Firefox New Tab Page: Cognitive Shield

Chris Beard

67

We’ve been iterating quickly over the last couple of weeks to define a potential new tab screen for Firefox.

The feedback for the last major iteration was largely positive, and it seems like we are on the right track. But we ran into a paradox.

We believe that the new tab screen should have two main functions: (A) To show you the sites you are most likely to be interested in going to, and (B) to not distract you. That’s the paradox: by design success is when the pages we show are maximally interesting/distracting, but an explicit goal is to not interrupt your flow.

This iteration focuses on solving that paradox by proposing a solution that we’ve dubbed “the cognitive shield”.

The Cognitive Shield

No matter where we put the links to your most visited sites (and their latest news), it always seemed to be a distraction, based upon our own perception and the feedback from thousands of testers. Given that the bulk of those testers are multi-tasking-adept early adopters, we’d expect that feedback to be even stronger from more mainstream users. Our original thought was to place the links along the bottom of the page — outside your foveal vision. In practice, the peripheral vision proved too strong, and the links still drew your eye and interrupted your cognitive flow.

The cognitive shield hides the distractions until you move the mouse. Then the links fade in quickly.

Here’s the thinking:

If you are typing a destination into the navigation bar, then your locus of attention is on the place you are trying to go — so we should stay politely out of your cognitive way. On the other hand, if you are using the mouse than you will probably benefit from the mouse-based navigation aid, so show it.

Whether you are using the mouse is a good indicator of whether you are in a cognitive flow or not. That realization resolves the paradox: the links are there when you need then, and not when you don’t.

The Design

The design of the cognitive shield is a ring of 8 circles, each containing one of your top-visited sites. We think of it as a personal watermark.

We went through a number of metaphors for the cognitive shield.

Instead of a metaphor which always strains — what symbol represents frequently used sites? — we went for an abstract glyph.

Known Bugs

There are a couple more features we’re in the process of adding. In particular: The ability to manually add a site is entirely broken. There’s no way to change the total number of frequently visited sites shown. There may still be encoding problems for non-roman scripts. Middle-clicks may be broken. The visual style needs a refresh. And the sites don’t remember their new positions post restart.

Testing the Prototype of New Tab

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, for the “New Tab” team

67 responses

  1. Joe wrote on :

    I'm pretty new at this, so I was trying to find a feature that would replace Top Sites from firefox. This did look pretty promising, but all I can see is the list. No shield or floating circles. As far as the functionality of what I do see, Im getting all of these randomly assigned sites that I've never been to. Also, the gear at the bottom right only leads to a white page, no preferences or anything at all actually. Not impressed, but it could just be that my copy isn't working.

  2. leandro wrote on :

    I agree with raja (#14), the spontaneously bookmarks bar in new tab is awesome, simplistic and get the job done flawlessly. Anyone who wants the permanent BTF, can right-click and tick “always show”.
    This approach is very good for us using small resolutions monitors (notebooks and netbooks).

  3. Susan K. Craig wrote on ::

    How can I get rid of the new Mozilla blog icon that shows up when I start Firefox. If I can’t get rid of it I will go back to Internet Explorer or Safari.

  4. raja wrote on :

    Chrome’s homepage has a bookmarks bar which I find really neat. It shows up when a new tab is opened and gets out of the way once a page is opened. It would be really great if this feature can be added to the new tab page of firefox

  5. bussiere wrote on :

    will it be possible to personnalize customise this page ?

    regards
    Bussiere

  6. quodlibetor wrote on ::

    You mention (somewhere) that the cognitive shield doesn’t work because people keep trying to click on it, but by the time their mouse gets there the icons have faded:

    have you considered moving the favicons of the CS to their final locations, so that the background is gray and teh icons are washed out, but when you move the mouse the icons colorize (instead of disappearing) and the text fills in? It seems like this could have all the benefits of the CS without the drawbacks of horribly frustrating users.

  7. shelly wrote on ::

    I personally find the simple yet elegant neew tab extension from NewTabKing to be the most effective in the new tab navigation flow

  8. Josh W wrote on :

    I think this might be a good idea. One prob though: Power users know that they don’t need to move the mouse, infrequent users don’t: A safe assumption when the UI is unknown is to click the input box you want, or in extreme cases, to follow your pointer around with a very narrow cone searching out the screen.

