Firefox New Tab: Latest Iteration & Next Steps

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been iterating on the idea & design of what a Firefox new tab could look like. All told, we’ve now gone through 36 different versions of the page, with thousands of particpants helping test and provide daily feedback & new ideas.

In this latest iteration, we’ve continued to refine the concept taking into account all of the feedback we’ve received in comments, blogs, IRC conversations, and hallway talks.

The Latest Edition

The main feature we’re exploring in this iteration is in-line search for the sites you search often.

If one of your main uses of a site is to perform a search (e.g., Technorati, Wikipedia, or Twitter) then the new tab page should help you perform that search more quickly and efficiently. Instead of first navigating to the site and then performing the search, you can search instantly without the need to install a search provider (or even for a site to provide one).

We’ve implemented this feature using Places, the feature introduced in Firefox 3.0 that enables the Awesome Bar. Our heuristics are still a little rough — and they won’t find every site search — so we are looking for feedback. What sites that you search often and appear on your new tab page don’t have in-line search?

We’ve also continued to explore ways of keeping the new tab polite. In an attempt to not break your train of thought, the cognitive shield hid the frequently accessed sites until you moved the mouse. Although the implementation got in the way of the idea (the shield looked clickable, and people got frustrated as it vanished as they tried to use it), the feedback indicating that hiding the ambient information of the new tab page was a major detractor: We had underestimated the power of gaining information at a glance.

We’ve taken another tack this time at not breaking your train of thought by using default fonts and a Firefox-gray background. Instead of taking the over-the-top cognitive shield approach, we are trying to make the page “fit-in” to ameliorate a visually jarring experience. After a couple days of testing and feedback, it seems to work. What do you think?

We’re now working with the Firefox product team to explore potential inclusion of a feature like this in an upcoming Firefox release, and what that might look like.


Step 1. Download and install the latest development build of Firefox 3.1.
Step 2. Download and install the latest version of the New Tab prototype.
Step 3. Let us know what you think, including what works, what doesn’t and how we can improve the design.

— Aza Raskin and Ed Lee on behalf of the “New Tab” team

49 responses

  1. TDG wrote on :

    I think it would be best served to give people the option to customize to there personal needs and wants. I’m definitely old school when it comes to this activity just give it to me……………… KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)……….. The whole purpose is just give me a new blank page……… I’ll type in the navigation bar where I want to go or search or whatever?!!!

  2. Murrich wrote on :

    What I would like, too, would be a quick access to all my bookmarks on the new tab page.

  3. Murrich wrote on :

    Really great addon. Unfortunately it doesn’t go along with tab mix plus. Does anybody know another addon that brings tabs to the front by just hovering them?

  4. Robby Macdonell wrote on :

    (I haven’t followed the new tab stuff terribly closely, so apologies if I’m retreading already covered ground here.)

    To me, it seems like the strangest part of the new tab page interaction is that it pulls my attention away from the navigation bar and back into the page. I wonder if you wouldn’t get most of the same value by just having the awesomebar open by default when you opened a new tab. To get an approximation of this press CMD-T then press the down arrow real quick.

    If it needed to feel more visually distinct from the awesomebar, you could tweak the initial display so it was more concise. I did a quick mockup here.

    I realize there may be some really good reasons to not go mucking about with the awesomebar like that, but it seems like a fairly usable option.

  5. William wrote on :

    i agree with kyle, the interface looks good, but it needs to be smarter about what sites to include and which ones to exclude.

    i’d take some pointers from the safari 4 beta, it does a great job at this task

  6. Balaganesh Damodaran wrote on :

    Why is it that not one iteration of this extension is keyboard friendly??? A lot of people I know are keyboard-heavy users, and would not like to have to reach for the mouse all the time. It would be better to add tab key support such that, tabbing takes you to each link one by one, much like it would on a normal HTML page.

  7. az wrote on :

    I’m a loyal mozilla user and the new tab is disruptive and have little value. Let the users select how they want the page to load, but don’t make this execution the default setting.

  8. Leo wrote on :

    I liked the fourth and the third of this post:
    They’re very clean and they have more useful “items” than the current one, imho.

    And is it possible to put some options in the extension? For example, I’d like to have the choice to decide whether I want the most viewed websites on the left or on the right of the page (I agree with Mike, it seems more natural to me too)

    Or maybe, it’d be nice if you put the page with most viewed sites, feeds and search/keywords, and let the put customize them (e.g. remove them, move them and so on)

  9. Michael Freeman wrote on :

    Regarding my previous comment. This buggy behavior only happens if you have the feature turned off by clicking the little gear icon in the bottom corner. If it is turned off, you get crap in the address bar.

