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?

Software, Usability

How to Improve the List Experience in the TweetMag iPad App

Have you tried out TweetMag yet? It’s an exiting new iPad app that will let you comfortably read an aggregate of your @twitter feeds. The app is not totally unlike Flipboard, but it’s currently and it let’s you consume the content in a more flexible and enjoyable way in my personal opinion. However, the way TweetMag (as of writing) facilitates twitter list management sucks. I’ll suggest a quick and dirty fix to that below, but first, take a look at the sweet TweetMag app in their promo video:

The problem with lists in TweetMag

Right now, the process of adding and managing twitter lists in TweetMag can be a very painful chore especially if you are following many lists from one single user. You have to add each list separately, one at a time, by dragging the icon of a list from the menu bottom right to the top menue bar or rack (up to “TOP STORIES” and “CATEGORIES”). As that was not bad enough, you need to drill your way down the interface to find the same user again and open her lists again for adding the next list. And again. And again. And again. Ouch! And as if that wasn’t enough, you can’t even see which lists you have already added! That’s just silly and poor design if you ask me. Click on the image below to see a screenshot of the current TweetMag app on the iPad in its original size:

My improvement suggestions

It doesn’t have to be this painful. I’ve made a very quick and dirty improvement suggestion illustrated below, adding a simple visual cue and an extra button.

The user should visually be reminded of the lists she’s already added by labeling and/or fading out (ghosting) the already added twitter list’s icon (illustrated). It is not possible to spot which lists the user has already added in the current version of TweetMag, potentially leading to a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth operations to verify if a list has already been added or not.

Currently, to add another list from the same twitter user, the user is forced by the software app to step out of context, remembering (internalising) the previous steps and repeat a multiple step process to get back into the context of continuing to add twitter lists from the same user.

That’s just not nice to the user in my book. I think the software should play by your processes and let you stay in your context. By adding an add/remove list button directly in the list overview, the user would be able to add, remove, manage all list operations in one process without having to leave context or having to remember previous steps and keeping the original goal in mind while working herself back into context repetitively per list management operation.

Adding colour to the add/remove buttons like green and red could further enhance affordance.

Should you be worried that any spatial navigational cue of having the user dragging the icon to the TweetMag rack might be lost for each add/remove operation using simple button operations instead of drag & drop, I suggest looking at how Apple OSX is doing this; You could animate the icons flying up on the rack, flying down out of the rack respectively to retain the visual cues. Take a look at the image below for a quick and dirty mockup of my suggested changes:

Tweetmag iOS App list management improvement suggestion

I also added the suggestion on Get Satisfaction should you be interested in my suggestion to improving list management in the TweetMag app.

Your opinion

What do you think of TweetMag? Do you love it? Hate it? Perhaps you prefer Flipboard? Do you create and manage twitter lists with TweetMag?

Plone, Social, Usability

Plone Cathedral Sprint 2010 in Cologne

This week I’m attending the first Plone Sprint held in my hometown of Cologne! The aim of the sprint is to focus on completing tasks for the upcoming major release of version 4.0 and even the next incremental version 4.1.

I’m working on the sprint group that is trying to clean up the search interface and make the Plone search experience a little bit better.  I think we’re making some progress already – and as always – it’s great fun! :)