9:13 PM EST): Added definition for clarity in regards to the title of this post.

Categories
Apple Google Mozilla

Features vs. Usability

There seems to be an ongoing debate in the software world about features. You know, the “new toys” that come with software each time you get a new version. There was a time where you would always ask “what new features does it add?” when upgrading a software package. The end result of this practice was bloated software with more features than anyone could ever manage to use. A more modern practice is to “remove features” hoping to simplify software for the end user. Asa Dotzler’s recently said:

“I’d be pleased as punch if we could remove a couple features for the upcoming Firefox release. A feature is a flaming hoop we make our users jump through and if we’re doing our jobs — writing software that actually works for people — we’d be removing those hoops, not adding more.”

I’m going to respectfully disagree with Asa on this one. Partially on a technicality, and partially on theory.

First of all, I’d like to distinguish the difference between features and usability. Features can have a negative impact on usability, but there’s no written rule stating that must be the case. For example, web browsers added support for the PNG image format without negatively impacting the user experience (I’d bet most end users don’t even know about PNG, but it silently works). That is a clear feature. There’s really no UI to go along with it, so usability is not negatively impacted. No “hoops” to jump through as Asa put it.

On the other hand, you can have a “feature” like Microsoft Office’s Mail Merge. It’s messy, has an awkward UI, and doesn’t always behave as the user would expect. It’s often considered to be one of the worst features in the entire suite (besides Microsoft Access with is a UI disaster). I think that’s an example of the ugliness Asa hopes to rip out (though different product).

I disagree with the philosophy of removing features, instead I believe the best method is to revamp the user experience. For example, the “new window” ability in web browsers was a problem. Managing windows is a sore spot in many operating systems (in particular pre-Windows XP where it would appear as small specs rather than collapse into groups when many windows were open). Rather than limit the web browser to one window, a clever solution was to use “tabs”, effectively creating many windows within one. This alleviated the sore spot in most operating systems, and provided a more inclusive way of managing websites currently being visited.

About a month ago, I proposed we cut out the current bookmarking system and replace it with a more modern and usable Intelligent Bookmarking system. Such a system is actually adding many features (including machine logic), but would improve the user experience by getting rid of awkward menu’s and by intuitively letting the user auto-program (without any effort on the user’s part) the bookmarks system. It would essentially minimize (if not eliminate) the need to manage bookmarks. Is this adding or removing a feature? Would this be adding or removing hoops?

Innovation is about adding features within intuitive yet minimal UI. If you want a great example check out Mac OS X. It’s loaded with it. Lots of features to support everyone from kids and computer novices to expert hackers. It’s a great OS for that reason. It’s also one of the persistent problems with Windows and Linux. Both have some good features, but they are implemented in ways that are very hard for people who aren’t geeks to understand and use. rsync is way ahead of it’s time. But try explaining rsync to someone who doesn’t use a computer to often. Even most wrappers I’ve seen to give rsync a UI do a pretty pathetic job. They are complex, use technical language, are confusing and intimidate the user. Want to see why Apple’s .Mac does such a great job? Because it’s simple to use. It adds a feature (backup), but makes it easy to use (no hoops). Another great example is the PalmOS. It had two handicaps (no effective keyboard, and small screen), not to mention for the longest time PDA’s were mainly grayscale. But still it provided a robust usable experience with an easy to use UI.

Google has done a similar feat. Their homepage is still extremely plain, but you can do a surprising amount with their search box. They have kept a minimal UI, but allowed the user to do great things with it. They can add entire features without expanding on the UI. Google Maps added hurricane Katrina coverage with a single button. They added movies in a similar intuitive way. They didn’t create new services, vast menu’s, registration for these features. They integrated them tightly and made them easy to use. I don’t need to really learn anything new to use these add-ons. They just work.

Can mature products change? I see no reason why they can’t. Take a look at Netscape 6. It was a bloated immature product. Slow, very unintuitive and had menu’s that could confuse even pro’s. It took time, but it got separated from it’s sibling mail client, and both matured into much cleaner applications (Firefox and Thunderbird respectively). Are they done? I don’t believe so. They can still slim down their UI more. Bookmarking is in my opinion the ugliest part. The only reason it’s acceptable in it’s current state is because nobody has a really good system (yet). But there is still room to improve.

