A Pox on User Experience Zealotry – Give Me Back My Firefox Browsing Experience!

- May 2, 2014 10:39 AM
Categories: Friday Rant | Tags: , ,

headless

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.

Comments

  • Dwight Stegall:

    You should do a little research before writing such an article. Now you look like a fool.

    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

    The classic theme restorer will give you all of these except New Toolbar. You can find that in the Customization Panel.

    • Nicki:

      Dwight: Classic Theme Restorer restores some of the lost functionalities, but not all. Plus, some addons break it. After several hours, I finally gave up and downgraded back to v28.

  • Thomas Kase:

    Dwight,

    I can see from your website that we have vastly different ideas of what constitutes good UI design…

    Obviously the new Firefox appeals to some people – but not me, and I’ve used them since the Netscape 1.x days.

  • Nick @ Market Dojo:

    I’m back onto Internet Explorer these days, never thought I’d be saying that. IE11 seems to be very quick and has decent developer tools. Firefox just drains my RAM and is sloooow.

  • Swanky Butters:

    Thomas, thanks for writing this, I’ve been looking for anyone in the tech community to write about what a mistake 29 is. It’s really shocking that yours is the only one I’ve found recently.

    There is no way we should be expected to fix a broken UI with add ons. An add on to bring back the add on bar? If that is not the dumbest thing ever. FF has to get it’s head from out of googles butt.

  • Pierre Mitchell:

    “FF has to get it’s head from out of googles butt”!

    All I could think was… ‘Google Ass’?
    Sounds like a Google X ‘moonshot’.

  • Frjayd:

    Thanks for this article. Watch out for the Firefox fanboys. I’ve been using FF since v1.5 and v29 is so far the worst. Classic Theme restorer will give you the customizability back, Status-4-Evar will give you the status bar back. GlobalFindBar will give you the persistent search feature back. Etc.

  • Chris:

    Concur. For those interested in reverting back to FF 28, here the link: http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/28.0/

    Unfortunately, I guess I’ll be going the add-on route in order to keep my browsing experience secure. Or maybe it’s finally time to go Chrome…

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