Before outlining exactly why I have this opinion, I have one question: do
you have some sort of eye-tracking heat-map results to illustrate where the
user is actually focusing the fovea of their eye when using the browser? For
example, like these:
Looking at most of those Google Image results for eye-tracking plots, users
seem to focus their eyes almost entirely on the upper-half of the browser.
The status bar is therefore almost always in the periphery of the user's
vision - that's surely the whole point of the status bar and this is the
prime basis of my argument for keeping it.
One argument for removing the Status Bar is that it will make the browser
feel more lightweight - I don't believe this to be true. Certainly,
removing the menu bar and pushing up the tabs to the title-bar will make the
browser feel more lightweight - this is because these controls are directly
in the field of the user's vision. However, because the Status Bar is in the
periphery of vision on a normal screen, I don't think that removing the
Status Bar will actually make the browser "feel" any more lightweight. In
fact, I think Google Chrome feels slightly "naked" in not having the Status
bar - it's as if something is needed to separate the browser window from the
I've also heard that there are plans to move link-hover-URLs to the Location
Bar - I think that this is a *very* BAD idea. Showing link-hovers in the
Status Bar works *precisely* because the Status Bar is in the periphery of
vision, and hence does not distract the user as they move their
mouse-pointer over the page. Showing link-hover-URLs in the Location Bar
will mean that URLs will be flickering directly within the user's field of
vision, and hence will be a very distracting behaviour.
Google Chrome is the only mainstream browser that removes the status bar. Do
you also really want to be seen to be copying Chrome this much? Apart from
Firefox being the most open of browsers, isn't Firefox's main "selling
point" the fact that it's the most customizable and extensible out there.
The status-bar-less Chrome's opportunities for extensibility are severely
limited due to this lack of status bar and it's single-icon only extensions
are pretty pathetic. Plus, moving extensions, download notifications etc.
all into the main toolbar will start to make it look very cramped indeed.
The Status Bar offers a prime location for add-ons that display a status
that is not immediate and better placed in the periphery of the user's
Another argument for removing the Status Bar that I've heard is that there
isn't much useful on it. Instead of saying that this means that it should be
removed, why not look at it from the other side of the coin and actually
*put* more useful things permanently on the Status Bar! Here are some
1. Zoom. One of the little things that has always really annoyed me about
Firefox is the fact that there is no zoom control. What exactly do FF
developers have against a zoom control? In fact, it used to annoy me so
much that IE7 had a full-page zoom and then when FF3 introduced a full-page
zoom a year later it didn't include a zoom control like IE7 had - I refused
to budge from IE for this reason (though eventually FF's new Smart Location
Bar was so well designed, and the fact that IE *still* hasn't a spell
checker meant that I was eventually swayed over to FF :) ). There should be
a zoom control on the Status Bar - *not* in any buried menu like Chrome or
FF3 has; a buried menu is horrible, as I want to be able to see exactly how
much I'm zoomed on the current page at a glance of the eye - currently in FF
I have to keep pressing Ctrl-0 to reset the zoom in order to tell. Zoom
should also be a more essential feature these days due to the proliferation
of high-resolution displays.
2. "View Full-screen" goes hand-in-hand with zoom, and is actually normally
placed beside the zoom control in many Office applications. You can save
space in the Firefox Menu by putting this beside the zoom.
3. Show/hide sidebar can be a small control in the bottom-left. The sidebar
is IMO the most useful way to view bookmarks/history - the current Firefox
Menu implementation has more.
4. Sync control.
5. Work Offline control - why remove a feature from FF just because you've
decided to re-organize the menus? There's lots of space on the Status Bar.
You could even get retro and get back to your Netscape roots and
re-introduce the legendary Netscape "plug" icon!
6. Active Downloads notification.
7. Privacy/Security controls like IE8.
8. Erm, can't think of any more right now, but there are probably loads of
things you could stuff it with!
