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The Design Review: Chromeless Browsing (ep 2)

As part of the Mozilla Lab’s Design Challenge, Alex and I have focused our second episode of the Design Review on chromeless browsing:

What would a browser look like if the Web was all there was? As the Web becomes even more ubiquitous, we’ll never have to leave it. Whether it’s on touch tables, giant wall-sized screens, mobile devices, or just our computers, exploring the interactions for browsing a windowless Web will become ever-more important in the next couple of years.


The Design Review Episode 2: Chromeless Browsing

Question: What are the important requirements for designing a chromeless browser?

RT @aza The Design Review: Chromeless Browsing (ep 2) | Follow @aza on Twitter | All blog posts

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THE MOST INPORTANT REQUIREMENT, FOR ME, IS USABILITY…. IF I CANT USE IT THEN I WONT USE IT…..


Hows about using the keyboard to interact with the browser and leaving the mouse free for interacting primarily with webpages.

I love ubiquity, ctrl space to bring up the interface as and when I need it is a great idea. It just needs the same capacity the address bar has and then we can get rid of the whole navigation bar. (alt-right and alt-left are great shortcuts for going fwd and back)

The tabs also dont always need to be there… ctrl-tab switched between them easily and why not have them hidden most of the time… f2 to slide them down if I want to see them.

Now all the browser has is the title bar and menu… The menu could be replaced with an intuitive symbol to the left of the tabs, when clicked it would bring up a drop down menu of file, edit etc.

The most important requirement with a chromeless browser is ease of use, easy to remember, and easy to learn. Why not just make the default home page with the first steps clearly written on it.
Perhaps “Press F2 to open or close your tab list and ctrl space to bring up your address bar!” acompanied with some decent images showing which keys and indicated what each would do.

When the user pressed ctrl space ubiquity could say “Enter a website url here and press enter. Or type help to find out what else you can do with this!”

There, no visible ui, easy to use, easy to learn, and easy to remember, its just 4 shortcuts… F2, ctrl space, and alt-left, alt-right.


@Ben: No argument, there :) Anything more specific.



Anders Rasmussen

Make sure all keyboard shortcuts are not sacrificed.

Implement gesture based navigation. Usable with touch interface and regular mouse interface.
Most important gestures: Reload, Back, Forward, Previous Tab, Next Tab.

Scrolling is a bit tricky. Would users need easy access to selecting text? If not, then click-dragging ANYWHERE (including links or other), should scroll, if there is anything to scroll that is. If the javascript inside the page overrides click-dragging (to drag an element around or something) then that should be done, the user will most likely scroll in an empty space instead. If the multitouch is supported in the hardware, then that should be used for some of the gestures.

Bottom corners should be clickable, perhaps even click-dragable for navigating forward and backwards in history.
Top left corner clickable for URL input (awesomebar). Top right corner clickable for new tab. New tab page should include awesomebar and a dial-pad style page.

Fennec “toolbars” would also be neat (I’ve only tried the linux alpha build in ubuntu but it was great). They give good access to tabs, urlbar and whatnot, without getting in the way, they are necessary chrome.

Guide the user through using gestures and changing gestures. complex gestures and multitouch (or alternative mouse button) gestures should be supported.

Keyboard-tabbing should not involve any overlays or other chrome. It is really quick and easy to locate a tab just by watching the flicker when tabbing.

Notification bars, e.g. store password bars, should be visible, but non-invasive. They should not make the page jump when appearing and disappearing.

I think this would be suitable for most applications, ranging from wii-like remote pointing over keyboard-only interfaces to pure single- and multitouch.

Anyways, that’s what I could come up with in this short amount of time. This is the way I think it would be best, but as I’m by no means an expert improvements might be possible.

By watching this I might start browsing in fullscreen only. All I need to get rid of now is the notifications and the scrollbar. Perhaps also the small strip of greypixels in the top indicating the hidden toolbars.

However the interface will be designed, I’ll surely be looking forward to the day it’s implemented, as it will no doubt be great.


