Saturday, October 01, 2011 7:12 AM
I'd like to propose a dual-pane mode for IE10+, with a couple of innovations. I'll refer to this mode as Book Mode.
Starting with some brief background...
Firstly, the text layout on many web pages is too wide for optimum readability. A browser with dual viewing panes would improve this, simply by reducing the number of horizontal pixels by 50%.
Secondly, as web usability researcher Jacob Nielson has discovered, readers eye scanning of web pages forms something like an F-shape pattern. If you look at the screenshots, notice how the eyetracking mostly avoids the navigation elements. Some web designers are of the view that navigation elements on web pages are almost useless.
With these points in mind, here is how i think Book Mode would work and help...
A button on the browser toolbar activates the mode. The user will then see two sets of viewing panes and toolbars. Here is the interesting bit; On the left toolbar is a button labelled and/or that indicates 'lock'. Click/touching lock prevents navigating away from the left-pane, in the left-pane, and enables the right-pane as the 'receiver' of link click/touches in the left-pane.
The idea is that the left-pane page is temporarily locked, and becomes the 'source-pane' for links, and the right-pane becomes the destination or rendering pane, for these links. Once locked, the user can use the left pane as a quasi-Table-of-Contents or index page, and the right pane as the content page. You can drag-drop from the right pane to the left (which clears the right, or it gets the New Tab view). Also, you can right-click-Open-in-new-tab a series of links on the left, then when you're ready, view a list of these links on the right, by pressing a 'View Tabs' button on that side. This button toggles from View Tabs to View Page.
Another option is that with two address bars, there could be a certain amount of specialization - say, web search on the left and URLs on the right. Then you can go ahead and do your Bing search on the left, and successively open interesting looking links on the right, or 'queue-up' links as described above (the queue becomes a pre-cached subset of the search results page). Complementing this is that you have two browser home pages - Home Page Left and Home Page Right. To enable easy within-domain searches, Bing could get a Site button, and pressing this after entering a query, provide results limited to the domain of the URL in the right pane.
The other benefit relates to the comments/links above regarding navigation elements on web pages. A site that was 'Book Mode optimised' might tend to leave navigation off its content pages - simplifying the design and readability of these pages, and save the navigation for specific, strategically chosen pages only. Simplifying page design, would, IMO, fit nicely with the general Metro look and feel.
Hopefully i've articulated these ideas ok, and it isn't too wordy :)
Comment: A friend suggested the word 'pin' should be substituted for 'lock'.
- Edited by Drewfus Sunday, October 02, 2011 9:22 AM
Monday, October 03, 2011 4:45 AM
Other benefits of this mode i can think of, especially side-by-side comparison applications:
- Viewing a single web page in Compatibility Mode @left, and Standards Mode @right
- Document differencing. Compare (and possibly edit) two versions of a web or text document, side-by-side
- Product comparison across sites. Compare Brand X with Brand Y
- View two important pages of a site without changing tabs. Ex: Forum threads @left, View Profile @right
- View Favorites/Feeds/History_as_web_page @left, links @right
- Content-only pages need much less work to optimize for printing
- View page source @left, markup @right
- Dual-monitor scenario: left @monitor_1, right @monitor_2
- Right-click > Open in adjacent pane*
- While page downloads & renders @left, monitor network activity & browser status @right
- Browse @left, monitor downloads @right
- Blog post @left, comments @right (how handy would that be on the Win8 blog?)
- Possibly useful as a replacement for frames. Ex: Webmail folders @left, messages @right
- Queued pages. This means pages can be downloaded, but not rendered until viewed (right-click > Queue page). The page queue is displayed in the alternate pane, and looks like a web search results page. When an item in the queue list is click/touched,
it is removed from the queue/list and also rendered in the converse alternate pane. Benefits/reasons:
1. A replacement for tabs on touch-only systems
2. Larger target size
3. More meaningful links (medium-size page icon + domain/path/filename.ext + bold page title, titles not truncated, etc)
4. Queue/lists are saveable within Favorites
5. Conserve memory
- Blanking-out one pane will conserve battery charge. A blank-by-default alternate pane becomes a nice "reimagining" of 'about:blank'. A half-blank screen would also be vaguely reminiscent of the WP7 interface.
