Addicted to Design

Tab Queue

Mozilla Labs put out another Design Challenge recently. The aim was to re-imagine tabs for the future browser. The idea was that the way we use the internet has changed considerably. However the tabs which are a fundamental part of the browsing experience have not been updated to suit these changes.I’ve been thinking about this challenge from a specific aspect. How can we reduce the number of tabs that are open at any time? I shall try and explain my concept of Tab Queue here. The images are still very basic, but I hope they are good enough to convey the idea.

The driving idea behind tab queue is that we open a lot of tabs when we are going through  a particular page. These tabs are opened to provide us with some related information about the page that we are currently on. So all the tabs opened from a particular page are in a sense derived from it. However by opening so many tabs the browsing experience is hampered. It is very difficult to find the particular page you are looking for among the 50+ tabs that are lined up at the tab bar. Also related tabs might be at different spots further adding to the confusion. Instead of cluttering up the tab bar it might make more sense to put all these tabs in a queue and then display them one by one in the same tab. Thus we make the browser display less messed up. Also since related tabs are together it is easier for the user to find a particular page in his/her browser window.

To take a simple example let’s assume that we are reading the Wiki for the upcoming Towel Day. There would be some links for the pages of Douglas Adam’s, H2G2 etc. (Pardon my fixation with The Guide!).

So now when we come to the link to the wiki for Douglas Adams we Middle Click it and it is added to the queue (maybe Shift+Middle Click or some other key+click combo). When the link is added to the queue, there a nifty animation showing the Wiki tab under the original tab. This animation is transient and soon dissapears to avoid hampering the browsing experience.

When the next link is added to the queue, the animation is repeated with this tab being shown under the one already in queue. When the user is done reading one page he can move to the next link in the queue by using keyboard shortcuts (N & P should do).

At any point the user can hover over the main tab (in the tab bar) and see the list of all tabs queued. The user can select any required tab from this list by clicking on it, or even remove any tab from the queue by clicking the cross. Reordering of tabs should also be possible by dragging and dropping the tabs in the queue. It might make sense to provide a small preview of all the links in queue when the user hovers over the main tab. I’m not too sure how the previews can be implemented but it might be helpful to the user. If the user selects any specific tab from the queue, all the others remain in the queue in the same order as before.

What would make the idea even more useful would be to allow adding custom links to the queue. Thus while browsing the page for Towel Day, I can bring up Ubiquity and get the wiki page for Vogons. By using Middle Click or Shift+Middle Click this page should be added to the queue.


– The main advantage is that this would reduce the clutter in the tab bar. Since the pages in the queue can be accessed in any order it wouldn’t hamper the user experience. Instead it would make it easier as the user can put all the links in queue and then use simple keyboard shortcuts to keep looking through the links without changing tabs.

– Searching for a particular tab would be easier with this approach. This aspect would be especially important for people (me included) who tend to open a crazy amount of tabs and then find it hard to make sense of them.

– The pages in the queue can be loaded in the background and thus kept ready for when the user comes to them.


– I have no clue if this thing is actually workable!

LinkLists (extending Tab Queue)
There are some more things that could be introduced to power up this feature even more. It might help if users could create custom queues/linklists on the lines of a playlist in a media player. Thus when the user sees a link he could add it to a specific queue/linklist with a “Add to XYZ LinkList” option in the context menu. Such a feature would be especially useful for people researching on different topics. They can create linklists for each subject and then add links to any one of them. If the concept of workspaces is introduced to Firefox then all the ideas I mentioned can be used to make Workspaces easier to use.

This is a very rough draft of what I have in mind. I shall try to develop a better mockup to explain everything. In the meanwhile please add your comments and suggestions to improve on it.


Filed under: Design, Mozilla, , , ,

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