    Now for the extreme case, they will be more confused than in the old situation, as the change they did not originate will attract their attention more than inert stuff appearing.

    For the intermediate/inexperienced the problem of origination remains. They don’t know that you are making that assumption of their behaviour, so they will be at a loss to explain why you did that.

    Solution? Hover select grayed out boxes that say what they “would” contain (+ icon), and then fill in the contents.

    This way both English and visuals are used to distinguish frames, that have consistent information in them (IE they can be zoned out) and have constant spacial orientations, so no worry of hitting them by accident.

    Problem? It constrains the geometry of your link list. Fixed sized frames are so 1997, but in terms of reducing confusion they may be the way to go. You could also have them extend downwards when focused on, leaving the bizarre UI of half a page of blank and then say two long parallel lists scrolling off the bottom.

    I love ring menus, but I don’t think this is the place. To recap, the principle is monotony until interest is given, in framing and content. It’s like a closed mail-box; always the same until you want to open it.

  9. Dusan wrote on :

    I think that when I click remove on some site, that site should be removed permanently, moved to some black list, because I except that behaviour, no matter that I’ll visit it later, when I click remove, it means that I don’t want it to appear on new tab

  10. Ryan wrote on :

    I would remove the circular shield and just show a list of slightly desaturated (and perhaps scaled up) fav icons in the places where they will appear in the list once it fades in. Mouse targets stay the same, but less info/clutter on the screen.

  11. Denny wrote on ::

    It would be great if it was possible to edit the name of the site; for example, Passpack (https://www.passpack.com/) is one of my top sites and the title displayed in about:tab is simply “/beta”.

  12. Chisophugis wrote on :

    I would like to see something in the large bottom-right white space. Some suggestions are:

    It could display a list of “tags” or “terms” that FF draws automatically from webpages, so, say, I would have access to all my recent “Social Networking” links one click away, or all my “Torrent Sites” one click away.

    You could also consider a simple, but not really quite in the vein of what this project precisely means to accomplish, space filler like being able to throw a couple google gadgets into the blank space, so you could get an update on your gReader feeds every new tab, or an update on your email.

    Similar to the last idea, you could have the New Tab page be a sort of hub for all your web activities, with a highly extensible set of panes that could be resized at will and contain everything from a slice of your Facebook to a simple task list. I actually would find a task list that synchronizes with the one in Gmail Labs (or maybe Remember the Milk would be easier) would be one of the most useful features that could be added to my browsing.

    Keep up the good work Aza

  13. Rosemary Andre wrote on ::

    I hate the opening page that gets me onto Gooble but not onto my firefox opening page (news). Why can’t you just leave my computer alone when it was adjusted so I could understand it? I use the mouse, I want the opening the way it was, and I want to see my e-mail. I am a senior citizen and don’t like to have to figure out what mania you are practicing on me.

  14. Morac wrote on :

    I can’t figure out how about:tab is supposed to work. It seems the new tab page changes randomly each time it’s opened.

    First off I never saw the shield when running version 0.0.35. I see the Frequently Visited Sites on the left every time I open a new tab, unless I click the wrench at the bottom which appears to turn off the new tab functionality.

    Every now and then I’ll see an “Re-Open” link for a tab, but I don’t know what triggers that to show up or how it determines what closed tab to show.

    Likewise every now and then I’ll see a “Search” link which seems to be linked to what is currently in the clip board, but it’s not always accurate.

    Personally I think the new tab page is way too complicated.

    If I were doing this I’d set up a separate div area for each “Frequently Visited Sites”, “Closed Tabs”, “Feeds”, etc, with only the text displaying.

    If the user wants to go to one of those area he/she can click the text which will open the actual list.

    There should also be an options screen where the user can permanently hide/show a category.

  15. Kevin Richardson wrote on :

    LOVE the fact that you can reorder the FVS and also like the suggested links to open. The cognative ring doesn’t really do it for me. A list with screenshots (similar to what Chrome provides). Do that with the addition of the ability to reorder them (drag & drop) plus suggestions…then you’ve got something cool

  16. Tyler wrote on :

    This has to do with the addon in general, not the cognitive shield: after using this for a while, I have felt it could improve a few small things. First, I always long to have the choice of reopening more recently closed tabs than just the last one. Maybe show the past 3, since I often close clusters of tabs at a time and might want to bring one of the others back easily.

