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