A New Forward Button

A Mozilla Firefox developer shared some thoughts about a possible new feature. While the author discussed the new feature in the blog entry, the first three sentences intrigued me.

The largest button on a modern browser is the back button. Trips to the web are short. Enter a search, get a result, click back, then try again. This feels backwards (forgive the pun!). What if there was a better forward button?

I seldom use the Back button in the manner described. I use the Tab Mix Plus add-on, which provides the great feature of allowing me to use a context menu to open a link in a foreground tab or a background tab. I started using that feature before Firefox was born under the name of Phoenix. Back then I was using Opera, birthplace of tabs and other now-common web browser features.

The default Firefox does not support this simple but productive context menu feature. The default Firefox requires users to open links in either a foreground tab or a background tab. When I watch people use a default Firefox I am amazed at how anti-productive this design is. The Firefox default is to open tabs in a background tab. Users open a link in a separate tab because they do not want to use the Back button. They see potential for opening the link in a new tab. Yet they have to leave the current tab and click the newly opened tab — because the tab opens in the background.

While the default can be changed to open links in a foreground tab, there is no GUI control and most users never discover the choice.

Configuring a link to only open in a foreground tab is anti-productive too. Often people want to open a link in a background tab for viewing at a later time. They want to remain in the current tab in the mean time.

This is a fine example of developers getting caught in an “either-or” conundrum rather than allow users both choices.

I refuse to play the game. A context menu allows me to have both options. Routinely throughout the day, I open links in foreground tabs — to read immediately — and background tabs — to read later.

I wish the Firefox developers would focus on simple but productive features like that rather than esoteric features.

Regarding the content of the blog, I fail to see how the new feature will succeed without massive data mining. Further, I never liked any tool that tries to predict my thoughts or behavior. Auto-spell features, for example, drive me nuts.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Firefox

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