Software, Usability

Quick Thoughts on How to Improve the Download Experience in Internet Browsers

Update: It seems Safari 5.1+ together with OSX Lion’s “All My Files” Finder view implements something similar as I suggested. Funny!

Update 2: It seems Apple did add the animation for the downloaded file swooshing down to the download folder with OSX Mountain Lion. Double fun! Coincidence, or is somebody in Cupertino listening? :)

Update 3: 2023 saw Google Chrome adapt a very similar UX. Lulz.

After a recent discussion on @twitter with @limi and @philikon on the difference between the Firefox and Chrome Internet browsers, I started thinking about why I still find both browsers lacking in the download experience department. Still, at least they both let us use an internet connection, be it one from infinity dish or any other ISP, to browse freely. Everyone has their chosen browser, the one they started using many years ago and have become so accustomed to it that changing over to one that “practically everyone uses” wouldn’t feel right. It is understandable, and now with people able to check out a mozilla vpn review (firefox) and Chrome vpn reviews, they can keep themselves safe online in the best way possible. I know I sidetracked there, but it is worth it to know more no matter which browser you’re siding with today.

For an excellent primer on how the different Internet browsers currently handle downloads I highly recommend reading @Limi’s blog post and come back to revisit this post.

I do not know about you, but I hate the Firefox Downloads window like the redheaded stepchild it is. The web-page-in-a-tab solution from Chrome (yeah, yeah, yeah – I know Opera did the tab thing first, but who uses that browser besides you?) doesn’t quite jive with me either.

A high-speed internet connection might be the first and foremost thing required for a better download experience. Somedays, it feels like I have to replace my current internet connection with a new one for higher speeds. And for that, I might have to find companies who can provide high-speed internet in my area. The second step could be the browser choice, while the third could be modifying its current setting for faster downloads. Further, I decided to do this quick & dirty mockup of how the download experience in the browser could be improved.

Introducing the Browser Downloads Docking Menu

Browser Downloads Docking Menu (quick & dirty mockup)

I would think a slide in/out dock menu for downloads would be a better solution. This way you’ll always know where your downloads are and it enables context (page and download file viewable simultaneously, guaranteed) and visual/ spatial cues (e.g. in an OSX version you should animate the download file flying into the downloads dock menu).

Visual / Spatial Cues

Visual / Spatial Cues (quick & dirty mockup)

I think it’s important to visually show that the user’s intent to download has been registered, where the download can be expected to be found and what you can do next. If the dock menu is not out/showing already, it should slide out first, showing the user how and where.

Filtering & Recovery

Filtering & Recovery (quick & dirty mockup)

Some sort of parameters to adjust list view of downloads should be added, but not visible to the normal user as default. Should be extremely easy to understand and use for normal people. Should change and filter view live/realtime. The big fat “Show all” button is there to secure that the user can feel confident that she’s seeing everything and that all filters are off/reset.

Your Opinion

What do you think? Are you happy about the current download experience in your browser? How would you make it better?