Thu, June 27, 2002

Resizability

I have been reading the newgroup thread about window and dialog resizability. I’m particularly impressed that the preferences dialog will not be resizable anytime soon and I am somewhat amused by all those that want it to be.

I just wish that Mozilla would actually show the resizer in the status bar. For whatever reason, it really bothers me that it’s not there. Maybe I miss it because it provides a larger click target than trying to resize from the teeny window edges. Maybe it is because I usually resize the window from the corner. Or just maybe it is because I keep clicking the lock icon when I really want the scroll arrow. Without the resizer, Mozilla feels incomplete. Now I know that it exists on Windows XP and only XP. Like many things in Mozilla (did someone say download manager?) it appears nobody tested the feature: maximized windows should not be resizable. Last I saw, Windows 98 still had more than half of the Windows marketshare, but no resizer there. I use Windows 2000 and miss it there, too. Inexplicably, no one seems to be working on the problem. I would have thought it should be catfood and mozilla1.0.

Wed, June 26, 2002

Logo… no, not the language

Cool. Looking for a logo? Logotype’s database of 50,000 logos from all over the world may help you find it.

Tue, June 25, 2002

John Patrick

IBM’s internet guru has recently started a blog and has various other websites. He also wrote the book Net Attitude. Dave Winer says he reads John’s blog everytime it is updated.

Googlewhacking

I’ve managed a few googlewhacks and had some fun collaborating with Basil to come up with a few more. My favorite so far is missiological prawns.

Extreme programming vs. interaction design

After reading my earlier Jon Udell and Alan Cooper blog entry, Basil dug up an interesting debate between Alan Cooper and Kent Beck. They are discussing the differences in process between extreme programming techniques and interaction design. At times I feel they’re speaking different languages, but I feel like Cooper generally has a better understanding of the software development process than Beck does of interation design. I believe Cooper won the debate, but then I believe in interaction design as a way to improve the quality and usability of software.

Thu, June 20, 2002

Always be the best

Google searches itself to get new ideas. The story hints at the power of intranets to help a company communicate and the importance of research and development. I hope Google just keeps getting better and better.

Wed, June 19, 2002

Orthodox America

The patriarch of Antioch has granted autonomy to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (AOA). The news story notes that this comes on the eve of the key national congresses of both the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). There are many signs that the AOA and GOA are interested in working together with the OCA as an autocephalous church. (The OCA has been autocephalous for more than 30 years.) In a June 2001 interview, Metropolitan Philip of the AOA makes it clear that he has been thinking about autocephaly for a while. An autonomous AOA seems to be a step in the right direction.

Going to extremes

Jon Udell talking about his question to Alan Cooper: “Is there no hope that interaction design can itself be made interactive, with the assistance of software? He doesn’t rule out the possibility, but thinks that useful interactive prototypes are unlikely and, in any case, unnecessary … It’s extreme design versus extreme programming. I don’t buy either one completely. Call me an extreme anti-extremist.” More…

Tue, June 18, 2002

Jakob Nielsen Interview

Pixelsurgeon has an interview with the usability guru. I was quite amused by how hard they tried to get Jakob Nielsen say that splash screens on a web site were worth doing (they aren’t) and to recant his Flash: 99% Bad article (he didn’t). If you are a web designer, Nielsen is interesting to read as always.

Fri, June 14, 2002

Tweak your browser

User style sheets can be powerful tools in browsers that support them.

Tue, June 11, 2002

Happy birthday Netscape 4.0

Scott Andrew LePera has created a tribute to Netscape 4.0 for its fifth birthday:

“Happy birthday, Netscape 4.0
Now please go away.”

Some tribute, Scott.

Despite its limited standards support, we should still try to accommodate Netscape 4.x. Yes, this goes against the philosophy of the resurrected Web Standards Project and many developers will think I’m crazy. Here’s some of the reasons that Netscape 4.x should still exist and be supported:

  • It’s in the best interest of the Web to have viable alternatives to the dominant web browser from you-know-who. How well Netscape 4.x is competing is subject to debate, but an argument can be made for supporting it. Stats I have seen indicate that Netscape 4 still have greater usage than Mozilla and derivatives combined, depending on the site. As other web designers and developers will affirm, it is getting more and more difficult to convince customers and bosses to support anything other than IE. And I don’t see the trend toward supporting standards, I see it toward being IE-specific. In commercial sites it makes no sense to turn away part of your audience, though, so this may even out, especially if AOL actually moves to using the Gecko engine.
  • Netscape 4.x in notable areas still has better usability than Mozilla 1.0 and derivatives: a navigation bar that is not combined with the URL bar, bookmarks drag and drop that works as expected, fewer preferences, text widgets that work as expected with platform cursor positioning, a stop button that stops image animation, a find in page that positions the found text so it is reasonably visible, etc.
  • Netscape 4.x may be somewhat less resource intensive than Mozilla on older machines. And Netscape 4.x has a pretty good security record as compared to IE. For security concerned users, IE isn’t a reasonable choice and Mozilla/Netscape 7 may be too bloated.