  10. Michael Freeman wrote on :

    The awesome bar should be blank when opening a new tab so that I can hit Ctrl+T and just start typing into the address bar or paste in a url without having to first manually highlight “chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html”

  11. omer kirk wrote on :

    I think it’s becoming better and better, however there are some issues.
    1) After clicking “+” the user can’t see what he is writing in the textbox, I think it would be better if the suggestions would have their own menu below the textbox and the user would see what he is writing.

    2) The page seems very empty, I think some visual effects(nothing fancy, something like speed dial but much faster) would make the new tab much more clearer and user-friendly.

    3) There should be more links about the recently closed tabs, or more from recent history along with the frequent history.

    4) Finally addition of fixed search engines would be a time saver.

    Very good work so far, keep it up.

  12. Thales wrote on :

    FireFox 3.1 Beta3 don’t open PDF link, Why?

  13. Ogden2k wrote on :

    Still to bland. I’d much rather have a speed dial option that updates on it’s own and or the option to configure static sites.

  14. Dan wrote on :

    A few points:

    The page is still too slow to load.

    The + button is overlapped by the “Frequently…” text for me (Linux).

    The textbox that appears doesn’t look right. I can’t see a caret.

    I like the RSS items that appeared under one of the sites for me though, very cool.

  15. jack wrote on :

    doesn’t take me to the search engine box from the address bar, like it used to.

  16. kyle wrote on :

    I like the layout but it gets my recently viewed pages all wrong. Just like the awesome bar, it shows sites I haven’t visited in forever.

  17. markan wrote on :

    I like where this is going but clicking on the little star in the bottom left should link to a new tab page with thumbnails, something like
    I really like this design and it would be awesome to see something like that.

  18. Mike wrote on :

    I really preferred the links on the right side, it seems a lot more natural that way, probably because the new tab is placed on the right side of the tab bar.

  19. Adam Procter wrote on :

    Very nice, I would just like to see ways you can knock off some of the search options to make Ubiquity the ‘Super Awesome bar’, maybe you can install ubiquity ‘into’ the address bar instead that would be nice, maybe I just need to hide the address bar…and search…

  20. Eric Jeker wrote on :

    I disabled the new tab feature a few minutes ago. Why ? Because it override my typing.

    Every time I open a new tab it writes “chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html” in the address bar and put the focus at the end of that line.

    This is really disturbing when you use your keyboard. I cannot type CTRL+T + {any address} anymore. I have to select all that line and then only type the address.

    So for now, it slows the process of opening a page in a new tab.

    I am not sure about the search bar. Will it be faster that pressing CTRL+K ?

    Is the new tab feature keyboard-user-friendly ? For now, it’s not. 🙂

  21. Matt wrote on :

    Surely its going to be impossible to find the ‘perfect’ layout/functionality for this, given that every user will want something slightly different.

    Why not make the page customizable? Yes, have a default version obviously, but allow the user to change the layout etc. to suit their own needs and preferences.

  22. Sam wrote on :

    Looks great so far, one request: I would love to pick sites to search right off the bat, not have to wait until it recognizes it as frequently searched.

  23. Dmitriy wrote on :

    When I open a new tab I need

    A selection of recently / commonly visited Bookmarks / History

    A custom list of sites

    Search bar capability.(Duplicate of the search bar thing in the corner)

  24. cabotine wrote on :

    maybe it is a nice idea if you gather all the search engines on one side and offer them all if you copied text to the clipboard…

    I personally use
    who hasnt been identified as search engines

  25. Muhammad Ali wrote on :

    Keep up the good work. Latest design rocks.

  26. foxhead128 wrote on :

    I think the best aspect of the Firefox experience is how personalized you can make it, and therefore, my opinion is that the new tab should be highly customizable. After all, everyone has different tastes. Maybe you could have a wide selection of different interface components for the new tab that could be placed wherever desired through drop-and-drag.

  27. Tyler wrote on :

    Since some people don’t like the in-line searches, maybe you should be able to remove them by clicking edit. I know I won’t really use them because I have my navigation bar configured to search with keywords. For people who don’t want to remove them on a per-site basis, there should be an “edit”, or some button, next to “Frequently Visited Sites”, and clicking it would give you options like “Hide inline search” or “Hide news feeds”. It could also give the option “Show subdomains” or something so you could see some of the main subdomains of a site, like if you google “wikipedia”, and it puts the different language choices under the search result. This would make it easy for people to directly access the forums of a site or and important subdomain like that.