In conclusion, I see no reason to remove features, or even block features from becoming part of a product. I think the essential requirement is to get beyond the “ooh new toy” feeling and demand that the UI be minimal, and intuitive. Features are important. Could you imagine a web browser without FTP support? Needing to open another program to download a file. That wouldn’t be intuitive. But integrated into the browser and using the same download manager as HTTP downloads allows it to integrate so well most users forget what they are using. The same can be done for BitTorrent. We could add the functionality without causing a bad user experience. It’s essentially another protocol. The key is to not use a new or awkward UI, instead using the Download Manager perhaps just modifying to reflect the upload dynamic of the protocol. Other than that, it should should be completely transparent to the end user. They shouldn’t be able to distinguish what protocol they are using in any other way.

Features are good. They set Firefox apart from others, and attract users. What bothers users is features that don’t have a mature user interface. The solution should be to fix the interface, not drop the feature.

Categories
Internet Mozilla

Intelligent Bookmarking [Draft]

I consider this a draft at this time, and will likely publish a more finalized version at a later date. Please read with that in mind.

Bookmarks suck. There I said it [5 seconds for public outrage]. I rarely use them. Instead I use the auto-complete functionality of the URL bar, and I know I’m not the only one. I decided to take a little time and discuss why bookmarks suck, pinpoint the problem, and suggest a solution. Why? Because bookmarks shouldn’t suck. They should be useful.

Problem

The problem can be summed up to basically three points which cause many people (in particular people who spend lots of time in a web browser) to not use bookmarks. I will attempt to discuss them as briefly as I can:

  1. Bookmark lists are overwhelming – people like me who spend a bit of time on the net quickly accumulate a list of hundreds of bookmarks (if not more). The lists are so long they become meaningless. Granted it’s almost impossible to remember some of those giant URLs. It’s just as hard to find what i really want in that list. Then factor in that the title’s aren’t exactly great (since most sites prefix their page titles with the site name), and I don’t take the time to make them any better on my own. The list becomes unmanageable. The alternative is to be anal and nest them in folders, clean up the titles, etc. But that’s time consuming. Assume that takes a mere 15 seconds per bookmark. With only 300 bookmarks that’s 4,500 seconds, or 75 minutes (over one hour!). That’s not something I’m willing to spend time on.
  2. Auto-complete is very good – typically my browsing habits consist of under 75 websites. I visit them somewhat regular. So they are already in auto-complete. by simply typing in “we” I already get Asa’s Blog. “pl” gets me to Planet Mozilla. “sl” gets me to slashdot “fa” gets me to fark.com, “cdw” gets me directly to the order status page of my hard drive due for delivery. “fed” gets me right to the package I’ve been tracking. Why do I need bookmarks? Just a few keystrokes. No scanning menu’s for what I need.
  3. The Google Factor – Google has played a key role in this. I saw a 300 GB Seagate drive on sale the other day at circuit city (which I did purchase BTW). How did I bookmark it? I didn’t. I just remembered circuit city had it. Then googled for it. Why? It’s quick and easy. Again, no scanning through long lists.

All three of the above share a few common characteristics. First of all, they are attempts to avoid an unmanageable list. You can call it “work avoidance”, “laziness”, or what ever you wish, but that’s what it is. The second is that these alternate methods serve two distinct methods of how most people remember things:

  1. Repetition – most people remember things they see over and over again. How many here know a phone number off the top of their heads if they wanted to purchase a mattress? 1-800-MATTRES (leave off the last ‘s’ for savings). Yea, that’s right! How many here know Jenny’s Phone Number? 867-5309 (that’s 7 digits, most people don’t do good with more than 4 or 5 chunks). How many people can name at least 4 products on the McDonald’s menu, and have McDonald’s less than 4X a year (hint: just about everyone, regardless of if you eat there). What do these share in common? Well a few are catchy, or have a jingle, but the common theme is repetition. McDonald’s pounds their product line into the human consciousness. I’d bet more people know the McDonald’s menu than know what’s going to be discussed on the Senate floor after summer recess. Why? Because McDonald’s repeats their product line over and over in commercials, billboards, newspapers, etc. You see it dozens of times a day. To find out what’s going on in government, you need to find out yourself (Check CSPAN). Likely not as often. Repetition helps memory. Kids do it to study for spelling tests.”M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I” Mississippi. Ah childhood memories horrors..
  2. Accessibility – scrolling down a menu is a drag. It’s good for short menu’s but quickly becomes cumbersome. More than 20 or so items and a menu starts to become meaningless. Keyboards can quickly sort data very well. A menu and a mouse don’t sort very well. That’s all there is to it.