I look forward to improvements in Mozilla usability and performance and I hope for more diversity in web browsers. If we can gain diversity as on the Mac while at the same time increasing the available standards support, it will be terrific.

Happy birthday, Netscape 4. Go Mozilla!

Cowards

So close and yet so far.

It seems the bugzilla administrators want to snatch defeat from the jaws of success. Perhaps they’re trying to make bugzilla as confusing as the browser by adding multiple ways to search. The default search interface should not be the broken old version. We know the old version intimidates newbies and causes them to skip looking for existing bugs. This leads to duplicate bug reports and time wasted. Having to scroll the old form to get to the submit button also wastes time.

I should have expected this type of leadership. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a product make a huge overhaul of a feature like this and then hide it behind the old interface. We know that the new design is the better one, otherwise it wouldn’t be planned for it to be the default interface in the future. Let’s hope the future is soon.

Mon, June 10, 2002

A better bugzilla

Sometime today, mozilla.org will update bugzilla to version 2.16. This version should have the greatly improved query page thanks to design work by Matthew Thomas. Among other changes, the most commonly used fields are now at the top of the form and submit buttons are conveniently placed at top and bottom. The submit button change allows you to once again complete the form by pressing Enter in Mozilla and IE. Accessibility for checkboxes and radio buttons is improved: you can click the text labels.

The query page changes provide tremendous usability improvements. But people are now used to the pain, and unbelievably want to keep the old query form. As mpt says:

“When something has an inefficient design, people get used to the inefficiency, and complain when it becomes efficient. As a result, more user preferences get added, making the interface worse.”

Myk Melez makes an interesting observation about the user impact of website redesigns:

It’s bad form to significantly change an interface to which users have grown accustomed without giving them time to switch to it. In the desktop software world, users can forego upgrades or run two versions of a program at the same time until they have the time to retrain themselves on the new version. Web software should provide a similar mechanism.

In this case, I believe the redesign is so much improved that everyone should just be forced to use it. But I understand the sentiment. I’ve noticed that many website redesigns are far worse in usability than the original.

It is terrific to see usability improving in bugzilla, even if it took more than 6 months for b.m.o to update. This gives me hope that Mozilla’s usability will also improve over time and probably with drastic changes when it does.

Sat, June 08, 2002

Tweaking mozilla 1.0

If you’re using Mozilla 1.0, you’ll notice that every window has a blue blob in the upper left corner. (Is that supposed to be a gecko?) It’s much nicer to have real icons that vary per component. You can fix this: go get the Grayrest/Giovanni icon set. You’ll be glad you did.

I was surprised what a big difference this made. It makes Mozilla feel more polished and really helps when you have multiple components such as the browser, JavaScript console, DOM inspector, and IRC chat all open at the same time.

Fri, June 07, 2002

Grumble grumble…

Brendan Donohoe on May 1, 2000: it’s all the little "minor" details that make a product feel good. Skip the minor details and you wind up with a rather frustrating product…. Just registering my UI vote so these things don’t slip through the cracks.

Me on October 1, 2001: So does this mean the attached patch is just getting thrown away? I’d much rather have some dialogs automatically do the default text selection than none, <rant>especially if it means waiting another year until some progress is made</rant>.

No, Mozilla still does not select the text. Here: try it out. This bug makes some bookmarklets painful to use.

Thu, June 06, 2002

The toaster popped

Mozilla 1.0 has been released and is available for download (alternative download locations). The Mozilla 1.0 start page has more information about Mozilla.

Tue, June 04, 2002

Why your stove is a pain to use

Cooper has an excellent monthly newletter about design issues. In the May issue, they discuss the problems of bad mapping using Donald Norman’s classic stove burner control placement example.

Parallel Design

Human Factors International describes the benefits of Parallel Design. In parallel design, user interface designers first consider as many alternative designs as possible. They then select the best one and begin an iterative refinement process. By evaluating many alternative solutions first, the result is often better than iterations of a single design. Interestingly, they found that by evaluating multiple designs, the designers were able to rapidly find consensus on the optimal design approach.

Sat, June 01, 2002

Leggo my Lego

I took a few days off after the birth of Teresa to care for her, my wife, and boys. Playing with Lego bricks with the boys, entirely from memory and with basic Lego bricks and plates I built a pretty good version of my favorite Lego set of all time, the Galaxy Explorer. (I found that very groovy site with building instructions for almost every Lego set created prior to 1999 just tonight. Lego Fans are awesome!) It’s been gnawing at me for a while now, but why aren’t there more great Lego sets? With few standouts, Lego sets are now mostly about branding or odd-shaped and useless pieces. It used to be that Lego sets were about the bricks and a child’s imagination. Since I built a reasonably solid and functional hinge out of three bricks, I know that many specialty pieces are not that important. I have to agree with Allan Bedford: Lego has lost its focus.