Netscape's Plans for M14 and Beyond

Monday February 7th, 2000

Cmad writes, "Want to know more about Netscape's release plan? Another interesting article has been posted on that matter by Jim A. Roskind in the SeaMonkey newsgroup."

If the link above doesn't work for you, try this link.

Jim goes into detail about what Netscape is expecting to do with M14 - it could turn into an alpha Netscape product, a beta product, or, worst case, they might end up holding off to M15 for a branded version. They're expecting that M16 will be feature complete (presumably the skin-switching code and security module will be in by that time, too).

Beyond the obvious performance issues, I think Netscape should really try to address the usability issues with the current skin if they are looking to push out a beta product. For example, the toolbar buttons should be labeled, and the buttons themselves should not extend over the grey space below the main toolbar -- it looks like an unintended effect (or defect).

What do you think? Post your thoughts and ideas in the forum for this news item, but since this has been a contentious issue in the past, I'm asking that you please keep your post civil.


#27 Re: Re: Why the current widget set won't work for

by Maroney

Monday February 7th, 2000 5:32 PM

You are replying to this message

Let's see, a few more widget problems. My hope is to make the Mozilla developers aware that this UI is a problem and that they need to bring qualified resources to bear on it. Otherwise they are creating major adoption barriers for the tastes of today's relatively demanding user community.

The lack of drop shadow and other dimensionality cues in the scroll bar makes the thumb indistinguishable as the foreground element. It actually looks as if the trough background is the foreground given the color choices. Neither the Windows nor Mac platform scroll bar has this problem.

Moving the mouse in and out of the click region while it's held down doesn't work correctly for scroll bars.

Popup menus (also known as dropdown menus) are even uglier than scroll bars. And that's saying something.

The dotted line outlines are apparently supposed to represent keyboard focus. Mac users are only used to keyboard focus on text items and will be baffled by focus on other items. The dotted lines don't match either the Windows or Mac conventions for indicating item focus and so will be baffling to users on both platforms -- it's a very different message to change a control's whole frame as opposed to putting a dotted line inside it.

Windows text controls sometimes show a cut-out to the window underneath rather than a blank background. Presumably this is a known bug.

Drag-selecting text is overly sensitive to moving outside the clickable area, aborting sweeping mouse drags instantly as soon as they go outside the text box.

The show/hide control on the leftmost browser window bar (the tall blue rectangle) looks like a mutant scroll bar. It really doesn't suggest a minimize/maximize function at all.

What the heck are menu titles ("Mozilla", "Open Windows") doing in the bottom page frame under the horizontal scroll bar? Who is going to see them there? And what are they for? Clicking on them does nothing.

Why are there three different kinds of menus in the browser window? There are the top-of-window menus like File, which have one appearance, then the ones like Bookmarks and Channels which have yet another appearance, and finally the bottom-page-frame ones which have yet a third appearance.

(Then there's a fourth kind of menu, the in-page drop-downs, with yet another appearance.)

(Wait, there's a fifth kind, the black arrow in a green rounded rectangle next to the Search button. This doesn't do anything but it makes the Search button look like a drop-down menu even though it's a button.)

The Search button looks different from all other buttons, in both color and frame. You leave the current page when you click it expecting to bring up a menu. It's by no means clear what it is you're searching for -- instead of going to a query page or query dialog, you search for the current page's URL, which is unanticipated and useless. Apparently the URL text box is being used for both URLs and search strings, which is confusing and inconsistent.

The light-blue tiny down-pointing arrow means different things in different contexts. For menus like Bookmarks it means there's a drop-down menu. For the URL bar it's a show-hide control.

When the arrow is a show-hide control, it has a different appearance from the leftmost tool bar's "mutant scroll bar" show-hide control.

At the bottom left, under the horizontal scroll bar, there are unlabeled icons that have no tool tips. The placement is wrong for any useful function, and the lack of tool tips means no one will know what they are for. People are afraid to click things if they can't make a reasonable guess as to the result.

Because the widgets are not platform widgets, they don't participate in the color scheme selected by the user (in the Display or Appearance Control Panels).

Windows lack a resize handle at the bottom right, so users won't know how to change their size. (Note that Windows Explorer has added a resize handle because users were having this problem, even though it's not required by the Windows platform standard.)

I'm sure I could continue all day but I have a day job. I hope these observations are useful. It would be great if they all get fixed, but more important is that they reveal a core problem with usability and appearance review on the Mozilla project. This is a fixable problem but given release schedules time is running out.

Tim Maroney former Appearance lead for Mac OS