Solution

Is there a better way? I propose that there most certainly is. At least 1 better way, and likely many, some even better than what I’m going to suggest. My methodology involves a few specific ideas:

  1. Metadata – We’ll use the dictionary definition here:

    n : data about data; “a library catalog is metadata because it describes publications”
    Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

    The only difference here is our library catalog is our bookmarks, and publications are websites. Not really a difference eh? No, that’s not coincidence, that’s bonified logic. We’ll be working on this concept in a few moments.

  2. Machine Learning – Again we’ll use an established definition, this time from Wikipedia

    Machine learning is an area of artificial intelligence concerned with the development of techniques which allow computers to “learn”. More specifically, machine learning is a method for creating computer programs by the analysis of data sets. Machine learning overlaps heavily with statistics, since both fields study the analysis of data, but unlike statistics, machine learning is concerned with the algorithmic complexity of computational implementations.
    Source: wikipedia.com

    Again pretty simple right?

  3. Usage Patterns – This goes with that whole repetition thing.

So what’s the fix?

Bookmark Metadata

That’s right, bookmark metadata. More than just a title. Most websites use meta tags on them. The two most common are keywords, and description. An intelligent bookmarking system would look at the page being bookmarked, and extract that information if known, in particular keywords. Take for example this link to Crucial.com’s Memory options for a Mac Mini

<title>Apple Mac mini (G4 – 1.42GHz) upgrades from Crucial.com</title>
<meta name="keywords" content="crucial memory, memory, computer memory, USB flash drive, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, card reader, USB, USB upgrades, memory upgrade, ddr memory, ram memory, pc memory, ram, memory upgrades, ddr ram, pc2100, buy ram, ddr sdram, belarc advisor, ram upgrade, micron memory, memory ram, buy memory, cheap ram, compact flash, cheap memory, memory chips, pc100, sdram, laptop memory, computer ram, pc2100 ddr, memory configurator, micron, ddr pc2100, ram prices, pc133 memory, ram upgrades, sdram pc100, computer memory upgrade, compactflash, memory selector, Radeon 9800, ATi Radeon, radeon 9700 pro, memory module, how much ram, micron ram, compact flash cards, pc2100 ddr sdram, sdram memory, computer memory upgrades pc100 ram, radeon, flash card, pc133, video cards, pc2100 memory, radeon 9700">
</meta><meta name="description" content="Purchase Mac mini (G4 – 1.42GHz) upgrades from Crucial to get factory-direct pricing and outstanding service and support. For a limited time, FREE shipping on qualified orders.">
</meta>

See that yummy data? We can use that. How? Something along the lines of bayesian learning, we’ll discuss a bit more later on.

Intelligent Filtering

I should be able to go the URL bar and simply enter mac and see all Mac related websites (Apple.com, and of course that crucial memory upgrade I noted above). memory should bring up crucial.com. Entering cruc should bring up crucial as well. To separate history from bookmarks, the browser should have an icon to the right of the URL (similar to Safari’s RSS icon) that indicates if it’s history, or a bookmark. Based on my usage patterns, it should give weight to the appropriate item. For example if I enter mac and apple.com, and that crucial memory upgrade page appears second, and I repeatedly revisit crucial, crucial should come up first. Why? Because that’s easier.

[ mac|                                                   ]
 |apple.com                               (Bookmark)  |
 |crucial.com/foo/bar                     (Bookmark)  | 
 |macworld.com                            (History)   |
 | ...                                                | 
 +----------------------------------------------------+

No giant menu’s to find where that crucial memory page is, I could type in mac or memory or something to that effect. The above illustrates how I no longer need to navigate that menu. It’s integrated right into auto-complete, making for a real easy experience.

Intelligent Views

Camino’s Bookmarks view is rather good. In fact, it’s really good. I should be able to create a folder called mac and put associated bookmarks in there. Then when I use that keyword, I get all the bookmarks in that folder, in a higher priority than the machine learned bookmarks. Ideally when a new folder is created, it should attempt to auto-file my existing bookmarks for me. The end result could go in the current bookmarks menu. A computer generated (human edited) list of websites sorted and organized. Useful and relevant.

Machine Logic

Machine logic for this new functionality can be simple, or extremely complex. At it’s simplest form, it’s using the title, meta-description, and meta-keyword data, stripping it of punctuation (comma’s and such), delimited it by spaces, and creating a searchable index. In a more complex form, it’s figuring out how to group them based on patterns, probability, and user input. It could even go as far as using a dictionary file to get like terms, so computer also checks for PC. It can go as far as natural language, or suggest corrections (similar to Google’s correction functionality).