  28. joda wrote on :

    Well, I have now used the extension for quite some time. I really like that implementing a more useful tab-page. However I’m still not very happy with the current version. Here are some points that definitively should be imporved:

    1.) The performance is way too low. Opening Google is much faster now than opening a clean tab.
    2.) I would personaly prefer to have one big search field on the page instead of the “you might want to search for” button. The text from the clipboard could then be filled into that general searchbar. I would say 80% of the time I open a new tab I want to search for something.
    3.) Having a searchbar for recently visited sites is nice. However the detection is quite useless at the moment. There are sites that provides correctly a search provider via and it is not displayed at all.
    4.) The symbol at the bottom left corner is still not very self self-explanatory.

    Now enough criticism. Keep on doing your work, it is really improving with every iteration. By the way any new tab page is more usefull than a blank one.

  29. Teoli wrote on :

    Site that appear on my new tab page, that I mainly search is: 😉

    Else most sites that appear are blogs/forums with RSS feeds, but the feeds don’t appear on the new tab page. That’s unfortunate, as for blog at least most of the time I won’t go to the main page, but directly to the few last articles posted.

    Also new blogposts should be hightlighted (or old blogspots dimmed): this should be doable easily as old blogspots are already read, and therefore in the history (in places).

    I’m happy that the shield is gone (was very strange), but I preferred the list to be at the right.

  30. MMcCubbing wrote on :

    Why not provide the ability to add OpenSocial apps into the page? This would allow each user to customize the page to their needs.

  31. Nicolas wrote on :

    It’s getting better..:-)

    However I noticed 2 bugs:
    – when I remove a site, the new site which appears is already in the list…(so links are duplicates)
    – the youtube search provider always brings me to the same search, whatever I write in it..

    Sorry for my english 😉

  32. thenightfly42 wrote on :

    When I copy text to search for it, I often want to use a search engine that is not my primary search engine. Perhaps a drop-down?

    (Search) for “selected text” in {Google >}

  33. amau96 wrote on :

    is there a bugzilla website for this extension?

  34. Kushagra Gupta wrote on :

    This is a useful feature. But:
    1. This new tab does not look classy. Need to be more attractive and colourful and appealing to eyes.
    2. Reduce the space utlized by each website name
    3. Other than frequently visited pages, on right side u can add frequently searched items
    4.Add bookmarks on this page (like an icon which when clicked can show my bookmarks neatly organized with an option to organize bookmarks. Also when you provide the feature of organize bookmarks you can add feature to find dead bookmarks)
    5. Add an icon for reading feeds on new tab may be on right side corner
    6. Add categories under “You might want to” e.g. play games (which when clicked first takes you to your bookmarked gaming site or else to popular gaming site as per ranking), read news (takes you to most frequent news site or rss feed etc).
    7. Make new tab with a 3d feel…which may be optional
    8. you can have skins for new tab and user may select what he wants from options available, if users want and contribute those skins can also be used

  35. Sam wrote on :

    Looks good! I liked the links on the right better, but I can see with the search (which I also like) don’t work when the links are on the right. and as long as you NEVER EVER EVER bring back that stupid pointless circle, I’ll be happy with the design.

  36. Judson wrote on :

    I think I would like to hear what the goal of this tab is. Is it for people who don’t know where they were planning on going when they open a new tab, or people that do?

    If it’s for people that do know, is this acting like a automated bookmark system? I’m sure this discussion is somewhere, or you’ve had it internally, but it might help nail down the decisions.

    To me personally opening a new tab is always an extra step. What I want is a site in a new tab, I know the site. The act of opening a tab is a non-value added intermediary step. Showing me a random sampling of sites in that step is always useless. For me getting that cmd-t cmd-l url sequence down to less steps would be useful.

    Having said that, I’ve been talking to other people about the similar features in Safari etc, and they really like it. For them it’s a bookmark system, because bookmarks don’t get used. They use the visual display of the site though, because they don’t know the favicon, or in one case the sites are mostly intranet sites that don’t use any particular favicon, and all have similar titles “BigCo Intranet…”

    Love the open innovation though! 😀

  37. Nate wrote on :

    I’d like to search Hulu. I also think I liked the links better on the right. The plus button for typing in sites I want is covered up by the Frequently Visited Sites text. I really like this extension and have started using it instead of the bookmarks toolbar for getting to the sites I go to most often. I’ve also made it my homepage.