I also had a mock-up of how the status bar could look on the Wiki - this was
to show how by moving items from the status bar you can end-up having enough
space in the Firefox Menu to put *all* items (e.g. style, character encoding
etc.). This is here (I've got more menu ideas to come btw!):
I'm sure I'll get the response here "What about Netbook owners". Well, they
are the minority (who knew they were getting a smaller screen when they
bought the thing :P), and they can of course customize the menus and hide
the status bar if they wish ! Maybe you could introduce a separate
pre-configured layout for netbook users to make this easier for them. I've
also noticed in the FF4 betas how much nicer the full-screen view is - now
with tabs on top you can just throw mouse to the top of the screen to switch
tabs - netbook users should now be encouraged to instead use this mode when
they want maximum screen real-estate! Actually, another point about
netbooks that I note is that while the size of the netbook screen is not as
large as their more mainstream equivalents, the relative resolution of the
netbook screens is often very high. This high DPI would surely be an
argument for a dedicated zoom control rather than getting rid of the status
Anyway, that's the end of my brain-dump on this issue (for now at least!)
I'm completely with Paul on this one. I use the status bar, and would
really hate to see it disappear completely. I wouldn't greatly object
to a 'popup' status bar. I also feel that moving the mouse-over link
display to the URL bar would be very misleading, and confusing, also,
The plan (from what I've read) isn't to take away the status bar as an
option, but rather to add the ability to work without it, by moving
the functionality that one can currently (in a default install) only
get in the status bar to other areas of the browser. This allows
people such as myself (who automatically use every available option to
minimize UI) to hide another 12 or so pixels and not lose
So while your arguments are possibly valid for keeping the status bar
on by default, (I don't care one way or the other, I'll let others
figure that one out) I don't think it's fair to use rhetoric that
implies that this (hiding the status bar but retaining it's
functionality) shouldn't be available as an option too.
Well, then argue for it to be off, by default not against it's
inclusion. In fact I think it would be a good idea to only move the
link URLs to the URL bar when the status bar is off, so why not make
that case, instead of shooting down a good idea for those of us who
want minimal UI?
Cam, yes you are right - I'm just making some points to make up a pro/con
lists in order to attempt to help with the decision on what the *default*
layout should be - I should have made that clearer. See my comment about
"aiding netbook users" for an example of this.
Ah, well then I'm all for it, I don't imagine many people are as
fanatic about pixels as I am.
Thanks for taking the time to reply, however, I think you've maybe
misinterpreted my intent with starting this thread (maybe I haven't made
myself clear enough either). I'm not trying to shout at the top of my voice
"I like my status bar so keep it that way!". The devil is in the detail
here, and in fact before carefully thinking through every little detail and
their consequences I actually disliked the status bar and was in favour of
Choosing the *default* behaviour should be a process involving listing all
the pros and cons of a particular design and making a decision based on a
weighted list - I'm simply trying to list more of the cons for the UX team
to think about (Alex has also just made a post requesting the community to
question the default settings!!). I was particularly impressed by Alex
Faaborg's approach when he clearly communicated weighing up the pros and
cons of deciding whether to put the tabs on top or not -- I just haven't
seen a similar pro v. con comparison for the status bar issue.
One of the things that I was particularly glad to hear Alex mentioning when
discussing the trend for the tabs to top when said that the trend "isn't
arbitrary; it isn't about fashion". Considering the only argument that I've
seen so far for removing the status bar is to save 20px of *peripheral*
vertical space, I'm just a little concerned that the move to remove the
status bar *is* about fashion.
The trend for more minimal browser interfaces is a good one and started in
IE7. However, IE7's approach was messy with all the extra little buttons to
the right of the IE7 tab bar. This was cleaned up in Chrome by reducing the
number of menu buttons to two and by moving the tabs right up to the top in
the title bar. FF was the least minimal browser, and hence I get the feeling
that in order to compensate for Firefox's lateness that there is a tendency
to try to out-minimize the already ultra-minimal Google.
A major point that I was trying to make is that ultra-minimal is not always
good. There is a balance and trade-off with functionality -- in fact Chrome
still shows its link-hover-URL-previews in the status-bar area (but yet
manages to lose potential add-on functionality!). Chrome still uses that
area because it has a function that *no other* area of the browser interface
can provide -- to be an essential *peripheral* area for displaying
*non-distracting* status information. Firefox has already made itself nice
and minimal by scrapping the menu bar, and can go further by moving tabs to
the title bar -- these are the areas which by making minimal will have the
most impact due to them being in the focus of the eye. Remember also that
this is the *desktop* version of the browser -- most users of the desktop
version have screens that are getting larger and higher in resolution than
, but I'm sure that you have more recent test-pilot data to back that up).