What advantage does this bring?

It improves the end-user experience of course. The end result is really pretty subtle, but good. First the days of scanning through a list of scrolling bookmarks no longer exists. That’s wonderful. The days of simply typing what you want and let your browser find it will be here. Your usage patterns will provide the browser with the information it needs to create a relevant, insightful, and useful auto-complete list.

Implementation

I haven’t implemented this, nor do I have plans to do so at this time. I think the plan could use some refinement, and the project would be better handled by someone with more experience (and time) than I typically have. I put this idea out there in hopes someone else will finally admit bookmarks suck, and help do something about it. Because lets face it, bookmarks suck. I would love to see it implemented, and ideally expanded upon so that it’s results are more relevant. Lists are bad, very bad. Simple queries are good. I know what I want. Why do I have to search an entire list? That’s the bottom line. Bookmarks were a good solution for their time. But not anymore. We can do better. Oh yea, Bookmarks suck, did I mention that?

Categories
Mozilla

Reporter FAQ

I’ve put together a quick QA on the new reporter tool to answer some questions I’ve recieved since I started working on this. These should address everything I’ve gotten so far (and cover a few bases). If you have other questions, leave a comment, and I’ll likely reply.

Why not just use Bugzilla?

Bugzilla was not the right tool for reporting evangelism for several reasons:

  1. Requires users to signup (extra work deters users from submitting reports)
  2. People don’t give enough information. “Yahoo is broke? is a bad report. We need several things to make use of the report: browser build, platform, exact page (no mistakes), problem description, and perhaps buildconfig or other information. Either users don’t give that info, some don’t know how to get that info, or they don’t bother. This creates bad reports.
  3. Because we gather accurate data (since most is automatic), we can generate much more accurate (and useful reports).

The results that reporter will give us will go into Bugzilla similar to how talkback works. Likely we’ll maintain a list of the top 20 sites bothering Firefox users.

Why can’t it just use a form?

A form would have been much easier to implement (and I did one very early on), but I ended up writing an entire extension and service for reporter to improve the accuracy of the data. With the extension, you can submit a decent report in under 20 seconds. You can submit a fantastic report in a minute. Most of the data collection is automatic, and perfect.

What about my privacy [you insensitive clod]!?!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time ensuring your privacy, and ensuring data integrity, and several things are in place to ensure it:

  1. A report is only submitted if you personally submit it. Reporter will never collect any data unless you launch the tool and submit a report. You need to do this for each page you report.
  2. There is no personally identifiable information associated with a report. We give you a random token (so we can get a user:report ratio). You never give your name, address, etc. Everything is anonymous.
  3. Yes, we do allow you to submit an email address (should you allow us to contact you in the [rare] event we need more information). Again completely optional. IP addresses are also recorded for security reasons. Both Email and IP addresses are not publicly accessible. Only an administrator can access such information. They are not searchable, or viewable in any way shape or form.

What will the data be used for?
There are several uses for the data. The first is to contact websites that are incompatible so they can fix their problems and work correctly in Gecko browsers (evangelism). The second use is to allow Gecko Engineers to see what problems are bothering the most users. This can help decide which bugs effect the most people.

What about SeaMonkey? Camino? Minimo?

I’ve already assured SeaMonkey compatibility. As far as Camino and Minimo support, it’s up to their respective development teams to come on board. I don’t have the development knowledge to do it myself, but I’d work with anyone who wants to bring such support.

When will it be localized for [insert language]?

The client side will be localized like anything else in a release. Same scheduling/policies/methods apply.

We will not be localizing webtool itself. It will be available in English. There’s just not enough cause to justify it. You can of course query the results based on the locale of the browser. And even search websites based on the TLD (for example .nl). This allows people who want to help improve support for a particular locale to zero in on what they need.

Will it be shipped with Firefox?

That remains to be seen. How it will be included (as an optional install like Talkback, default install, or not at all) has yet to be fully decided. I suspect to see it in non-release builds sooner than later.

I’m obviously lobbying to get this as a default on all installs. Since only a small percentage will participate [unlike talkback it doesn’t invoke automatically, it requires a user to do so on their own] it’s important we try and give the option to as many users as possible. The more reports from a larger audience, the more accurate the data will be.

When will it be in builds?

