Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Adam Kalsey on Firefox

At risk of joining the echo chamber and merely re-iterating what has already been said, I’d like to offer my own opinions on this piece by Adam Kalsey. I’d urge you to read it through before reading this entry here, but if you can’t be bothered, he basically says that Firefox isn’t yet ready for all users and that to be marketing it so aggressively is dangerous.

Adam does make some good points, and he has the ability to look at applications from the absolute newbie angle. This is very handy when designing applications and especially user interfaces – if you’re aiming your program at all users, you need to be able to make it easy enough for the most novice of users to use.
But you also need to be able to make it easy for advanced users to use as well. Advanced users often get annoyed by over-simplified interfaces and incessant wizards, and expect more advanced features than more novice users. Firefox achieves a good compromise here by including a few basic web developer features and bundling a good extension mechanism.
Personally I feel that Adam concentrates too much on the novice user. Firefox is supposed to cater for all users and therefore a compromise has to be reached somewhere. Personally, I think the compromise reached is a good one.
He also mentions the upgrading problems that have plagued Firefox – upgrading to a new version has, in the past, required an above-average knowledge of computing. This is thankfully no longer the case – you can simply install a new version over the top with generally no problems, although it is still recommended that you disable extensions first. That said, you probably shouldn’t even have to do that, but it’s still a huge step in the right direction.
The lack of a ‘go’ button and a ‘search’ button for the search bar is also mentioned and I do broadly agree with his point of view there. Perhaps the ‘go’ button should be turned on by default – currently it’s optional.
The problems with popup blocking are legitimate – often you can’t click on Javascript links while a page is still loading for example and those user-initiated actions shouldn’t be blocked. This has always been a problem and hopefully it will get fixed sooner or later.
Adam’s entitled to his opinion and he makes some good points that I broadly agree with, but I’m sure a considerable number of the Firefox ‘converts’ are actually people with techy friends who have had it installed for them. That said, it still needs to be marketed, even if only to help convert any intermediate users who still haven’t switched (come on in, the water’s lovely!).
In case anyone from the Mozilla Foundation is reading this, I’d also suggest that in the import wizard, once Firefox has imported the user’s information from IE, give them a link to the ‘Help for Internet Explorer users’ article in Help. That will help people get used to the new environment – things like ‘Favorites’ being called ‘Bookmarks’ – and what new features are on offer.

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