Mon, September 09, 2002

Orthodox news… with a twist

Wayne Olson recently posted an article from The Onion Dome. If you’re Orthodox, this is fun.

Mozilla UI better than IE

Asa pleasantly surprised me by pointing out the following:

mpt omits something that has to be one of the most important usability flaws in IE, that the main browser scrollbar has a fat border to the right of it forcing the user to actually look where he puts his mouse pointer rather than just tossing it against the edge of the screen and knowing you’ve hit your target.

Since I rarely use Mozilla or IE maximized, I wouldn’t have noticed this. Mozilla happily eliminates the typical window border and takes advantage of Fitts’s Law. In brief testing, it seems almost every Windows application suffers from the border on the edge of the screen. Oddly, Lotus Notes was one of the few that also got this right. With the inconsistencies between Windows apps, I’m not surprised that mpt missed this one. I agree that it is a major flaw in IE.

<rant mode="pet peeve">Speaking of Fitts’s Law, it’d be nice if Back were returned to the image context menu of Mozilla. The context menu is by far the fastest way to go back and I’d say used far more than scrolling. This is especially annoying when you have images blocked or a large image with transparent edges that takes up most of the page.</rant>

Start to finish

Matthew Thomas is “In search of the perfectly designed browser” and gives a brief recounting of browser history up to now. After describing progress in browser UI over the years, Matthew responds to claims that he wants Mozilla to be just like Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE):

I’m not ashamed to say that Mozilla should look more like MSIE, because it would be pretty hard not to…. If Mozilla looked just like MSIE, however, it would be much less usable than it could be. For the record, here’s my rough list of the top ten usability problems in Internet Explorer.

Matthew then lists a number of places where Mozilla UI can and should be better than MSIE–places where MSIE has usability problems. In most of his examples, Mozilla already has better functionality than MSIE. It isn’t always usable, though. Let’s say you know Mozilla supports popup ad blocking. Many users won’t look for anything in advanced preferences and even fewer would think that this is script related and find the unrequested windows item. Don’t try searching for popup in the help. It won’t get you any closer.

Asa and Blake have gotten stuck on number 6 of his rough list: “It’s extremely difficult to uninstall. More strategy tax.” Certainly uninstall isn’t something you do while using an application, but it is definitely a part of a good product. (An uninstaller was a requirement for Windows product certification starting with Windows 95. This is yet another place that Microsoft exempts itself from following the rules they place on their competitors.) A product should demonstrate that the user is respected from start to finish. Although you hope that your product is never uninstalled, it is rude to try to make it difficult or impossible to remove. Microsoft wagers that most users of its products won’t get so annoyed that they’ll go elsewhere. Mozilla (and its derivatives) still needs to gain users. When Mozilla gets plug-in install right, then maybe it will be time to worry about uninstall.