A Pox on User Experience Zealotry – Give Me Back My Firefox Browsing Experience!
Presumably there are many Firefox users among the readership – if you have “upgraded “ to version 29, oy vey, watch out! Read the rah-rah press release here.
Contrary to the Mozilla blog’s marketing snowstorm assertions, the first thing I noticed in the new Firefox was not the “beautiful new design” that purports to “make it easy to focus on Web content.” No, what I wondered immediately was, Where the bleep is my status bar? OK, cute, the settings have reverted to “not show status bar” hmmm, nope, that setting is now gone! The UX (user experience) folks, inherently equipped with a superior and refined understanding of what I really need have removed this feature. In the process breaking the ability for many of my plugins and add-ons to show what is going on. Grrrr.
If there is one rule about commonly used user interfaces (UI) it should be “if it works, it don’t need fixin’!” – modify according to your region’s vernacular. Another one is to test a UI with actual users first, which in this case would have shown that many quite popular add-ons lose utility without the status bar.
Features that are now gone include:
- Add-on bar – someone needs to cook up an add-on that recreates this
- Tabs on the bottom – also relegated to some add-on inventor
- Small buttons – also gonzo and need someone’s inventiveness via an add-on
- New toolbar – nope, gone, go find some add-on
Ironically, Mozilla accepts no responsibility for broken add-ons while expecting third-party developers to come up with new add-ons to fix what they just broke.
There are other issues as well. Oddly, the new UI uses up more space at the top so there really isn’t any “desktop gain” by removing the status bar (which used to be at the bottom of each window).
Since Mozilla is open-source, are nefarious programmers from Chrome, Opera, and other competing browsers participating in the Mozilla development effort and “helping” them by removing features? I’m saying this only in jest of course, but the new version feels that bad. Maybe memory management is better? We’ll see.
In the car world there are examples like the Ford Taurus, which in its third generation (launched in 1996) suffered from a radical (read: awful) redesign that essentially put the previously best-selling car in the U.S. on a steady path to its demise in 2005. A few years later, in 2008, it resurfaced, with a far better design this time.
Stepping away from Firefox and Ford and turning to web-based SaaS solutions, the upgrade challenge is usually handled far better. Upgrades are usually better. Some might be controversial, but as a rule features don’t go away! The obvious trend is to provide users with more control and greater flexibility.
Design matters, and so does listening to users. Send me a note if you have any examples of procurement solutions that used to be better, but after upgrades and updates are now a lot less useful.