    Also, I think it is a bad design to have the page load a bunch of your Frequently visited sites while it is loading the RSS feeds, and then remove some of them to have more space once the RSS feeds are loaded. I think the page should remember which sites have feeds, and make blank space for them ahead of time that the RSS feed will load into half a second later or so.

    The last thing I wanted to suggest is to make the links be “bigger targets”, so to speak. It is okay that you got rid of the thumbnails, but what was nice that they did was give the user a bigger target, and a reason to click those rather than the small bookmarks on the bookmark toolbar. Right now, it feels like there is no benefit of ease to clicking these links rather than those in the toolbar. I suggest that you highlight them on mouseover (such as icons are highlighted in Windows Vista when you mouse over them) to make it feel like you don’t need to have as much precision and click on the link precisely.

  17. Craig wrote on ::

    I followed the instructions to try out the cognitive shield but it does not work. Anything that I can try to fix it?

  18. TheTester wrote on :

    I really don’t like new look of .34 version. It was better on right side with different color for each row. Maybe that’s because when sites are on right side favicons and beggining of sites name is closer to the center of screen so it’s easy to “catch them with eye”. With left layout it’s quite opposite as I don’t see left side at first.

    Also this sheild thing is confusing for me aswell. ;)

  19. Keith wrote on :

    I have the history turned off on one of my machines, so is there some way to choose an alternate set of links to put in the about:tab?

  20. Arcterex wrote on ::

    I’m wondering if I messed something up… new install of 3.1b3 on windows xp, install of the xpi from the link above, but ctrl-t gives me the grey screen with the list of favorite sites, with no sign of the circle menu. I don’t see it fade out, no change if I don’t or do move the mouse :( Ditto on Ubuntu Linux from the tarball.

  21. anon wrote on :

    I like the idea but it wasn’t very intuitive when it switched over to the list format.

    Why not try Masukomi’s idea out of an interactive circle. Instead of switching to a list – unless you push the center button – why not have a small list (for RSS or descriptions) appear next to the icon you have your mouse over. You could maybe have a ‘grip’ where the user could spin the ring around so that they could determine where they wanted their icons too. Perhaps you could also pull-off icons as a way to trash them (decreasing the circle’s radius in the process).

  22. Jim wrote on ::

    I gotta say that while this looks/sounds like a nice idea, it simply is implemented poorly. Get rid of the wheel/shield, or get rid of the list – one or the other. Having the shield appear for brief seconds until I move the mouse on the page, then switching to a list is completely unnecessary and quite frankly, useless.

    Ultimately, the FastDial extension for Firefox, or the TopSites feature in Safari 4 are a much better implementation and much more useful.

  23. Red wrote on ::

    Having RSS channels for every entry is great bonus… I like it very much..

    btw. Can I have the same (rss view) for bookmarks menu please?

  24. Red wrote on ::

    Having RSS channels for every entry is great bonus… I like it very much..

    I like it’s simplicity, it’s fast and helpfull.

    I found only one little problem, I can’t add new entry by simply entering url (only page title).

    btw. Can I have the same (rss view) for bookmarks menu please?

  25. Robert Gallow wrote on :

    I found cognitive shield brilliant, but i’d like to have more control on it. Actually it doesn’t remember settings i put in. Every time i try to edit the feed list, but every time it comes out again. Give us more control.

  26. Alex Faaborg wrote on ::

    Some major problems with the dots iteration were:

    1) People expected it to be a target (it kind of looked like a target)
    2) There wasn’t a good mapping between the shield (used to keep you focused), and the information that appeared
    3) The display activated too easily, hit control-t and then moved the mouse to give the location bar the focus (even though it already had it), or moused into the new tab as the next page was loading, it triggered even though you didn’t want to view the list.

    Here is a new iteration that solves those three problems while still maintaining what I think is good about the design:

    http://people.mozilla.com/~faaborg/files/20090324-notificationsAndFlow/shieldi2.png

    I also have a post up about the objectives of not showing the user compelling information that is unrelated to their current task, unless they directly ask for it:

    http://blog.mozilla.org/faaborg/2009/03/24/notifications-and-flow/

  27. ilia wrote on :

    I think it’s telling how many comments point out to the fact that users think those circle buttons are clickable and are confused when they disappear. And the users here are experienced computer users that download unfinished software – this would be even more confusing for the joe user.

    I love the fact that you guys aren’t afraid to experiment like this but I think you’re making this a bit too complicated. I’m not just talking about the latest new tab revision, but your whole approach in general.