Hey.
Well, as a graphics design student i’ll probably participate in the Design contest/challenge. I’m trying to do some brainstorming and get some fresh ideas. It’s kinda hard, heh
Anyway. I was also thinking about giving the keyboard a bigger role in how users interact with the browser and leave the mouse away for the web pages part.
But then, there are the technical limitations – a lot of keyboard shortcuts are already taken by the desktop environment. Others are just not comfortable. Not to mention that different platforms have different shortcuts and even buttons.
Then we, the students are required to make the mockup to fit all kinds of devices. And it’s going to be even harder to make the user control the browser from the keyboard (some devices do not have physical kbds, heh).

Imo, the requirement is to keep the “must be there” widgets very easily accessible. Everything else is just a matter of teaching the user.

By the way, what do you think of semi-transparent widgets?



David

I would like to see fullscreen mode without the full screen part. For example I have a 22 inch widescreen monitor and use two web browsers, if I position them over each other vertically almost 1/3rd of the height of my monitor is now used for browser chrome.

So what I am asking for is only the menubar to show up. When I mouse over that the location bar and toolbars re-appear as well as the status bar at the bottom.

Has anyone looked at collapsing the status bar’s functionality into other areas? It doesn’t do much, but what it does is important (show me where I am clicking to)


In contrast to Kian above tabs are the most important part of the chrome for me. I don’t need to see the navigation bar unless I ask for it (Ctrl+L or Ctrl+K). I don’t need to see the status bar unless I hover over a link.

But I do like to see where Ctrl+Tab will take me before I press anything. If I want to get to a page several tabs away it is quicker to use the mouse. The tab bar shows me this information.

As a comparison have you ever tried the auto hide feature of the Windows taskbar. It pops up frequently when you don’t want it (if you accidently touch the bottom of the screen). And it slows you down when you do want it (target the bottom of the screen, wait an instant, look for desired item on taskbar, target desired item). This is exactly how full screen works at the top of the screen in Firefox 3.0.

Tabs are the only part of the chrome that is continuously changing and moving. Therefore tab visibility is important for everyday sort of use.



tylerstyle

All swell, all good.

I’m not an UI Guru, nor an Art Student.
All I am is an avid, technically inclined User.

In my opinion, you can never satisfy the broad user base, as soon as you get as big, as Firefox has gotten.

I wont give advice for an UI here. You should come up with great Ideas without me.
The only thing I want to bring forth are Options.

Like David Bolton above me stated. One likes the Tab bar to vanish. The next doesn’t.
In the options menu of the browser there should be options for every imaginable thing, the browser can do.
Firefox already has many of these, but they are all hidden away in about:config.
Why is that so? Take David’s problem with full screen.
There indeed is the option NOT to hide the Tab bar in full screen. Right there. If you would have made it tweakable in the menu, there would be several happy customers more, that would enjoy Full Screen.

So. Long story short.
You make a seemingly non-ui browser, that for example fades buttons in and out, as you go along or hit a shortcut.
But there will be people, that want to see those always. Why not make it optional, to let them just stay there?

If there is one thing Firefox shines out of all the other browsers, it’s the tweakability and enhancability through options and addons.
That’s where a new design has to start.
Many people bring many tastes to the table and in my opinion, satisfying those would be a big plus for Firefox.


I’ve tried chrome-less browsing; it sucks because when I am laying down casually surfing, it’s awkward to need both hands just to go back a page, such as using a short-cut command. Even things like copying a url become a two-handed task.

So a requirement for a chromeless browsing interface, is that it can be used with one-hand, one GID button, and not be penalized. But then again, I have one of my browsers nearly chromeless, and another with all the bling.


Some other requirements for chromeless browsing:

1. Multi-touch screens with finger recognition, it knows the difference between thumb and index.
2. Non-touch air control, the interface would read your hand positions; proximity, finger position, and x & y movement would all be recognized.

With that you could probably go an entire day’s work with one hand tied behind you back.



Michael Willis

I would have to disagree with tylerstyle. I think that most “every imaginable thing” should be pulled out into browser extensions instead of built into a bloated options panel. That way the tech-savvy user can customize their browser experience, while the rest of the population can just focus on the web, not the browser.



