21 June 2012

JAWS: “Get a sneak preview at the new Australis tabs”

Firefox Australis tabs
Wanna play with a sneak peek of the new Australis tabs for Firefox? I’ve put together a build of it that you can download and run with. Jared Wein

Here’s Mozilla copying Chrome while trying not to appear to by copying Chrome. I really don’t like this design and the rounded tabs. I haven’t tried it, but I get the impression it will feel out of place in any OS it will land – especially on Windows 8. It would be better for Mozilla to focus on the under-the-hood features and let the designing to theme creators; that would also allow users to continue customizing the look and feel of the browser to their tastes. Instead, a new browser UI is bound to break a number of third-party themes, and again some users will refuse to update, as it happened during the transition from Firefox 3.6 to version 4. If you want a Chrome-like theme, FXChrome is the way to go; if not, there are a number of other options and Personas. Mozilla should simply ask themselves the question: “How many times did Chrome changed the interface since launch?” The biggest change I remember is the application icon. And yet more and more users are choosing Chrome…

Update: A former Mozilla engineer makes the same point in a much longer article and with more insider knowledge than me:

So many companies release updates which radically change the interface for no significant gain -- they seem to be moving sideways rather than forward, changing things around for the sake of change. Maybe their UI designers are bored and need to do something to justify their jobs, I don't know. After years of aspiring to improve software usability, I've come to the extremely humbling realization that the single best thing most companies could do to improve usability is to stop changing the UI so often! Let it remain stable long enough for us to learn it and get good at it. There's no UI better than one you already know, and no UI worse than one you thought you knew but now have to relearn.
I have another theory, too: When software companies get to a certain size, they start taking their users for granted. They start treating their users as pawns in a battle against some other company. Faceless millions. Gotta copy everything the other company does, or risk falling behind. So they end up doing everything the other company does whether the users want it or not, and probably doing a crappy job to boot. Jono Xia

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