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Simplifying Tabs

A lot of people don’t get tabs. Why should that matter? Tabbed browsing make internet simpler and easier. If people as missing out on tabs because they don’t understand it then the browser design is flawed. I have seen my parents and some friends struggle with tabs because it’s too complicated for them. Given that there is a huge chunk of internet users who face similar problems, I think Mozilla should consider what it can do to help them. I’ll try and put across my ideas here for what could be done. The discussion would basically classify users into two groups: Simple & Power Users. Simple users would be the ones that use the browser for specific tasks and don’t multi-task too much. They would generally want a simpler interface, have lesser tabs open and would not like to burdened with too many options and modifications.

First up after the browser is installed, the user should be given an option to select what sort of user he/she is: Simple or Power. The way the browser looks and interacts would be dependent on the selection. The user can at any time change his selection. This is done because the expectations from the browser would be very different for the two groups. The power users want customization, an ability of modifying the browser for their needs. The simple users would want a browser, nothing more. They would be pretty happy living with the default settings. The browser interface therefore needs to be different for them. I’ve talked about some changes that could be incorporated for the power users and here I’ll stick to explaining what I think should be done for the simple users.

Tabs at the Bottom

Aite, one of the main reasons why some people don’t understand tabs is because IE doesn’t have tabs. Or didn’t until recently. So the fact is that tabs are completely alien to the browsing of anyone with a IE hangover. Such people would rather open a new window for each webpage than a new tab. I believe that seeing the windows on the taskbar is in a way more comfortable for these users. Thus it would make sense to take tabs closer to the taskbar for them. Tabs displayed at the bottom would be easier to find for such users and consequently easier to use.

Bigger, Brighter, Colorful Tabs

In the default setup the tabs are not very prominent until selected. This makes sense for users who have 20-30 tabs open so as not to distract them. However simple users usually don’t have too many tabs open. Well, not as many as power users anyway. So it might be a good idea to increase the size of the tabs (thicker tabs) for them. Also make the tabs slightly brighter or colorful so that they can be seen readily. Color can help in tab identification and implementing it wouldn’t be too difficult. Color codes like Chroma Tabs could be used but I’m not too sure if it’ll help much.

Tutorials

Not everyone knows Ctrl+T opens a new tab. Amazing as it might sound to most people here, but the shortcuts and tweaks we take for granted are unknown to a lot of people. It might be a good thing if Firefox has a small tutorial right after install to explain the basics. It need not be a full fledged guide but just the main points can make a big difference.

I’m basically just putting across ideas as they come to me. I hope that I can consolidate all the ideas into one concrete design plan for Firefox. Feel free to pitch in with comments and suggestions.

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Filed under: Design, Mozilla, , ,

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