    The first and most important rule of UI is make it intuitive and obvious. The user should spend as little time as possible trying to figure out how to accomplish something – ideally, they would know how to do something as soon as they look at the interface.

    Clearly this latest revision chews that rule, spits it out and then stomps on it (okay I’m being melodramatic but you get the point :)). The “cognitive shield” looks like a bunch of clickable buttons, but then they disappear when you move the mouse.

    I think maybe you should step back and rethink your approach, and simplify it.

    For example, don’t put so much emphasis on trying to make things not distracting. For one, you cannot really test it, and the reason is simple. Your “test audience” (which would be you and us) can’t really be “not distracted” by any part of the interface because we’re testing it, and we’re trying to evaluate it as a whole. In other words, you want to see if we don’t notice something when we’re not interested in it, but we’re interested in all of it, even when we try to pretend that we’re not. (I don’t know if this makes sense, I hope it does :)).

    A true test of how distracting or non-distracting part of the interface is, would be on “virgin” test subjects with as little information as possible about the interface.

    But as I said you shouldn’t be spending so much effort on this aspect of the project, and the second reason for it is that good interfaces become “second nature” all by themselves.
    If interface is consistent and well designed then user gets familiar with it quickly and is able to selectively filter out anything they don’t need at any given moment.

    For example, when I open a new tab in opera and I want to type a url address, I don’t find the speeddial distracting in the least, I know it’s there but I know I don’t need it at the moment and it doesn’t even enter my mind. I’ll tell you what would be distracting – if the speed dial started to disappear because I moved my mouse after opening the new tab. :)

    You assume that mouse movement is a good indicator of my intentions to click the frequently used sites, instead of typing something. Yet personally, I find myself often moving the mouse after opening a new tab, even if I’m going to type in the url. And I don’t think that’s an uncommon occurrence.

    I think you should approach the issue from a different direction. Instead of thinking about how to make parts of the interface not distracting, try to think of how to make the interface in such a way that the users spends the least amount of time on it (and that way they won’t have time to get distracted :)). In other words, how to make it completely trivial.

    There is nothing wrong with Chrome’s or Opera’s approach, with big site thumbs. The reason for this is simple but probably not obvious, because at this stage of the project, you’re not overly concerned with keyboard shortcuts. Big thumbs are easy to put big ol’ fat numbers on, and they are easy to count. In other words, when it comes to assigning number shortcuts to the sites it becomes much more trivial for the user to remember those assignments with an interface like opera’s rather than, for example, a vertical list with the number being “lost” between a colorful favicon and the “important” site name.

    The way I see it, there are three “main” things user wants to do when they open a new tab:
    1 – open favorite site
    2 – perform some action on selected/copied text
    3 – do a search

    Start with simplest of them all – 3) search. Search is already a fairly “active” action – you cannot “speed it up” with shortcuts, only thing you can do is make convenient. So, just put a search box somewhere on the page, that is clear and big enough, but not distracting. Do not “pre-fill” it with selected text (that’s where (2) comes in). It should also be somewhere in the upper half of the page – since when opening new tab, the mouse will be in the upper part of the browser more often than not.

    Opening favorite site – I honestly think that opera’s approach is solid. It may seem that site thumbs are superfluous, but they provide a very recognizable object to the user. Sure they’re too small to have legible text, even in a logo maybe, but everything else, things like color, layout, shape of the logo – they are all visible and highly recognizable parts of the site.
    Also, you should not be relying on favicon as a site identifier since not all sites use them. Not to mention the fact that there maybe cases when different sites have the same favicon, because for example the sites in question are blogs on blogger.

    As for (2). Well first of all, do not do what you did with your previous iteration, where you put the “map” button _after_ the address. Address can be of arbitrary length. Which means the user cannot predict the position of the map button, which, again, means they have to think about the interface, instead of about what they want to accomplish.

    Provide the user with a straight forward list of actions, i.e.
    [map] ‘address’
    [search] ‘address’
    and that’s it.

    You should always present the search option. And the rest depend on “what” the text is. If it’s address, then just “map” is enough. If it’s arbitrary string then maybe add “wiki” action. If it’s URL then “go to” action, and so on.
    If it’s possible I think it would be very useful if the most likely action were highlighted and could be triggered by hitting “enter”.