Mare

Well, I’m a fan of keyboard, but it’s surprising how many people can’t get anything done without mouse. I guess that all the IE users (some 70% of worlds population) don’t know that they can use keyboard for doing stuff. And I guess that at least a half of the others prefer mouse. That leaves us with some 15% people max being comfortable with keyboard navigation.
Whatever you do with FF usability, keep the above in mind.
Also, I think that people who are annoyed with chrome can easily find the “customize” button. The others don’t really mind it. This is why I think that the right approach could be the Vimeos one – make chrome semi-transparent and remove it until user show the interest for it.
The only catch is how to actually read users mind :)



Mare

Also, I noticed that most people who use mouse have the posture with one hand on the mouse and the other laying down on the table, not even close to keyboard :)
So, don’t rely on ctrl-click like combinations..



Caleb

I don’t know if anyone here would be familiar with linux, but there is a very interesting project for linux-based systems called gnome-do. It has some similar principles to Firefox’s ubiquity extension, but is more advanced and useful. It might be an interesting concept for some of the more advanced user input options in a chrome-less browser. For instance, searching your bookmarks would be hard without a some sort of gui. However, an interface like gnome-do or ubiquity would be able to accomplish the task very quickly without the use of a mouse at all. While keyboard input may be more difficult to learn/discover, it gives a lot of advantages in terms of usability. It completely shortcuts the process of moving your mouse and scrolling through lists and menus. However, I think a computer mouse would still be much more useful for simple tasks. Having some basic mouse gestures would be very good for simple “back” and “forward” commands.

Anyway, that’s just my opinion on the issue.



Danny

I think there should be more ways to interact with a browser.
Shortcuts for the really hard core user.
The pie menu for the guys who have a large screen and are able to click on nothing.
And the chrome which only fades in when you move your mouse to the edges to have an easy to use UI.
This UI maybe can look like this:

pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dannys-pics/sets/72157613163886033/
html: http://firefox-fullscreen.webs.com/

But because I am stuck within my final examination, I only was I able to create a rough visualization of my idea so it can look a bit ugly and works not very well.
But the main parts of my Idea are involved and I hope I can inspire you to create other great interfaces.


With or without chrome – the reqs are the still the same :)



david

I think a chromeless browser means a learning curve. if you can do everything you can do everything wrong.

You can use shortcuts or mouse gestures but how do you know which is the browser is using? Another thing is that both of them require knowledge of which shortcut or gesture is used to trigger the action.

So i think the most essential requirement is a universal way to see the quickhelp file. For windows the shortcut is f1, is this on linux and mac too? But which is it on smartphones?
So maybe drawing a question mark is the most universal way?


This is one of the few times that eye tracking would be really useful, when in chrome-less/fullscreen mode we can see where people look. It would also be useful for your mouse-less Ubiquity, to see if people look at those little tabs. http://www.cogain.org/eyetrackers/low-cost-eye-trackers


Not a suggestion, but I have a question. I have generally found the mock-ups presented by Mozillians, be in in bugzilla attachments or in the blogs, have been really good. Things like Alex Faaboorg’s mock-ups of the “Awesome Bar” in comparison with Google Suggest (or something similar) were really good. So I would like to know what tools are used for creating mock-ups and prototypes. This information will be very very helpful.

Regards,
Srirang (Brahmana)



Arron Dick

Quick point(im not sure if anyones written it):
firefox, shift-ctrl-scroll, goes back and forward.
ctrl+pg up/down, goes through tabs etc etc

check out a program called “StrokeIt” i used to use it do draw shapes with the mouse to control my applications, probably could easily modify the idea for touch screens etc, i have a copy for win98 knocking around somewhere


I love ubiquity, ctrl space to bring up the interface as and when I need it is a great idea. It just needs the same capacity the address bar has and then we can get rid of the whole navigation bar. (alt-right and alt-left are great shortcuts for going fwd and back)


Hows about using the keyboard to interact with the browser and leaving the mouse free for interacting primarily with webpages.



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Question: What are the important requirements for designing a chromeless browser?


In contrast to Kian above tabs are the most important part of the chrome for me. I don’t need to see the navigation bar unless I ask for it (Ctrl+L or Ctrl+K). I don’t need to see the status bar unless I hover over a link.


Things like Alex Faaboorg’s mock-ups of the “Awesome Bar” in comparison with Google Suggest (or something similar) were really good. So I would like to know what tools are used for creating mock-ups and prototypes. This information will be very very helpful.


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