When cmp gets time to hook it up.

Is it true that you love monkeys?

Absolutely. And there’s a psudo-Easter egg to prove it.

Categories
Personal

Winter Break is upon us

That’s right. Final 6/6 is done. That means it’s time for 1 (6/6) Winter Break. I’ve got a few things on my agenda.

The first thing that needs to get done is a clean install of windows on my laptop. So I’ll be backing up this afternoon/evening and wiping tonight. Tomorrow I’ll start copying data and reinstalling. It should take several hours, but it’s necessary. I put it off for a while because the semester was still going on, but it’s time.

After that, reporter webtool is a big priority, I want to wrap that up, and get the second test deployed. Lots of improvements, a massive UI overhaul, and tons of tweaks, changes, bugfixes, enhancements. I’m looking forward to that.

Then I’ve got some more ‘classified’ stuff to take care of… Of course some sleep falls into this whole picture somewhere.

Overall, going to be busy, but should be fun.

Categories
Mozilla

Flash tutorial for Firefox 1.1

I briefly flashed the idea on #spreadfirefox, but I thought I’d elaborate on it here:

First Impressions are everything

We’ve said that before, and most agree. Psychologists have spent considerable time on this. People make very quick decisions on if they like something or not. They either like it, or they don’t. Impressions happen quickly. Firefox needs to make a good one. I think we can improve it by creating a Flash, JavaScript, or SVG based tutorial on first run. Something flashy, yet professional, and artistically done. Clean simple UI. Perhaps a few options on the main page:

  • Firefox Features
  • What’s new in this release – 1.1
  • Why Firefox
  • IE –> Firefox Tips and Tricks
  • Help Firefox

Each would bring you to some information, such as why you should use Firefox (including an animated demo of how ‘Tabbed browsing works’, ‘Livemarks’, etc. Minimal Text, maximum efficiency. In 5 minutes, the user should be able to see why Firefox is better by example, not by reading. How to use features etc. Simple, quick, easy to follow. Sexy animations show how it works. People are hesitant to read text.

What’s new, would be a great way to show users what changed since the last version. Remember: Firefox got this far by word of mouth. Letting current users see how much better each version got, makes them more inclined to tell some friends about it. Show off the new improvements in a way users are inclined to see them.

Help Firefox would perhaps discuss ways to help Firefox (obvious right). Spreadfirefox.com, report broken websites, report bugs, donate, buy Mozilla gear, etc.

Such a feature would popup on the first load of a new profile. At that point they could disable it from showing again. Next release it comes back with new features. Only once by default, unless the user decides otherwise.

What we accomplish

  • Show users what to look for when deciding if Firefox is right for them.
  • Show users the new features if they are upgrading.
  • Show users how to adjust to Firefox if they are a habitual IE user.
  • Show users how they can help Firefox.

I think we can all agree we want that.

Casual users don’t like reading. They don’t have the patience. It needs to be displayed for them. Illustrated for them. That is what will get more people to use Firefox. Remember: downloads are great, but we ultimately need users. That’s the goal here.

Categories
Mozilla

After Asa and djst started I couldn’t resist

After Asa, and djst started redesigning the toolbar, it got me thinking. What would be the best config for the general user? So I got playing, and here’s what I came up with:

Option 1

Toolbar 1

This is more compact, and better (IMHO) for larger displays at higher resolutions. There icons are selected and positioned based partially on IE parity, as well as a few are placed to introduce Firefox Advantages (new tab). Secondly they are spaced and catagorized appropriately (core navigation features, url bar, quick search, browser accessory features).

Option 2

Toolbar 2

This is even more of a feature parity, and keeps the same concept. The big ‘advantage’ here is that the URL is more visible on smaller displays. Not sure if that long is needed. Most end users will only enter domains, not long url’s, so having that much space is mostly irrelevant.

The one button that would be cool to have with either is a second bookmark button to add the current page as a bookmark. That way even such a feature as bookmarking is visually represented easily in the interface.

Ideally I see three goals:

  • Parity, reduce the learning curve for potential new users.
  • Optimize screen real-estate. As much page space as possible. Minimize clutter.
  • Make common features, and our ‘best parts’ visible. Such as the go button, quick search, as well as tabs (it’s a big feature).

End users aren’t learning key commands. That’s why they like GUI’s. So things like tabs become much more accessible as a button than as a menu option in the file menu. That’s obscure, and users don’t see it. But as a button it’s easily accessible.

Comments welcome.