Alex Faaborg, Mozilla’s User Experience Designer, says the Firefox design team is working on improvements to the interface – most of which will be incorporated into the next releases (Beta 2 due out soon).
"While most of the UI changes did not make it into Beta 1, users of the final release will likely know that they are not running the previous version," Mr Faaborg told iTWire.
"With Firefox 3 we are paying close attention to detail when it comes to visual integration on all of the platforms we are shipping on. This includes creating a different set of icons for Linux, OS X, Windows XP and Windows Vista. We believe a meticulous attention to visual integration with the platform is important, because we want Firefox to look and feel like a native application regardless of which operating system you are running. Additionally, close visual integration with the platform will make users feel comfortable when they first start to use Firefox, and will ensure that moving between Firefox and other applications is not a jarring experience.
"In addition to changes to Firefox's visual appearance, we are also making several modifications to how you can interact with the interface. In between releases of Firefox the Web itself changes, the way people interact with the Web changes, and we learn more about our users. This results in a browser UI that is constantly evolving and improving. For instance, the location bar in Firefox 3 contains three improvements over Firefox 2. The location bar now allows users to access additional identity information about the Web site they are on, and users can now bookmark a page with a single click. Additionally the location bar now behaves much more like a search field in Firefox 3, making it considerably easier to return to a page that you have previously visited. This change has resulted in some people jokingly referring to the location bar as the "awesomebar." You can try out all of these improvements to the interface in Beta 2."
A visit to Mr Faaborg's blog reveals that there was quite a bit of angst from within the Linux community stemming from a perception that Mozilla is ignoring their needs while focussing on Windows and Mac OS X. However, Mr Faaborg denied this in response to our question on this subject and has since updated the blog.
"There was a small misunderstanding when I initially posted about our plans for Windows and OS X and failed to mention Linux," Mr Faaborg said.
"We weren't trying to ignore Linux users as much as we had yet to figure out a good way to mesh our visual integration strategy with a platform that has so many distributions. After learning more about the Tango project, we decided that a combination of automatically uplifting icons from the OS theme into Firefox and designing the remaining icons in the Tango stylewas the best way to visually integrate on Linux. Failing to initially mention Linux did have the positive (although unintentional) effect of rallying our community, and we currently have eight people contributing to the appearance of Firefox on Linux, as opposed to two people working on OS X and one person working on Windows. The Linux team has also made the most progress so far."
While Mr Faaborg would not comment on the apparently slower performance of Firefox 3 on Linux compared to Windows, saying that issue is outside his area of expertise, he did say that all users will notice considerable performance improvements from a human interface perspective.
"In terms of human performance, a number of basic tasks are a lot faster in this release. Users can bookmark a page with a single click, and optionally typing in a few tags makes organizing your bookmarks faster and easier as well. The new location bar and its adaptive learning algorithm will allow you to get back to any page you've previously visited faster than entering a URL, or searching google and finding the correct result."
We hope to get some answers from Mozilla on the performance issues of Firefox on Linux as soon as possible.