Looking at the image above, the two examples from the left are impossible to comfortably use without altering your hand grip. Also the reason for such design is obvious just by looking at desktop browser interfaces: they hardly need to be operated with one hand alone. I mean, try lifting your desktop/laptop with one hand, and enter a website address.
Even if you can somehow do it, it's not comfortable; and downscaling that interface design to 5" screens does not change that. You'll still need both hands to operate it, which is an unacceptable requirement for a simple tool that should increase your potential, not decrease it.
And that's where the third example on the right comes to play. Obviously, we're not doing everything by ourselves. We chose to build our web browsing experience on top of Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine, developed for the Firefox browser.
Then, let's look at the two major steps we took before ending up with the current SailfishOS browser design. There's some good things we learned along the way.
The toolbar had buttons for back, address field, tabs, reload/stop and forward. In the end, the design was discarded as too complicated to understand. The root cause was in the magnifying glass icon. People didn't associate it to searching the web.
The next image shows the design that actually shipped with the Jolla phone sales release (click to enlarge). It combined both tab and addres entry into a single page. And instead of a separate address eentering icon, it promoted easier bookmarking.
We got a lot of negative feedback for that design, as it added an extra step to searching something or entering page address, and also made tabs functionality unnecessarily complicated to understand, use and develop.
The current design brought back separated tabs and address entry points. Tabs still use a page, but the latter one behaves like a toolbar extension, so that you can still see a bit of the webpage underneath. Much more useful functionality was also added throught the expanding/collapsing toolbar.
The feedback has been really good, and although I'm not completely happy about two different gestures to get back to browsing (flick address overlay down to close it vs. flick tabs page right to close it), we're much closer to a modern mobile browser interface.
Something that supports the way your hand works, instead of how you moused around in desktop interfaces few decades ago.
Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.