Friday, February 1st, 2008

Design issues from Aza Raskin

Category: Usability

Aza Raskin has been chatting about a couple of things now that he is at Mozilla.

First, Enso 2.0 is on the horizon which will be nice and free. Aza just added his design thoughts for the new version.

I am interested in seeing how Enso could do more within the browser. You can already do things like open a URL, but you could take it further and use it as a way to script the way you do things in the browser.

Then, Aza talked about the design decisions in adding an about page. When you read that you probably think: “are you kidding me?” but there is a little more too it:

Say I’m listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, singing along in that I-hope-the-neighbors-won’t-report-me-to-the-landlord sort of way, and I decide to find-out more about Songza. I click the link and — BAM — I’m no longer listening to the song. Instead, I’m staring at this self-serving, slightly meglomaniacal page about Songza’s history and its founders. Not only that, but I’ve lost my spot just at the best part of the song (I’m not saying which part that is in hopes of starting a small flame war). The naive approach to creating a separate page has turned the unassuming “about songza” link into a landmine — under no circumstance should you punish your users for using your system. Because there is no way for the user to know which links will intterupt the music, every link is a Russian Roulette. Not cool.

The solution is to open a new window (although preferably, it would be a new tab). This way, the “about songza” page opens without interrupting the song. It’s work-flow transparent. Spamming the user with extra windows or tabs is never a good thing, so we use a little bit of Javascript to open a new page only if a song is currently being played. We used a similar solution for the “Watch Video” link as well, except we went the extra mile there and automatically pause the Songza song so that it doesn’t compete with the video.

Now we need examine the behavior of the “return to songza” link that formerly went at the bottom of the about page. By opening the about page in a new window, we’ve broken the link’s behavior. If I were to click on it, it would cause that new window to go to Songza, which means I would have two separate instances of Songza open. How annoying! One solution would be to change the link to say “close about page”. That works great if I had come to the page from Songza, but if I had found myself on the page by doing a search, I would have no way of getting back to Songza proper without editing the URL. We are in a bit of a bind — either way we do the link, we have a suboptimal behavior.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 10:17 am
1 Comment

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4 rating from 12 votes

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Being that the UI for songza is pretty rich and ajax enhanced, seems to me you’d just have your “about us” open up inline in an overlay to avoid losing your song context.

Comment by Brad Harris — February 4, 2008

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