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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Scott Berkun <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 13 Feb 2000 18:10:43 -0800
Bill Dehora <[log in to unmask]>
Scott Berkun <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (60 lines)
>Bill Dehora [mailto:[log in to unmask]] wrote:
>The browser wars are pretty much over now. Browsers are usability
>junkware.  Maybe its time to start hassling the major vendors.

I guess I was a junkware designer :)

I don't work on IE anymore, but I did for awhile. I labored pretty hard to
figure out how to improve web navigation, and the balance of what you got
from me was the explorer bar, the side panel for history, favorites and the
search assistant. I think I may have posted about all this before, but I
can't recall so here it is again (getting old I guess :).

I spent a lot of time wondering if the browser should do anything to help
with navigation at all. The conclusion i came to was that even the best
website designers always create variances between their own site, and others
sites. They use different code, have different desires, and tend to create
inconsistency in the name of style or uniqueness when it offers no benefit
to users. The foundation of good navigation is consistency, and I found web
designer had no center of gravity for that sort of thing (there's no
MacToolbox, or Windows Comctrl32 - HTML has 5 widgets, and none of them are
for navigation, few ask the W3C to provide UI guidence, etc.).

Building *more* navigation into the browser seemed the only way to improve
core task navigation for users - it would always be consistent since there
was only one UI, and even if it sucked, users could learn how to use our
stuff once regardless of how many different sites they went to - any pain in
learning our UI would only be suffered once. I thought this was a great
tradeoff for users.

As far as the back button, in the 5 years of usability studies and interface
designs I've been involved with, it's the one element in all of this web UI
that users consistently rely on. They don't seem to understand it all the
time (user's don't always need accurate mental models to sucessfully
complete tasks), but they do use it sucessfully. Yes there are problems with
it as websites push limits and grow complex, but to suggest you need to
throw it away is tragic hubris. It's the one thing every web user can use no
matter what website they are on.

Here's a stereotype I might regret posting: many web designers seem to think
that the majority of websites are designed by designers as good as you are -
they're not. Many of the ones I encounter frequently have deep problems. The
browser has to be an equalizer and work for all of the 2nd and 3rd rate
websites that people navigate to, that don't do a good job with their own
navigation. You can't just throw stuff away because a handful of designers
have done it right. I think Nielsen nailed it when he wrote that people
spend more time on sites other than yours. I'll add that most of those other
sites probably suck.

The back/undo problem is real - I won't deny it. I liked John Nissen's
comments, and agreed that you should keep these concepts seperate as much as
possible. We experimented with different mergers with disasterous results.
I've been meaning to see if we can share some of the IE usability data we've
collected over the years and maybe now is a good time to see about that.

I don't mind my work being called junkware - just give morsels of substance
when you make claims like that so at least I'll have something specific to
think about :)