Dinner With A Designer
Monday, June 9, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Last week I had dinner with Marney Morris, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marney is a designer. She made a career out of developing tours, demos and corporate info systems using Macromedia Director. Recently, Marney and her team have been doing beautiful and fun websites, including the site for the Disney movie 101 Dalmations. I last wrote about Marney in It's HTML, Dummy!, 12/6/96.
Marney loves her horses, and after years of doing design, very successfully, even though she's buzzin with ideas, she's retiring to teach at Stanford. She quotes a friend who says "When you're involved in education, you never ask yourself 'Why am I doing this?'"
I totally get it. I'd like to teach too. At Stanford? You bet. Makes sense to me.
I always wondered why content products have so much prettier user interfaces than apps do. Does it have to be so? Such beautiful web sites, displayed in such an inelegant user interface, the browser.
I think the current implementations of Netscape and Microsoft are ineffective. They use too much vertical screen real estate. There are only a few buttons that are truly important. The operations you use often could be iconified, I thought, and it could all be in one row, leaving more vertical room for writing and dynamic HTML stuff.
So, in the parking lot, after dinner, I asked Marney a question -- how could the design of web browsers be improved? It's an interesting question, I think, that few designers ask themselves. People focus their designs on what goes *inside* the browser window, but what if she could re-design the window itself? What would it look like?
"Oh sure," she said. "Not a problem." Then her eyes started to shine. I listened to her talk as she explained how she re-arranges things on coffee tables. Yes, I imagined she could do it. So right then and there, I issued a design challenge. "Do it!" I said. And so she did.
Here's Marney's redesign of the top portion of the web browser window:
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The top of the window is simplified. Four buttons to the left, a place to type, followed by four buttons.
The first button, a left-arrow, takes you back; the second button, a right-arrow, takes you forward. A picture of a home, lifted from the original navigator, HyperCard, takes you home, where ever that might be (it can be different for everyone). Marney likes the Search button, so it has a home in the command bar too.
Then the biggest UI element in the browser control panel, the URL displayer and entry box. You know how that works. As the URL gets too long to fit in the smaller space, it scrolls horizontally. In this new design, with less horizontal space, the scrolling happens sooner. Not a big deal.
To the right of the URL box is a stop icon for people with slower net connections (or for pages on the Pathfinder website) followed by a Reload button that really works, and a Print button, and finally an icon identifying the browser manufacturer. Click on it and you go to www.netscape.com or www.microsoft.com. That's enough advertising for my user interface, thanks!
As always, comments are welcome. If you have your own design to share, post it to a web page and send me the URL and I'll link it into the Scripting News page.
This design stuff sure is interesting!