  38. Coleman wrote on :

    I like the links being on the left. I think the “+” button for searching for more of your frequent items is unintuitive. I expected it to show more links. I also think Dmitry has a great idea about adding a column of search engines.

  39. Phil wrote on :

    I really like the way this is going. Just a couple of comments though – I don’t know why, but I instinctively move my mouse down the right hand side of the window, meaning that I have to move my mouse a fair distance to click on a link. Maybe I’m just a little odd.

    The other issue I’m having is that when I open a new tab for the first time after starting Firefox a longish list of links appears and then a second or two later about half of them drop off the list as my feeds are read. This can get a little annoying but I’m not entirely sure what can be done.

    Anyway, good work so far – looking forward to seeing the next incarnation!

  40. Dmitry Gutov wrote on :

    The second column might be used just as well, if its contents get hidden as soon as the user chooses the action, and replaced by the list of search engines/closed tabs/map preview/twitter login page/wikipedia preview or whatever else the action entails.
    In that case, some button to get back to the list of actions might be useful.

  41. Dmitry Gutov wrote on :

    Personally, I very much dislike the idea of adding search input fields to the left column.

    First of all, it disrupts the otherwise slim appearance of the page.
    Second, it duplicates the functionality of the search field and doesn’t really decrease the amount of movements one has to do to perform search. And the upside of having several input fields visible at the same time is countered by their limited amount and random placement.
    Third, if a webpage serves as a search engine, what it is doing in the list of the most visited sites at all? I don’t want it to take the space that’s intended for the sites I actually want to visit.

    A much better approach, in my opinion, would be to use the third column for the list of search engines.
    It would be hidden initially, but made visible as the user clicks on contextual action “Search …” in the second column.
    The same algorithm might be useful for other actions, too. For example, when the user has an address in clipboard, clicking on “map” action in the second column will display a preview of the map in the third, along with the link to the page with full map. (Ubiquity integration, anyone?)
    “Undo close tab” will benefit from this, too, if instead of getting back just the last closed page the user will see the list of closed tab in the third column.

    Aside from that, the new design looks good, the new page loads quickly, but chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html shows blank page.

  42. Adam Luter wrote on :

    This seems much more usable than the last one with the shield (thanks!). However, the performance is kinda sub-par — the page must be snappy, or at least not lag the user interface.

  43. Zyber wrote on :

    Oh, and I like the old way of the “You just recently closed bar”

  44. amau96 wrote on :

    There are still a couple of strange things :
    1) why a right click on a link open it instead of opening a contextual menu?
    2) why the “chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html” is blank? I open this page by clicking on the little star in the bottom left
    3) When I use your search field, for exemple igoogle, the search is in english but my igoogle is in french, so why hl=en instead of hl=fr
    4) I think you should have click ON a link to open it, not in the full line, for exemple if you click just near the search field but not on the link, the link shouldn’t open.
    5) You Might Want To…send an Email to…

  45. Zyber wrote on :

    PLEASE bring back the little circle thingy and put the pages back on the right.

  46. Ferdinand wrote on :

    I would like search on:,,,,,,,,
    It would also be nice to be able to combine certain results. I have double Gmail’s and Google Readers.

  47. Funtomas wrote on :

    I’d like to see Tip of the day on the new tab as discoverability of some features is at low level and many users won’t exhaust the browser potential due the lack of knowledge.

  48. Tomer Cohen wrote on :

    I get feedback from the local community about the lack of default page for new tab in Firefox. I think that the New Tab should allow the user to choose what should be his default page for blank tabs, or even to set the same page as the default browser homepage.

    Some might prefer to use iGoogle or similar services for new tabs, while others would prefer a Speed Dial equivalent. While others would prefer more advanced features, which is the current NetTab efforts.

    I suggest keeping it up to the user to select his New Tab page, and allowing users to design their NewTabs page for themselves.

  49. Tyler wrote on :

    I like how this is turning out, and I think each version is getting better. I still think that hitting enter in the blank tab should activate the first result of “You might want to” to make the new tab more interactive with the keyboard. Also, enable the user to tab through the pages listed on the page. And I still think it should show more recently closed tabs, or at least have a text link that says “more…” and allows the user to see a few of the past tabs they’ve closed, because I usually need to open one of them just as often as I need to open the last tab that I’ve closed.