* This would be great for small/large picture pairs. The large version can be scaled by zooming the containing pane.
Also, i think having an < index-pane | content-pane > layout will be more beneficial as we get higher resolutions displays. Currently, users don't read a large majority of the words on web pages. With high-res screens (like Apple's Retina Display) becoming more common, presumably users will begin using their tablets more like newspapers, books and magazines, so an improved UI will help.
- Edited by Drewfus Wednesday, November 23, 2011 5:17 AM
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 3:19 AM
This twin-pane view concept is vaguely similar to Courier, a canceled Microsoft tablet project that i was unaware of when i first wrote this post.
Interesting that this post hasn't generated any comments (other than from myself!) given all the criticism made of the Metro interface and fullscreen apps. I would have thought that people who claim to find multiple onscreen windows indispensible would welcome the idea of a browser that can display more than one tab simultaneously - which is essentially what this is about. Perhaps if the feature were actually available it would suddenly become a "power users" necessity?
Another idea that might help make this concept really shine is the notion of dualled favorites - paired links that auto-activate Book Mode. This would be useful in a least a few of the use-cases listed above.
Something else to ponder would be the affect that "designed for Book Mode" would have on website design with regard to on-page advertising and promotional material. Splitting web browsers into two on-screen panes would squeeze the space available for ads, so this might have the further consequence of pushing more websites to use paywalls, or to move their advertising into page footers (resulting in cleaner page presentation, IMO).
- Edited by Drewfus Wednesday, November 23, 2011 3:24 AM
Friday, December 02, 2011 7:46 PM
Interesting that this post hasn't generated any comments (other than from myself!) given all the criticism made of the Metro interface and fullscreen apps. I would have thought that people who claim to find multiple onscreen windows indispensible would welcome the idea of a browser that can display more than one tab simultaneously - which is essentially what this is about.
Consider that those who use and prefer multiple windows might just be using Internet Explorer with Tabbed View turned off (or be just opening multiple IE windows). Then you can have as many onscreen IE windows as you like. That's the beauty of Windows, for which the OS was named. I see no particular advantage to limiting things to 2 panes.
This reminds me a bit of what the Photoshop developers did... At first (through Photoshop CS3) they managed multiple open documents in multiple windows. Then, with CS4 they implemented Tabbed View (no doubt because tabbed browsing was becoming popular). Then, sensing a lack of ability for users to see and work on multiple documents at once, in ADDITION to continuing to support the multiple floating windows functionality they found it necessary to implement a whole set of tabbed document management functions...
Essentially they turned a more or less standard interface into a proprietary one.
How/why is tiling tabs better than just managing multiple windows? Are you envisioning them to be related/coordinated somehow?
That's already happening just fine on a per web-page basis as I can see - consider the MSDN documentation, in which the left panel contains a hierchial list and the right pane contains information...
Considering this is already alive and well, where's the advantage in having the browser manage a pair of tabs?
- Edited by Noel CarboniMicrosoft Community Contributor Friday, December 02, 2011 9:26 PM
Thursday, December 29, 2011 4:00 PM
"How/why is tiling tabs better than just managing multiple windows? Are you envisioning them to be related/coordinated somehow?"
Yes. As i explained in the original post:
"A button on the browser toolbar activates the mode. The user will then see two sets of viewing panes and toolbars. Here is the interesting bit; On the left toolbar is a button labelled and/or that indicates 'lock'. Click/touching lock prevents navigating away from the left-pane, in the left-pane, and enables the right-pane as the 'receiver' of link click/touches in the left-pane."
In the 2nd post, some of the benefits listed are due to the lock being active, and some are due to the right pane tracking the left pane. Only in one or two cases are we getting something that could be achieved (less quickly) by manipulating multiple windows. The tracking function was only implicit in the 2nd post - i should have made it explicit. I can explain in more detail if requested.
