What is this?
I've gone through the alpha1 reviews looking for comment on the UI. Most of the articles describe the UI, but a bunch also offer some evaluation/assessment, some with suggestions or concerns. I've tried to pull some of these out here.
One omission here is that I haven't captured much feedback from blog comments. Some of this is to come.
- "The best mobile browsing is the kind that doesn't require too much typing or screen-tapping, and Mozilla seems to inherently grasp this."
- "Tucked away in the left-hand margin is one of Fennec's seemingly greatest strengths—instant access to multiple tabs, with thumbnailed images of each site"
- "I find this style of tabbed browsing far more convenient than the iPhone's slideshow row of sites, and I'd probably like it more than the Android's Speed-Dial-style page (although Gina's the only one around here who can say for certain). But the number of held pages, and speed with which Fennec can call them up, will of course depend on the phone it's running on."
- "This early alpha release delivers a compelling user interface and demonstrates the impressive scope of the browser's potential on diminutive devices, but suffers from performance limitations and instability that reflect the need for significant refinement before it's mature enough for mainstream adoption."
- "The Fennec user interface, which is largely designed for touchscreen devices, is simple and moderately elegant."
- "The extension and download panes look identical to their respective dialog windows from the desktop browser. The preferences pane, however, has been redesigned and simplified so that it has a more finger-friendly interface and a limited set of options."
- "The sliding gesture paradigm that is used to toggle the visibility of the sidebars is very interesting in principle, but it tends to be a bit frustrating in practice. I often found the sidebars appearing arbitrarily when I was attempting to scroll down the page by dragging. I'm almost sold on the concept, but I think that the implementation still needs some refinement and sensitivity improvements before it will be a real winner. I also noted some inconsistencies in dragging behavior."
- "Although the new user interface is very impressive, this release was very sluggish and unresponsive. Mozilla says that optimization efforts are underway and that we will see improved performance in subsequent releases."
- "Fennec has a full-screen mode that relinquishes the entirety of the screen for your browsing pleasure. This is consistent with one of the early designs, and with some functionality of the Opera Mobile 9.5 beta browser for touch-screen phones. As long as it won't slow you down while going backward and forward, this is a smart idea for mobile phones--after all, what good is it to clutter your small screen with buttons you use only half the time?"
- "I'm less convinced, however, by the search bar along the bottom edge of the screen. It seems convenient enough to type in your term, than to click the engine you prefer to search with--either Google, Yahoo, Amazon, or Answers.com. It turns out this search bar is a bit redundant, which some may see as a convenience and others as unnecessary. Search, in fact, is bundled into the URL bar and is duplicated below to focus the query on one specific engine."
- "Even more awesome, the suggestions are cleaner, not gooped up with separator lines and the URLs themselves. It helps that Maemo OS 2008 offers words suggestions as you type, so entry can go even faster."
- "The first thing when you open Fennec is the simple and clean layout. There is the address bar across the top of the screen and the rest of the space is dedicated to the browser."
- "One of the nice features in Fennec is the horizontal movement. For example, one swipe to the left exposes the tool bar. Clicking on the settings button slides the browser window even further across. To get back, two swipes to the right closes those windows."
- "It is still early days with Fennec, but this alpha release makes it look very promising. The interface is clean and simple and with a touchscreen promises to be easy to use, but we’ll have to wait until we get our hands an a Nokia tablet before we can say for sure."
- (most of this article is about the UI)
- "Fennec offers substantial UI advances that, in our opinion, make mobile browsing much more effective and convenient. All browsers on mobile devices, including Safari, position browsing controls such as tabs, options, settings, backward and forward buttons, on the top or bottom of the screen. However, this approach reduces the available screen space and makes navigating much more time consuming. For example, in Safari you have to move up on a page to reach the address or search bars, which can be annoying especially in lengthy pages. Mozilla had a different idea. Only the address bar and bookmark buttons are on top of the Fennec screen. Other browser controls are hidden: They are moved into vertical columns outside the screen boundaries and you simply swipe left or right to scroll a page to either side and show those vertical panels. This concept not only saves time as only one gesture is required to access browser features no matter how tall the page is, but it maximizes the screen real estate as well."
- "Fennec is not just another mobile browser. We believe that this browser will be significant and may have, in the long term, a much greater impact on users than the desktop version. It delivers a new UI that feels natural and makes web browsing on devices with small screen much more effective than we have seen to date. Sometimes, it is a simple solution that is most effective. Who would have thought about moving UI controls outside the left and right screen boundaries and enable a quick swipe gesture access? We really can't stress enough how revolutionary this concept is from an end-user perspective."
- this one is mostly about UI, too
- "The first surprise I discovered is that the absence of the ever-present URL is no big loss. ... On the other hand, I've found myself wondering whether the omnipresence of the Web page title is all that necessary. One problem, however, is finding a workable way to get rid of it, especially considering it also fulfills the function as Fennec's principal navigational tool."
- "Having the browser's functionality features tucked away in the margins outside the page may be a necessary, if not the most obviously desirable, factor in using complex applications on a small surface. This makes using the Back button in Fennec a less-than-reflexive process; you have to slide the page to the left, reveal the button, and then tap it. At the very least, however, this is the same sequence of gestures you take every time you want to go back one page; so although it takes two steps instead of one, they're always the same two steps. That's not too bad a sacrifice, and a better way of making this simple feature work than the presently inconsistent address bar. The bookmarking button appears here too, and so far, the location seems sensible."
- "Representing the functionality for multiple open tabs in miniature is a serious debacle, and Fennec's approach to this debacle has some serious problems...to which there are no obvious alternative solutions. You do have to commend Fennec's designers for treating the problem seriously, however: Since tabs are represented outside the left margin, it may be unworkable to have them be labeled using the page titles (like in a desktop browser) since that would consume too much screen space. So instead, Fennec represents open tabs with thumbnails of the pages. On a very small screen, these thumbnails can be almost indistinguishable from one another, especially in cases of pages comprised of mostly text on white backgrounds. The general geometric patterns that text boxes form in a page do not lend themselves to identification."
- "Perhaps the most innovative feature of Fennec is its user interface, which attempts to maximize the amount of screen real estate devoted to page rendering. It does so with context-sensitive UI elements and off-screen controls that you access with gestures."
- "As for Fennec's user interface, the hidden tool and tab bars are easy to get used to, but I found it all too easy to accidentally slide them into view while scrolling a page up and down with the stylus. If you use an N810 device with a keyboard, you may be able to scroll with hardware keys, avoiding the issue, but with a touchscreen device that is unlikely to be the preferred way of navigating.
- On a side note, it took me a few pages to realize that Fennec recoups some screen space by eliminating the traditional scroll bar altogether. I don't know if the space savings are worth it, considering that without a scroll bar you lose the ability to tell where on the page you are.
- The rest of the interface is slick. I found the location bar autocompletion and search fast and unobtrusive, and liked the thumbnail view of the tab bar. There are no themes or other add-ons for Fennec yet, but since it employs the same APIs as Firefox, they are sure to follow."