    I probably should have some proper “conclusion” paragraph but it’s getting late and this post is already very long (though hopefully will still pass the moderators :)). So I’ll be finishing up.

  28. amau96 wrote on :

    since 0.0.34 (macOs)
    I don’t have any more the Shield. I only got the left view.
    chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html mode is a blank page…

    then, the frequentely visited site, don’t work at all

  29. michael wrote on ::

    I can’t see anything in the new tab, its just like before. does it conflict with other extensions?

  30. Pino wrote on :

    I was really impressed how it told me all my most visited sites and even magically showed the feeds for some (not for most, without any way to add them, that’s the negative approach).
    The main reason I hated IE7 though is the fact that there is a delay between giving the command to open and the actual opening of a new tab. This addon gives a slight delay, yet way too long for me. Please take speed very seriously when further improving this.

  31. Nathan Nutter wrote on ::

    1) Stupid shield. I don’t know what the point of the shield is? Why not just show the links faded out and light them up as the mouse moves? This would allow a user to target the link (with their eyes) immediately. Maybe this is what you were referring to earlier though, maybe it’s still too distracting?

    2) Huge waste of space. 1/2 the screen seems to be empty 99.9% of the time, i.e. I saw something once and never again.

    3) Mouse movement not registered until mouse moves over content window. Moving the mouse anywhere else on the screen does not reveal links. What if the mouse is off in a corner and the window isn’t max size? Takes several moments to even get a response (revealing the links).

    4) Pre-cache the sites? I’m not sure that’s the right term but if they do go to one of those top sites you might be able to make the experience *really* snappy.

    5) Stupid CAPTCHA reloads page if you don’t “pass” it. Fail tech.

    Info: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10.5; en-US; rv:1.9.1b3) Gecko/20090305 Firefox/3.1b3

  32. MMcCubbing wrote on :

    Personally I must say I found the “Cognitive Shield” to be a good idea but was confused and irritated by it changing into a list the moment my mouse moved over the page. (It actually took a few times to notice the “Cognitive Shield” as my mouse is almost always moving as I open a new tab)

    What I don’t understand is why it was taken in a new direction when most people seemed to prefer the second or third thumbnails from the previous post. Although the “Cognitive Shield” may not be a bad idea, in my books, it it was left as a circle and was interactive.

  33. adriano wrote on ::

    Uh. Got it. Same problem here, the ring disappears rapidly.
    I guess that the 8 magic number comes form the “first sight grokable number” coming from cognitive psychology. However, I think that the list can be a little longer without any harm of, er, grokability.

  34. adriano wrote on ::

    The feature of IE8 which colors related (spawned) tabs would be a nice thing to have. I did not install yet ie8 because I am used to the interface of firefox, but I am tempted to try it.
    The “new tab” widget is a nice add, I used the new tab feature very often , in fact i added the button to the buttons bar.
    I do not see the cognitive shield: how is it activated?

  35. masukomi wrote on ::

    the ring disappearing and swapping into a list like that really doesn’t work for me. I thought I’d be able to click on the items in the ring and that some action other than just ANY mouse movement caused the list to appear.

    also if i want this functionality in new tabs i want it in new windows too.

    suggestions: make the ring items clickable, the ring should only swap to a list when your mouse is actually interacting with it in some way… not just ANY mouse movement.

    I’d like to see the dim ring become move visible as you mouse over it, and have each item clickable (with tool tips). Also, add a dot in the center that, when clicked brought up the list.

  36. Roy wrote on :

    I think users will be more puzzled and distracted instead with this cognitive shield. Without reading the explaination for this in detail, I thought it was a set of quicklaunch buttons where you could hover and click. I thought it was broken when it kept disappearing! LMAO.

  37. frank wrote on ::

    I found the “cognitive shield”-ring very confusing as well. There is no obvious visual link between the two views (circle vs list) and the fact that the ring disappears that quickly makes the experience even more incomprehensible from my point of view.

  38. bomfog wrote on :

    “Also, it’d be nice to be able to hover over each of my frequently visited sites and see what the actual URL is I am going to visit when I click it.”

    The URLs show in the status bar, for me.

    ver. 0.0.33

  39. Eric Jeker wrote on ::

    Sorry to name those but it is a feature that already exists on Chrome and Opera and they did it nicely.

