Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mosaic's 15th Birthday

I suppose it's official. I'm an old-timer now. I was infatuated with the possibility of the internet when there were still only Gopher sites. Archie and Veronica were the cool search tools of the day. As with other "pre-Mosaic" techies this day, 15 years ago today, was when the world changed. Mosaic, the first graphical browser was "officially" released.
I learned HTML that summer, and for me, my life changed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Launching New Windows: Part II

Almost a year ago I wrote that I thought that users would soon be comfortable with sites that launch new browser windows. When a link takes the user away from the current site to completely new information there are times it makes sense to open a new window. An example of this would be an intranet where a user is tasked with learning a new product line. There are times when it is expected that the user may click numerous times while exploring the new product line. After finishing examining the product how will the user get back? Back links do not always work as there may be numerous places from which the user came. Will the user click the back button 20 or 30 or 40 times? Will we expect this user to go into his history and find where he was? That's not necessary if the other window is still open. Opening new windows is analagous to someone opening up yet another book on his desk and flipping through this second or third book while still having the first book opened.

It is possible to come up with another method aside from opening up a new window? Yes we can pass a parameter with the "original" page and add it to the navigation. I struggle to see how this is a better method. It would not be. Even expert users would get lost in an ever shifting navigational schema. Following the "open book" metaphor opening a new window, making it smaller than the standard window to stand apart is a clear and simple means of providing distinct data to the user.

And yet a year later I still see intelligent, highly educated, but unsophisticated computer users getting lost using tabs and not using tabs to organize their browsing. As of now Jakob Nielsen's warning regarding the user of new browser windows stands.