Netbooks may be the current *fashion* , but their significance is a red
herring and is contrary to the wider trend.
> Yes, we could put lots and lots in the Status Bar. The point is that once
> we have that space, we (and others) are indeed very tempted to fill it
> with indicators, information, and nonsense which simply aren't really
> required by the majority of websites or users.
This brings me back to the point that most design decisions are usually a
balance - I was making the point that the current status bar is too far
towards the "non-useful" side and could be balanced slightly more towards
the "useful" side. Of course I am not suggesting to skew the balance towards
the other extreme by filling up the status bar with lots and lots of
cluttered nonsense! Most of the ideas of what to place there were only
suggestions of what *could* be put there - not necessarily what *should*.
>Some of your points were well reasoned, others seemed to be based a bit
>more in personal preference.
I'd rather that you were more specific here, but then I am guessing that
your role is more of a manager than a designer, and it isn't a manager's job
to get into the necessary detail. I assume that by "personal preference" you
are talking about my request for a zoom control, but there are also some
*very* logical arguments for making zoom status much more prominent.
I would find it very interesting to get some insight from the designers here
into why FF has always had inferior zoom control and zoom status indication
to its competitors?? How do the designers here zoom pages when they browse
the web? Do you use the Ctrl keys? Will new users know to use the control
keys? Do you constantly guess the current zoom level/have such a good memory
that you can remember what the current zoom level is? Do you by extreme luck
never come across badly designed web-sites with the text too small/too
large? Have you never used a screen where the DPI is far too high? Do you
never get sore eyes after looking at a screen for a long time, and never
give your eyes a bit more of a rest by increasing the text size? Do you all
have 20/20 vision and are none of you even the slightest bit short-sighted
(a point also made in the link I gave discussing screen resolutions)? Of
those of you that are short-sighted do you sometimes never want to gives
your eyes a rest by not using your glasses/contact lenses? Do you never ever
forget your glasses/contact lenses? Do none of you ever chill-out on a
sofa/couch with a laptop slightly further away from you than if you were at
a desk and hence want to change the zoom setting?
In the US approximately 25% of people have some form of myopia; in China
(world's most populated country and largest potential FF market)
approximately 80% of all people have some form of myopia
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myopia#Epidemiology). ***The need for a
functional and well-exposed zoom control is therefore far from a rare corner
case -- it's an absolute necessity.***
Another argument for better zooming has nothing to do with bad eyesight and
the distance of the user's eye from the monitor, and more to do with the
next-generation web. With ever increasing occurrence I'm coming across SVG
vector images (on Wikipedia in particular) where you can't actually see the
content (e.g. text labels on a large map) without using the browser's
built-in zoom controls. With the market leader (IE) about to support
SVG/canvas properly in its next iteration, I can only see this type of
SVG/canvas scenario becoming more and more common.
I also remember seeing a presentation a while ago by your very own Aza
Raskin while speaking at Google. He was talking about the power of a simple
zoom interface and how interfaces such as calendars, satellite maps etc.
could be made much simpler by exploiting the power of zoom gestures. One
point that Aza made was that he found a paper map of Chicago much easier to
use than the maps provided online by the Chicago public transport company.
He then showed how a simpler interface could be made with simple zooming.
One later comment from a member of the Google audience, however, was that
such interfaces were not simple to implement using existing standard HTML/JS
methods. My point here is that a very simple zoom interface for the "Chicago
map" scenario could be trivial to implement by using a standard SVG/canvas
element along with the browser's in-built zoom controls!!