    The current version seems a bit slow and not fluid enough. The tab loading interrupt my typing in the address bar. I really don’t see the point of the cognitive wheel…

    I guess that typing “CTRL + T” and then “gmail” will be faster than searching the GMail icon in the wheel or in the list. But I understand that not everybody use their keyboard like that.

  40. Chris Robinson wrote on :

    The large empty white space in the new tab feature seems odd to me. Why are the links listed on the right with a bunch of empty space that does nothing?

  41. Jackson Fox wrote on :

    [reCAPTCHA ate the long version, here's the short one]

    This is nice, but seems to be over-thinking the problem? I’m not sure how much my new tab screen is going to interrupt my flow. I’ve found the Safari 4/Chrome pages pretty handy, and easy to navigate.

    Just make sure we can easily cmd-l/cmd-k to jump to search and the location bar, and I think we’ll be fine. Oh, and keyboard navigation of the start page items would be very nice.

  42. Andy wrote on :

    So the “cognitive shield” is an informal replacement of the list that comes up after mouse movement in the viewport?
    This is a distraction because at first I thought the wheel is something to click on, then it goes away and brings on a completely new layer (that’s one step too much and one useless step/metaphor to deal with).
    Right now things are cluttered a bit. You have the black ‘closed tab’ bar, the ‘recent search’ box, the ‘cog. shield’ that isn’t too informal at all, then the list of recent sites.
    Also, the wheel is 8 sites, the list after that shows 15 sites.
    This seems a bit overdone to me…

    Why not show a 3×3 list of my fave sites’ thumbnails (like Chrome), and secondary actions on the right (searches and closed tabs). This way the complete metaphor of the new tab page stays the same, the user knows where things are. Maybe the thumbnails could be gray or with reduced opacity. Then on mouseover they become active.

    “No matter where we put the links to your most visited sites (and their latest news), it always seemed to be a distraction.”
    Most importantly, my fave sites list should be centered not squeezed to the right. Such a list is no distraction at all, they are often the center of my interest when opening a new tab.
    In case my browsing routine stays roughly the same each day, thumbs of my fave sites are likely to be in the same place in this list, thus just a click away. For anything else the aesome bar is used…

    off-topic: I would like to be able to resize input fields. This must be native… E.g. 8 lines for this one here isn’t enough.

  43. Pete Austin wrote on :

    What is the benefit of this feature?

    I can see the downside (it gets in the way), but no upside. I spend less than 0.01% of my time *going* to my most visited sites. Most of my time is *using* one of those sites.

    If some people really spend their time jumping between their most visited sites, surely they will open each of them in a tab, and click on the tab bar?

  44. imma wrote on :

    “by design success is when the pages we show are maximally interesting/distracting” :-(

    I still think usefulness(and clarity) to the extent that people keep coming back and recommend it to others is a better sort of success :-)

  45. Swaroop C H wrote on ::

    Nice idea, but the ring converting into a list is irritating after some time.

    Perhaps the ring itself can be the bookmarks, or perhaps the list can be shown in a very light colour, but becomes bolder on mouseover?

  46. Ferdinand wrote on :

    I don’t understand why the most visited sites in the new tab page differ from the awesomebar dropdown menu. I have 2 Gmails on the new tab page and 5 of the 18 websites I only visit about once in 3 months. The awesomebar list is much better.
    I also don’t like the fading ring of icons. I couldn’t figure it out until this blog post and even now I don’t like it. The fading attracts attention. If you could make sure that the new tab page has no loading time and doesn’t flicker _that_ would be a lot less of a distraction.

  47. gozaboru wrote on :

    Very nice way to deal with it.

    An idea I had was to let there be a default that you can choose by clicking anywhere on the page, and rotating that selection with the mouse wheel. For the keyboard implementation, maybe let something like the arrow keys let the selection shift?

    The symbol was a good choice, I think, because it’s a reminder that this is firefox. That loader’s been around since I started using it :).

  48. Sheldon Goobie wrote on :

    I read about this and thought it sounded cool, I currently use Fast Dial to setup my most visited sites on a new tab when I open it. so Far I haven’t really figured out how this whole flow really works and the fact that I can’t rename the links that it finds is a little annoying. I search for my favorites and it finds the link but they don’t always correspond to links that make sense. I think this idea needs some rethinking as to how it is going to make someones web browsing flow better before it’ll catch on. The wheel that is mentioned I can’t select because it disappears. For a simple design its not really user friendly. I think a nice how to video would help out a lot.