"I see no particular advantage to limiting things to 2 panes."
I don't see how a two-pane window feature imposes limits on the number of browser windows a user can create. That would be like saying that adding a preview pane to Windows Explorer limits the number of times that pressing Win-E will get you a new Explorer window. Its irrelevant.
Thursday, December 29, 2011 7:32 PM
My comment about limiting things to two panes would have been relevant if you weren't talking about adding value by having the panes coordinate, which for some reason I didn't understand before. I guess I was thinking more about the difference between the new oversimplified Metro "tiling" vs. using real windows when I made that comment. Please ignore it, as clearly you're proposing added value by coordinated inter-pane "tracking". Sorry for any confusion.
I do now see that a person, working in a specific way, could gain some advantage in maintaining a first pane as a "link source" page, with a second page showing the results. You'd be able to go through lists of links more easily, for example. It would not be unlike right-clicking a link and "Open in New Window", but just keeping everything visible on-screen, without the hassle of arranging new windows. It might be a challenge to set up the two-pane approach to make it intuitively clear when navigation should occur in the first pane vs. the second, but certainly doable.
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Tuesday, January 03, 2012 7:10 AM
Sorry for any confusion.Any confusion is my fault, because when i said - "I would have thought that people who claim to find multiple onscreen windows indispensible would welcome the idea of a browser that can display more than one tab simultaneously - which is essentially what this is about" - i was genericizing my own idea to the point of near meaningless. At the time i think i'd been reading complaints about fullscreen Metro apps and wanted to point out that a maximised browser window only capable of displaying a single tab at a time was not much different, and where were the complaints about that? Anyway, lets leave that point alone lest we end up going around in circles. :-)
I do now see that a person, working in a specific way, could gain some advantage in maintaining a first pane as a "link source" page, with a second page showing the results. You'd be able to go through lists of links more easily, for example. It would not be unlike right-clicking a link and "Open in New Window", but just keeping everything visible on-screen, without the hassle of arranging new windows.Thanks and well put, btw. When i dreamt up this idea i was partly thinking of moderately sophisticated users, some of which don't quite seem to understand multiple browser tabs, or even know about the more advanced end-user window manipulation capabilities. The dual pane view might be more intuitive, and the 'link-pane / reading-pane' idea might be more efficient in some circumstances, in that the user does not have to keep 'going back' to the links page, like they do have to do in the case of a physical book and its contents or index page. Any link rich / content poor page is a good candidate for the locked-in-place-page. Such as:
- Website home pages
- Search results lists
- Online book, contents or index pages
- Directory pages
- Blog and forum archive and category lists
- Email folders
It might be a challenge to set up the two-pane approach to make it intuitively clear when navigation should occur in the first pane vs. the second, but certainly doable.Presumably, activating the lock on one pane would disable and grey-out the lock icon on the opposing pane. The user could choose which pane to lock. Is that what your getting at or am i misunderstanding your point?
The tracking idea is the 'other side of the coin'. Instead of a link-target relationship spread across two panes, in this case the panes move in tandem. Pane tracking is essential to the following numbers in my second comment in this thread: 1, 2, 7, 10, 12 and 13. Btw, #10 is about using the alt pane as a sort of souped-up status bar - perhaps a lightweight HTTP activity monitor. 3, 4 and 9 are just examples that use the dual panes as an alternative to manipulating windows (again, a lot of folks simply don't know about the drag left/right windowing feature of Win7/8). 5 is about granting Favorites, Feeds and History lists an entire pane, rather than craming them into a sidebar. 6 is about possibly simplifying webpage design, and improving printing outcomes (less junk on page). 8 is supposed to make power-users smile. 14 is an alternative to tabs. 15 is about power saving. Last but not least there are the readability issues i mentioned in the initial comment, that half-screen-width panes might help to resolve.
- Edited by Drewfus Thursday, January 05, 2012 1:38 AM