interaction usability web

Google Chrome Beta – My Thoughts

Google Chrome

I looked at Google’s Chrome browser by going through the walk-through clips, and it actually has some merits! People have complained about an increased memory issue. I can’t believe people actually worry about memory usage nowadays. Even my 2 year old laptop has 2GB of memory.

I’m not here to slag off Chrome (it is ‘beta’ after all), or worship its greatness, but to just adjust my thoughts on the browser according to the hype. What’s important is not how badly it does things other things do better, but how Google has tackled an extremely difficult problem of redesigning a web browser, in a way that it simplifies browsing for most people. Please note, I haven’t tried the browser, as it’s only for Windows right now.

One box for everything

Makes sense. Most browsing tends to start with a search nowadays, even if it’s a site you know address to.

New Tab page

Requirement in every browser. makes sense.

Application shortcuts

Silly. Makes things more complicated. Adding more ways of achiving the same task (loading web page) may confuse people.

Dynamic tabs

Good innovation that I first saw with Safari (3?). Should be there in all tab interfaces

Crash control

lol. reminds me of how Windows Mobile has a task manager. There are simpler ways of task managing and indicating misbehaving apps! E.g. press close on the tab or fade window to show it’s not active.

Incognito mode

Makes sense for secret browsing. Incognito is a bad word to use though. I didn’t even know what it meant at first.

Safe browsing

These big messages confuse people – I remember when designing Firefox 3, the Mozilla Foundation went through loads of different designs for notifying users that a certificate is invalid/to warn people about installing add-ons. The ones rejected for being too scary were less scary than the Chrome ones. Actually, a quick search showed that for managing current-page SSL certificates it still shows a scary box. We’ve all seen it.

Instant bookmarks

Is this in terms of interaction? Because that doesn’t seem so instant to me. Needs to be synced easily and searched via web! I assume, though – and it would make sense – that the address bar also searches bookmarks.

Importing settings

*Yawn. But I agree that it has to be shown as a feature.

Simpler downloads

Now THIS is a worthy feature that I am genuinely impressed with. Even a web geek like me gets ticked off with the complexity of viewing download progress, extraction, finding files.This fixes part of that problem by taking up screen space, which forces you to keep your downloads organised. I guess, same principle as the downloads drawer in Leopard.


Multiple From Address in Apple Mail Multiple From Email Addresses

I’ve tried Apple’s Mail application a few times before – the responsiveness of a native application to handle your emails cannot be replicated with a web application. One thing I have never figured out how to do is an easy way to select a different from address when composing a new mail. Outlook did this, Gmail allows this, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it in Mail.

Well, after searching around again, the solution goes like this..

Open -> Preferences -> Accounts -> Choose your account -> in the “Email Address” data entry field, add your aliases, separated by a comma. Save your account

You can even create faux accounts for this purpose. I had to do that for my .Mac aliases, because the “Email Address” data entry field is not active (it’s grayed out) on my default .Mac account name email address.

Now, when you compose a new email, your aliases will be in the “Account:” drop-down menu.

Apple really should have documented this a bit easier, or even made it obvious in the UI. I’m sure I’m not the only one who couldn’t find this…

usability web

RIA Apps Hindering Usability?

Phi blogs about WPF and consistency in RIA UIs:

“There is also a fundamental design problem that has never before occured in the past, but will completely free and open-ended interface designs hinder the end-user at all?”. “With the advent of these two new technologies (Adobe Flex/AIR and Microsoft’s Silverlight and WPF), has come the first wave of experimental applications. I’ve been testing a few Adobe AIR demos and I’ve noticed one very significant thing.

Never before has any programming API allowed such flexibility and ease and above all, creative freedom when designing user interfaces.”

My reply: this thing about consistency in Nielsen’s 10 user interface heuristics is probably a good thing. We now find UI consistency in websites more than ever before – you expect top-level navigation to be at top of screen, then sub-nav somewhere along the side and content in the middle column. We also tend to ignore adverts on the edge and extreme top of the page, because that’s where we expect them to be. Web users have learned this model of presentation, and as a result spend a little bit of time working their way around sites that don’t abide by these “urban standards”. But the time taken is probably no more than a “consistent” client application.

Kuler WPF

WPF style apps will allow UI designers to flexibly present their UI together with the context-sensitive help we see in websites next to everything – so that we don’t need to remember where things are, just know how to read labels. So if the push goes towards the web paradigm–consistency like how the web turned from the geocities era to the present web 2.0-style sites–then I think all this won’t be a problem.

Additionally, consistent UIs for the web would be boring! For client apps, yeh, that’s good. WPF apps strive to present information in a more dynamic and visual way (what people want), and wouldn’t all this be made a bit boring for the user with a consistent UI, using exactly the same widgets everywhere?

Apart from a select few, the life-cycle of “applications” are changing. Widgets and apps exchanging data from the web are the new. Interoperability of data is now so important because of this. We now have the choice to choose the UI we use to access the same data! (Think Netvibes, Google Maps/Flickr mashups and OSX’s Dashboard.) Semantic web people are loving all of this change…

Thanks Phi