  49. Lewis wrote on :

    I like the new about:tab page, but for me to switch from using a blank page to about:tab you guys have to add an option to highlight the location bar when opening a new tab. Usually when I open a new tab I have a pretty good idea of where I wanna go/what I wanna do, with Tab Mix Plus I can set the new tab page to an empty blank page with the location bar highlighted. With the new about:tab I have to Ctrl+L/CMD+L to highlight the location bar after opening a new tab. Please add the option to auto select the location bar after opening a new tab to the new about:tab.

  50. Kabir wrote on :

    «There’s no way to change the total number of frequently visited sites shown.»
    This is the worst part.

  51. Raider of the lost BBS wrote on :

    I think you are on the right track but the present behavior of changing from a nice ring of favicons to a list is VERY distracting.

    I did know what the shield was supposed to do, but when I first tried to use it (and ever since for that matter) I try to click on the icon only to find out that they move out of the way and I end up wasting more time trying to relocate the icon I wanted.

    This is particularly bad when trying to use the bottom left icons.

    I suggest you keep the favicon dial in place but make the text appear next to it, or maybe on a hover-on.

    Wanna be cool and flashy? make it turn with the mouse-wheel. But PLEASE do not show me one layout and then switch it to another one when I move the mouse, you can hardly get more distracting.

    Great effort guys, keep it up.

  52. Boris Anthony wrote on :

    Interesting. Just tried it out.
    My recommendation is this:

    Display one of the List layouts from the last Iteration (why not offer all of them, user selectable? and/or offer Users the possibility to make their own?), but *keep it faded out until the mouse is moved.*

    Lose the glyph. You’ve done a good job thinking about reducing cognitive load (heh ;) by choosing something purely abstract and largely meaningless, but as you can tell from the comments, this just confuses most people (“what is it? why is it there? whahunh?”). The initial presentation of the “List” faded out and it revelation upon MouseMove accomplishes what you want I think.

  53. fjpoblam wrote on :

    The ring is “pretty”. One can make out faint outlines of favicons in the circles of the “cognitive watermark”. Nice symbol. Beyond a symbol, though, it seems rather worthless beyond marking an area of the screen toward which one should move the mouse pointer to have oft-used links appear.

    There is great difficulty (is it possible?) in adding a desired link to the top of the list. There is great difficulty (is it possible?) in removing obsolete links from the list.

    Is this mechanism useful for unsighted or otherwise disabled users (i.e. those who do not/cannot use a mouse)?

    Methinks this deserves quite a bit further thought, folks.

  54. Joshua Fryer wrote on ::

    THANK YOU!!!! for adding the options to add and remove sites from the list!

  55. AndyEd wrote on ::

    See http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1179622.1179703 “Favicon seeded web surfing” ACM SIGGRAPH 2006 for some prior art in this vein

  56. Adam Luter wrote on :

    I too spent about 5 minutes trying to make the shield work. I was sure I could use some sort of keyboard shortcut or mouse gesture to get it to register — but to no avail.

    I think you might be too concerned about how distracting a page full of stuff is. Just don’t use strong colors for any of the text. Just present the data in a simple easy to read way. If people can easily figure out what it is, that’s good. If they have to spend time figuring out what all of this does, then that’s bad.

    Worrying about this paradox, I feel, is entirely unproductive. If you feel so concerned about it, why not put a big toggle switch somewhere that disables the feature for anyone bothered?

    I would also like to see more keyboard support. I like the new functionality and it’s making me use my mouse more helpfully. But by my nature I’d prefer to stick to the keyboard.

  57. Jeffrey Morley wrote on :

    I think the “most visited” sites paradigm is ok as a starting point, but as a LOVER of “Fast Dial / Speed Dial” I won’t use it if I can’t have complete control. I am not interested in having Firefox tell me what my favorite sites are, other than as suggestions. If I can add (and make persistent) or remove (and not have them come back) sites to the “new tab” page then it may work out pretty well. I like the thumbnails of Fast Dial, but would be willing to look at another approach. If however the list is a moving target of links based on where I have been recently, I would most certainly disable it.

  58. Asa Dotzler wrote on :

    The first time I open a new tab, I get a search for and map items. The second time, it’s blank and the addressbar has chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html in it and focus is set at the end of that string so I have to delete it before typing in a new URL.