>The issue of on-hover URL preview is a thorny one, wrought with potential
>security and control issues
Indeed, this is such an obvious issue that had already been mentioned
elsewhere, so I didn't mention it again. Confusing non-accustomed users by
putting a link-hover-URL-preview *anywhere near* the location bar is nothing
but a phishing scammer's wet-dream! I can only see this coming back to bite
you later! Keep the link-hover-URL-preview as far away as possible in the
Another brain-dump over -- thanks for reading if you managed to make it
alive to the end of that long piece :D,
PS: Mike, as an outsider to Mozilla Corp. who has had experience with
working in engineering teams (and with being in charge of release management
roles in particular), I'm getting a familiar "project manager sticking to
his plan no matter what" vibe here. Many of your posts simply imply "We've
already decided this [even though it's not *actually* final since you still
have unresolved fundamental details e.g. relating to the URL hover]", "I
don't want to hear about more details", and imply that you've got a tight
deadline that must be met at all costs in order to save face in order to
meet an original project plan. I don't know all the details (so it's very
likely that I could be completely wrong), but it seems to me at a glance
that the FF4 plan is looking a bit overly-aggressive and that the current
"beta" is more like an alpha. The most noticeable new feature in FF4 is
going to be the new UI, and since you are introducing such a fundamental
change to the UI then every aspect had better be designed to perfection
before release. Design the FF4 UI in a non-perfect way and you'll get some
criticism in reviews, though people should still move to FF4 due to it being
excellent overall; however, design the FF4 UI to absolute polished
perfection on initial release and it will get rave reviews with people
moving to FF in their *droves*. I understand the absolute importance of the
need to "ship", but I think some of the guys in Microsoft said it well when
discussing a change in strategy that Microsoft made in releasing Windows 7;
to paraphrase: "either build a feature to a high quality or don't ship the
feature at all until the next release". Mozilla is also not a normal totally
for-profit type of company, and so your goals should be more long-term than
"shipping to schedule" - a schedule that in a year's time no one will
remember. IMO your only deadline should be to release your new browser
before the market leader releases theirs (IE9) - since that doesn't look
like it will be until 2011 then you have time on your side to perfect FF4!
Thanks for your very thorough consideration of the status bar. I
wanted to address a few of your points.
"Looking at most of those Google Image results for eye-tracking plots,
seem to focus their eyes almost entirely on the upper-half of the
The status bar is therefore almost always in the periphery of the
vision - that's surely the whole point of the status bar and this is
prime basis of my argument for keeping it."
It is absolutely true that users primarily look in the upper half of
the browser. This is why Firefox's Chrome is in the upper-half of the
browser - with the strange exception of the status bar. It is indeed
in the periphery, and thus in a cloudy area. If it's important, why
is it not in the user's focus? If it's not important, why is it
taking up browser chrome and forcing the user to change their gaze
from the top of the browser to the bottom?
"Showing link-hover-URLs in the Location Bar
will mean that URLs will be flickering directly within the user's
vision, and hence will be a very distracting behaviour. "
If the user is actively mousing over links, their focus is more likely
to be on their cursor than anywhere else in Firefox. There are
exceptions - some users move the mouse idly or click absently while
focused elsewhere (Johnath Syndrome), but in general mouse pointer
indicates user focus. So in reality, the user is not focused in the
URL bar nor the status bar when they are looking at link destinations.
"Google Chrome is the only mainstream browser that removes the status
bar. Do you also really want to be seen to be copying Chrome this
We try to make decisions based on what is best for users rather than
what other browsers are doing.
One piece of UI that I haven't seen addressed anywhere which currently
sits in the same location as the status bar is the find/quickfind bar,
are there any plans to move/redesign this? I realize that it is a
temporary thing (much more so than all other UI elements I use) but I
think it might conflict with the new add-on bar UI and would as such
warrant a redesign/relocation.
Thanks for your response.
> "Looking at most of those Google Image results for eye-tracking plots,
> seem to focus their eyes almost entirely on the upper-half of the
> The status bar is therefore almost always in the periphery of the
> vision - that's surely the whole point of the status bar and this is
> prime basis of my argument for keeping it."
> It is absolutely true that users primarily look in the upper half of
> the browser. This is why Firefox's Chrome is in the upper-half of the
> browser - with the strange exception of the status bar. It is indeed
> in the periphery, and thus in a cloudy area. If it's important, why
> is it not in the user's focus? If it's not important, why is it
> taking up browser chrome and forcing the user to change their gaze
> from the top of the browser to the bottom?
