Changed to tabs coming
Ben Goodger and the guys at Google have been doing some usability work on how people are using tabs. And the conclusion is that people are having some problems with them. Therefore Ben plans to make some changes to the way tabs works in Firefox amounts others "Put close buttons on the tabs", "Implement a simple heuristic for z-index handling", "consolidate the preferences for links sent from external applications".
I wonder why Google are so interested in doing usability studies for tab browsing in Mozilla Firefox?
I don't understand why Ben thinks close buttons are necessary on tabs. A mouse middle-button-click will close a tab just fine, so why do we need a clunky box to click? It only takes up more real estate...Comment by channeler at November 4, 2005 10:34 AM | Permalink
"I wonder why Google are so interested in doing usability studies for tab browsing in Mozilla Firefox?"
Most likely for the same reason that they're employing people to work on Firefox - they want to see it succeed.
Channeler, read the article! The usability studies clearly indicated that the "close tab" button is not discoverable and people hesitated before trying the context menu.
Middle clicking to close tabs is admittedly ace, but there's no way that normal people are going to find out about it without reading documentation (which 95% of the time isn't going to happen unless they're troubleshooting).Comment by Ben Basson at November 4, 2005 10:53 AM | Permalink
Clicking those middle wheelbuttons often generates faux doubleclicks on some mice, closing two tabs instead of one. I would prefer if they let a normal left doubleclick close tabs, just like a left doubleclick already opens a tab. It always feels kind of silly to install an extension just to fix this one omission.
Of course none of this is about usability, since normal people don't know about either double- or middleclicks.
But I don't like close-buttons on tabs, since it's easy to accidentally click them. At least that sometimes happens to me in Opera when I test my pages in that browser.Comment by sire at November 4, 2005 10:58 AM | Permalink
People who don't need close buttons on tabs will be able to remove them easily via an extension or a userChrome hack.
It'll be interesting to see feedback from the test builds.Comment by Ben Basson at November 4, 2005 11:41 AM | Permalink
I can see a problem of that "tab parent" proposal immediately. Say I'm viewing the index page of a photo gallery. In order to view faster, I middle-clicked several links to open the images in background tabs. Then I focus on the first background tab to view the first image. When I close that tab, I expect to see the second image, not the index page! :-(
This "tab parent" thing should only be activated in browser-driven tabs (target="_blank", window.open, etc), not user-driven tabs (Ctrl+T, Alt+Enter, middle-click, etc).Comment by minghong at November 4, 2005 12:35 PM | Permalink
"People who don't need close buttons on tabs will be able to remove them easily via an extension or a userChrome hack."
Why not as an ordinary option? Extensions are great, but most people don't use them and blame Firefox for not providing features.
This does not mean Firefox has to bloat, but it should contain most common options. This includes the ability to hide close buttons. I don't wanna download something or hack throu any style sheets to do basic UI customizations like this.
"I can see a problem of that "tab parent" proposal immediately. Say I'm viewing the index page of a photo gallery. [...] I expect to see the second image, not the index page!"
I've already experianced this with the LastTab extension: http://timothyhumphrey.name/firefox/
It could be fixed by maintaining the old behaviour when closing a tab and pressing Ctrl.
"Why not as an ordinary option?"
Because it's pointless cruft like options for close buttons that makes software a nightmare.
If Google is researching the usability of Firefox and come to the conclusion that close buttons on tabs *are* beneficial and help people to use Firefox with ease, there is very little incentive to provide a visible way of hiding them.
Firefox is about sensible defaults and options (including hidden options) where they make sense. This doesn't even make sense as a preference, since show/hide code would be necessary.Comment by Ben Basson at November 4, 2005 02:41 PM | Permalink
I just hope I won’t accidentally click on the close button when selecting a tab.
Eclipse has close buttons on the tabs, too, and that happened to me a number of times already… Quite annoying.
Comment by Laurens Holst at November 4, 2005 04:08 PM | Permalink
This could become a problem if you have several tabs open and they're becoming so small, that there's only little space next to the close button left. Accidental closure will occur (and I would include the undo close tab functionality into firefox as well if they're at it ;))
Anyway I think this is a right step.Comment by Sensemann at November 4, 2005 05:51 PM | Permalink
Anyone else find this interested in light of the bug on adding close buttons to tabs being WONTFIXED?Comment by Rishi Maharaj at November 4, 2005 07:23 PM | Permalink
Now if only Firefox on OSX will stop being so lenient about double clicks that selecting several tabs in a row opens half a dozen new tabs, that'll make my day.
(Still no love from me for the close buttons on tabs.)
Google makes its money from users clicking on ads in search results and pages containing AdSense.
No tabs scenario: user clicks one ad and is gone.
Tabs scenario: user middleclicks one or more ads to open in background, checks them pages out, returns to the tab with Google ads page and clicks some more ads, more money for Google...Comment by Squirrel at November 4, 2005 11:58 PM | Permalink
"If Google is researching the usability of Firefox and come to the conclusion that close buttons on tabs *are* beneficial and help people to use Firefox with ease, there is very little incentive to provide a visible way of hiding them."
I don't see the point. Users who like the buttons won't be hurt by such an option.
The buttons can be beneficial, but in fact they would be completely redundant as there are several ways of closing tabs more easily. Of course people have to know about these ways. Therefore a quick introduction (as proposed on the Firefox 2.0 product planning page) would make more sense than inflating the user interface, which just annoys experianced users.
Though, I suppose the close buttons to come. In that case, remember there's not only black and white. I doubt Google means "all people" by "people". So give "the others" the ability to get back to the good old fashion without downloading and installing something. It should be common like "Show -> Status Bar" or arranging the Toolbar -- it has nothing to do with *extending* the browser.
about:config or editing CSS is also not an option, as you know, hopefully -- experianced user does not mean geek.
"I don't see the point. Users who like the buttons won't be hurt by such an option.
The buttons can be beneficial, but in fact they would be completely redundant as there are several ways of closing tabs more easily. Of course people have to know about these ways. Therefore a quick introduction (as proposed on the Firefox 2.0 product planning page) would make more sense than inflating the user interface, which just annoys experianced users."
This would be counter productive. Nobody reads documentation anyway, no matter how friendly it is.
Adding needless preference UI *does* hurt users, because unless a strict policy is kept, your product ends up looking like Opera 6 or SeaMonkey.Comment by Ben Basson at November 5, 2005 02:37 AM | Permalink
Why not just popup a notice when the user moves their cursor over the tab bar? It could say something like "To close a tab, click that tab with the middle mouse button or scroll wheel, or click the close button to the right." and make the close button blink. After they've closed a tab one of these ways at least 3 times in a week or something, you could stop showing the message. That would be very discoverable and would go away when it's no longer needed without cluttering up the interface with lots of close buttons.Comment by HeroreV at November 5, 2005 05:12 AM | Permalink
"This would be counter productive. Nobody reads documentation anyway, no matter how friendly it is."
That's not what I meant. See http://wiki.mozilla.org/User:FunnyMan3595:Tutorial_Mode_Thoughts
HeroreV gets the direction (although not every mouse has a middle button / scroll wheel).
"Adding needless preference UI *does* hurt users, because unless a strict policy is kept, your product ends up looking like Opera 6 or SeaMonkey."
Why needless? Don't you get it? There *are* users that neither need nor want these buttons!
The point is not how many options you have but how you present them so that novices don't feel doomed. A first step would be designing about:config more intuitive (see opera:config). And then why not adding an "Experts" button to the advanced options menu that opens about:config?