Opinions from a 1984 burnout

CobraBoy (tbyars@earthlink.net)
Mon, 16 Sep 1996 09:10:11 -0700

>What's wrong with the Web
> You're working on Microsoft's project to put a
> Web browser in Windows. Tell us about that.=20
> The whole user experience just isn't that fun. Ninety
> percent of what the user sees is not designed by the
> user interface designers at the browser company,
> so you better make sure that the 10 percent that's
> left over is right. The navigation tools that we're
> familiar with today are getting a little stale and they
> aren't that useful.=20
> My biggest complaint about the Web is it's very
> page-based. I feel like a voyeur looking through
> keyholes. I start at the table of contents, dip into an
> article, come back to the table of contents, but the
> representation gives me no idea of where I really
> am, no way to navigate the landscape. I can only
> go backwards and forwards but can never see
> where I'm going or where I've been. So this linear
> representation of history is very obscure. I find it
> very confusing. And I can't imagine the average
> user out there has any idea what to do with it. The
> Web is so big; there's no sense of context. You
> have to have a sense of context, a sense of where
> you are. The user interface does not support that.
> That's one thing.=20
> The other big problem is we are trying to map what
> we are familiar with, which is icons and folders--a
> hierarchy=97on to the Web. That makes no sense at
> all because I can't even manage a gigabyte drive,
> much less the entire Web. Hierarchies map fairly
> well only to a couple hundred megabytes.=20
> I actually find myself searching (the Web) much
> more than I ever find myself trying to manage the
> data at a conceptual level. Like, I don't usually go
> to a site and then traverse the site. I'd much rather
> search it. So my browser doesn't open to
> Netscape. I'm sorry they don't get their ad revenue
> from me. It's actually Alta Vista because I love to
> just search. That's how I usually navigate. Flat text
> search is pretty crude. So I think there's a lot of
> room there to improve searching. If you look at
> what the Excite folks are doing, I think there's a lot
> of interesting things there. So, sense of context, and
> how do you navigate around, I think are two big
> problems.=20
> How will you solve those problems?=20
> Well, you can read between the lines of what I just
> said. You get rid of this feeling that you're looking
> through a keyhole at one page at a time. And also
> let's take advantage of the fact that screens are
> getting bigger. The typical machine and typical Web
> sites are set for 800 pixels wide now and they're
> getting bigger. And if you have 800 pixels for the
> article, it turns out that
> you don't want to make
> things much wider than
> that, because then you
> get into legibility
> problems. It's actually
> hard to read a foot wide
> piece of text, especially
> when it's set in 14 point
> Times Roman or whatever most Web sites are. So,
> if you want to have that wide expanse you can
> either go to multiple columns or narrow it up, and
> then you suddenly have a third of your screen you
> can use for some navigational aids. And maybe you
> can do something that gives users a sense of
> context and lets them understand what history is,
> lets them understand what favorites are. So instead
> of turning these into linear menus, maybe there is a
> metaphor that gives the user a sense of place and
> let them navigate stuff and not be so confused by it.
> It's kind of like you need an Alta Vista search
> engine for your bookmarks after awhile. I
> periodically throw out the sites I haven't visited.
> That's something the browser could do. The
> browser can sit there and say, "You know, you
> haven't visited this in a while." It's like an aging.
> And conversely, it notices you go to a bookmark
> everyday, why not just do a PointCast-type-thing
> and just start giving it to you, or a
> freeloader-type-thing where it says "Hey, I noticed
> you go to this every day, why don't I greet you with
> this?" And I think there's a lot of opportunities
> there.=20
> We just spent the last decade convincing people
> that typing filenames is stupid--=E0 la DOS--and now
> here we are typing things that are worse than
> filenames. Walter Smith (a former Newton team
> member who followed Capps to Microsoft)
> pointed out that unfortunately people might expect
> to see "www" now. It becomes kind of an iconic
> tag that says, "Here is a Web site." So, even if we
> wanted to get rid of it, we may not be able to. So
> as you're driving down 101, you see on a billboard,
> www.bofa.com. You kind of say, "Oh, that's a

> Web site." So the www actually may outlive its
> usefulness in terms of the technical reason for
> navigating to a certain site, but people may keep it
> around just because it's a way of saying, "Hey, I'm
> a Web address." You know, it's shorthand to say
> "visit us at the Web." The UI (user interface) is
> ready to crash and burn. So like I said, let's try to
> sneak a new paradigm in before people get
> calcified in what they expect from browsing.


Better to fuck up, than to sell out...

-=3D tbyars@earthlink.net =3D-