    I don’t see anything in the error console. I’m using today’s branch nightly build. If I view->source, I see all the content there.

    After clicking the asterisk in the lower left corner, everything seems to work as expected but the behavior before doing that is poor.

  59. Mohammad Shahab wrote on :

    I don’t get the point of the cognitive shield. As soon as i move my mouse, the graphic disappears. Is this just a bug or is that the purpose?
    If thats the purpose, then its terrible. You should have the graphic enlarge and colored when mouseover and be able to click the link.

  60. Sam wrote on :

    thats a pretty big U-turn you did there… You were on the right track, a simple, formal new tab page, now your back to this fancy minimalist crap. I think that the new tab page should look like the last prototype layout, and shows content like this:

    [root webpage (google.com lets say]
    >[most visited page1 (google.com/reader)]
    >[most visited page2, ect]

    very long urls would be shortened so it would link to google.com/reader instead of google.com/reader/view/#stream/feed%2Fhttp%3A%2F%2Flabs.mozilla.com%2Ffeed%2F which is what chrome’s new tab page does. I don’t get why you’re attempting to “hide” it from our minds, I agree it can’t be distracting, but bright red and blue flashing with clowns dancing around the page is distracting, not a simple webpage with your most visited links!

  61. Sumit Kishore wrote on :

    A very modest request, and maybe it will already be fixed by the time this thing solidifies – in 3.0 when I open a new tab, the address bar is blank. With the prototype it’s filled out, and doing a Ctrl+L does not select it, so typing a URL appends it to the address bar entry. This means pain with long-established habits.

  62. Derek wrote on ::

    I’m not big on downloading beta software, but I am an avid Firefox user and am looking forward to the new tab features.

    From reading this post, I like the direction this is going now. You mention that the links fade in when you mouse. Is this going to happen when you move your mouse anywhere on the screen? I think it might be better served for the links to fade in once the mouse has rolled over the ring of circles. That to me makes a lot more sense for users that use mouse based navigation. It also makes it clear that the user is definitely interested in seeing their frequently used links. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  63. Andrey Fedorov wrote on :

    As a keyboard-heavy user, this feature is pretty much non-existent for me… the way Chrome lets me tab through the most heavily visited sites works for me. Even better would be if -# would let me choose which site I want to open – so -1 would open the most often visited page, -2 the second most visited, etc.

    Showing faded screenshots of the pages might be a solution if distraction is a problem, but I find that it only took a couple of days for the expectation of a new tab being blank to go away.

  64. Rich wrote on :

    I was confused when I first saw this new design. My immediate impression that it was some sort of mouse gesture interface, however I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work. To me, it seems like a lot of design for little functionality. Until I read this post a couple days later I was honestly mystified as to what the Cognitive Shield did.

    I personally don’t use mouse gestures in my browser, but this might be a nice way to let the user pick a frequently visited site with minimal mouse movement or thought. That being said, I’m not sure I’d use it if it were implemented that way, as mouse gestures in general aren’t particularly intuitive.

    Why exactly is this information being displayed when it can’t be acted upon in this form? Is this better than just a bit of text saying “New Tab” with the same fadeout effect when the mouse is moved? Also, will it be possible to ever select one of the most visited sites with the keyboard?

    All in all, I think the whole thing is moving in a good direction. My food for thought.

  65. David wrote on ::

    When I first installed it, I was confused when I launched a new tab because I found that the shield faded out immediately. I was unsure whether this was a bug or the intended behaviour as I did not read the full blog post to discover that the circles weren’t links and it was supposed to fade out to show my list of sites.

    The problem seems to be that when I click the new tab button, I am generally moving my mouse immediately after clicking so the shield doesn’t really get a chance to show properly before fading. This, as it turns out, is quite distracting :)

    Also, it’d be nice to be able to hover over each of my frequently visited sites and see what the actual URL is I am going to visit when I click it.

  66. Gijs wrote on :

    I’m not in a position to test this at this point, but is there an accessible way to activate this, and then to activate the links? Not everyone can use a mouse.

  67. Ogden2k wrote on :

    Personally, out of all of the browsers our there, I really like the way IE8 displays its new tab functions, it’s not distracting at all IMO.

    I actually dislike how he new tab is handled now (moving the mouse to show the content) as I usually hit Control + T and then think of what I want to do, before I could just see the list, now I have to move the mouse. Just a bit of slow down.

    The lack of color is displeasing as well.