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Addicted to Design

What’s New in Firefox 3.5?

Mike Beltzner gives a quick preview of what’s new and exciting in Firefox 3.5. I’m personally super excited about the Open Video support and blazing fast TraceMonkey engine. Open Video is definitely a big step forward in making videos on the web more democratized. To find out why Open Video is so important see this post by Christopher Blizzard and this one by Mike Shaver. Also, with CSS improvements and support for downloadble fonts this browser is definitely going to make the web a better place. The Release Candidate has been creating quite a buzz and if you are interested you can get it here.

Filed under: Mozilla, Video, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Filed under: Design, Mozilla, , ,

Firefox for Simple Folks

Firefox is a great browser. I mean really great. There is no question about that. I love everything that has happened with the Firefox development and I don’t think there is any browser today that can match up to it (Yes Opera lovers, that is true, and don’t even get me started on Safari!). In spite of all this Mozilla is a distant second in terms of browser share. Now we can discuss the rights and wrongs of Microsoft shipping IE bundled with Windows but the important question is whether Firefox is missing something.

Something I have noticed is that the users of Firefox tend to be slightly more tech aware. A lot of my friends and classmates, who have had similar opportunities as me to try out Firefox, remain faithful IE users because they think Firefox is too complicated. Can Mozilla do something to gain this market by simplifying Firefox a bit. Let me be clear though, I don’t mean dumb down Firefox. The development of Firefox must carry on as it is with a forward view. However is it possible for Firefox to be made more accessible for the users who just don’t like learning a lot of new stuff. I shall try and put across my ideas on some changes that could potentially help such users in future posts. I’ll just add that I’m not trying to be derogatory here. Just that some people are more oriented towards technology and some are not. Browser design should be done with all the potential users in view. If you are alienating a particular group because of the way the browser is designed then there is a problem.

Filed under: Design, Mozilla, , ,

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Design, Mozilla, , , ,

If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It.

Alex Faaborg has been talking about redesigning the Firefox icon for the upcoming 3.5 iteration. The idea is that since 3.5 will bring about revolutionary changes in the way the browser works the icon should should be updated too. Check out the Creative Brief and also other details about who’s doing what. I love the proposed change for the tail. Would be smashing to a have a proper 3D rendering for that. However the fur doesn’t look too good. The old icon had a bit of geometricity in that respect. Anyway here’s one more thing to look forward for in 3.5!

Filed under: Articles, Design, Mozilla, , , ,

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