Modern 3 and Autocomplete Test Build Available
Monday April 23rd, 2001
Asa Dotzler writes:
#159 List of suggestions for interface improvements
Saturday April 28th, 2001 12:28 PM
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Echoing points made by others and introducing some new ones, in no particular order:
* The new icons in Mail and Address Book are _wonderful_ improvements over the old theme(s). I won't comment on the icons in Navigator or Composer because I suspect that these are either placeholders or first drafts. It is good to see an effort to match the softness (and ease on the user's eyes) of the icons in IE6/Luna (the browser and desktop icons as opposed to other aspects of Luna).
* One commenter asked for the Windows-default colors. I strongly echo the need for an earthtone base to your color scheme. While my eyes are color-deficient, it would appear that the new scheme tones down some of the pink of previous versions (but doesn't eliminate it entirely) and then combines such with green and baby blue highlights. To my eyes, the new colors don't work. IE6's earthtone base and complementary icon colors are far easier to stare at for hours (i.e. if you are working on email) and far less likely to clash with the color of visted web sites. Beyond past bugs and sluggishness, the number one reason why I haven't switched back to Netscape was what I considered to be the garish colors (in modern 1 & 2) and chunky nature of the included themes.
* Don't mix and match photographs and cartoonish icons. It's a clash of design styles. Pick one or the other and stick with it throughout the program. Either use something akin to Luna or MacOS X but don't try to combine both because it doesn't work. I prefer the subtle cartoon nature of the current icons like the printer.
* Don't include pictures that are nonfunctional (like the envelope on the left side) anywhere. This will confuse users because they won't know what button to click. Always remember the grandma test.
* Regardless of the style in which you depict the icons, align all of them on the same axis. BeOS had a very uniform look and feel to the OS's icons, applying an approximately 45 degree perspective to all icons. You can choose whatever angle you prefer to indicate 3 dimensions but once chosen, please stick with that angle throughout as much as possible. Similarly, shadowing should be applied to all icons and consistently.
* Include a user option to remove the throbber. If it must be included by default, fine. But I consider it a useless waste of my screen real estate given the progress thermometer on the task bar.
* Speaking of real estate, make every effort to reduce the amount of the desktop occupied by the Mozilla interface. This includes the taskbar, which is almost the right height when "turned off" in the demonstration build. Things like icons for other components of Mozilla should be incorporated in this small task/status bar or eliminated from the GUI. The t-bar used in the mailing program should be put on a diet. Consider the use of alpha-blending to separate screen items (see the MacOS X for an example of how the menu bar is separated from the desktop).
* Borders should be the same color pallete and thickness throughout. For example, the scrollbars are very thick and dark pink. The sidebar's index tabs (titles) are similar. Without consistency of colors and thickness, my eyes are drawn first to the scrollbar and tabs and then to the icons. Things like the t-bar should be almost invisible.
* Replace the widgets in the HTML render with similarly soft widgets. Beta 1 of Windows XP better demonstrated buttons and pull down menus than Luna.
* Finally and importantly, simplify the menu items. There's too much from which to select. IE has always had a more intuitive menu structure, burying most of the least used configuration settings on the options > advanced screen. That's the best place for such. Examples of what could be moved/hidden include: pruning the new / open on the file menu to one each, a la IE; removing the search Menu and access that functionality via an icon on the navigation toolbar; eliminating use style sheet, page info, languages and web content, character coding and theme from the view menu (most of these are configuration settings that should be in preferences anyway). In summary, the interface should be as streamlined as possible so as to speed the adoption curve for newbies and eliminate clutter for experienced folk. If a menu item isn't used all the time, then it should be moved as appropriate. The exception to this rule is where the removal of a menu item would represent a significant departure from the Windows interface standard and thus confuse users who are used to a location (if for no other reason than 90% of your potential user base is familiar with that standard).