I don't agree that the status bar is "forcing" users to change their view -
quite the contrary. The point of the status bar being useful in the
periphery is that it can provide a status that the user can decide to view
at *any time of their choosing*. e.g. link hover when the user *actually*
wants to click on a link and not when they happen to hover their mouse over
a link (a flick of an eye is hardly *that* demanding). Or when the user
likes they can check the sync status (and will also most likely see any
difference in status from the corner of their eye, but in a non-intrusive
Placing things like link hover and sync status *directly* in the user's
field of view is *forcing* the user to see the status of something that they
may not be interested in at that particular time, and distracting them from
the content that they are actually trying to concentrate on.
> "Showing link-hover-URLs in the Location Bar
> will mean that URLs will be flickering directly within the user's
> field of
> vision, and hence will be a very distracting behaviour. "
> If the user is actively mousing over links, their focus is more likely
> to be on their cursor than anywhere else in Firefox. There are
> exceptions - some users move the mouse idly or click absently while
> focused elsewhere (Johnath Syndrome), but in general mouse pointer
> indicates user focus. So in reality, the user is not focused in the
> URL bar nor the status bar when they are looking at link destinations.
Fair point. However, what I'm talking about here is not when the user is
wanting to select a link - it's when the user moves their mouse cursor from
one part of the screen to another and the mouse cursor happens to pass over
a link - in this case there will be more distracting flickering directly in
the user's fovea.
It would also be interesting to here some comment form someone in Mozilla
about the lack of zoom control/indication support.
Best regards, and keep up the good work,
> Hi Jennifer,
> Thanks for your response.
> "Showing link-hover-URLs in the Location Bar
>> will mean that URLs will be flickering directly within the user's
>> field of
>> vision, and hence will be a very distracting behaviour. "
>> If the user is actively mousing over links, their focus is more likely
>> to be on their cursor than anywhere else in Firefox. There are
>> exceptions - some users move the mouse idly or click absently while
>> focused elsewhere (Johnath Syndrome), but in general mouse pointer
>> indicates user focus. So in reality, the user is not focused in the
>> URL bar nor the status bar when they are looking at link destinations.
> Fair point. However, what I'm talking about here is not when the user is
> wanting to select a link - it's when the user moves their mouse cursor from
> one part of the screen to another and the mouse cursor happens to pass over
> a link - in this case there will be more distracting flickering directly in
> the user's fovea.
> It would also be interesting to here some comment form someone in Mozilla
> about the lack of zoom control/indication support.
> Best regards, and keep up the good work,
Paul, I'm guessing it would be very easy to put in a delay so the link
preview only appears if the mouse pauses on the hyperlink for a certain
small amount of time - this is how I was always imagining it should work,
not that the link preview popup (or address bar preview) would be constantly
appearing/disappearing as you moved the cursor around the page!! :)
>> Some of your points were well reasoned, others seemed to be based a
>> bit more in personal preference.
> I'd rather that you were more specific here, but then I am guessing that
> your role is more of a manager than a designer, and it isn't a manager's
> job to get into the necessary detail.
That comes off as rather insulting. Let's keep things civil?
The simple fact is that those of us actually designing, building, and
shipping the browser don't have time to write epic point-by-point
responses to everyone who wishes to debate a UI change. It's great that
you're passionate about the browser, and we try to factor all
appropriate input into how we do things, but no one should be surprised
if people are selective about what gets replied to or in what level of
Justin, I think you've mis-interpreted what I wrote - I guess that's just
the nature of textual communication. I was trying to say exactly the same as
you had written in your last paragraph - i.e. acknowledging that I fully
understood why Mike was selective in his response. I've actually been very
impressed the level of willingness to discuss issues from the Mozilla
Hi Eric, I had thought that that could be an option too. Though why insert a
delay and slow everything down when you can just show it instantly on the
status bar! I guess I'd need to be able to see a working implementation in
order to judge.
Still would like that zoom control and non-intrusive sync status indicator
though! :P :)