Mozilla Labs has issued a Call for Participation for “Ideas, Mockups or Prototypes”. Alas, the post seemed to follow Techcrunch’s coverage and thus the one example versus the CFP is getting the buzz on techmeme.
Some recent work by a Mozilla intern on browser history is showcased as an example:
Adaptive Path steps up to the plate in the open source design arena with a compelling video. This is fully rendered scenario, from actors & setting to full screen capture of a rich interaction.
Can Open Source UX Beat Commercial Alternatives?
It’s hardly fair to lump Firefox into the average open source UX project experience, given funding and a dedicated UX team and research lab, but MPT’s list of problems with open source usability stem from a long history of involvement in the Mozilla project. This effort by Mozilla labs seems to address several of Matthew’s top issues.
Numbers 3 & 5 are obviously addressed just by the CFP and Mozilla Lab’s existence.
3. Design suggestions often aren’t invited or welcomed.
5. Coding before design
Note, I’m really impressed increased upfront design that the Mozilla team is putting forth in the latest iterations, thanks to MikeB & a stellar UX team. In contrast to the original Firefox UI which was (skillfully) developer driven.
7. Chasing tail-lights.
While there is some really outstanding prior art along all of the dimensions shown in this video, it’s awesome to have a high profile open source project setting the bar against fierce, and highly business constrained, efforts by Apple (Safari) and Microsoft (IE).
The video included in the CFP that isn’t excerpted here, Aza Raskin’s mobile (Z)UI concept, is the most unique in terms of lack of historical precedent and sheer user interface engineering in combining zooming/panning with UI control access. That’s especially welcome, but there’s a lot of accumulated wisdom in the prior art on hypermedia that has yet to be brought to consumers. The ZuiPrezi team seems to share that same conclusion.
This blog’s archives are a veritable run-on sentence on the need and opportunities to enrich browser history. One that I haven’t dug up in a while is the MSR prototype “Data Mountain” which combined zIndex stacks of thumbnails with a topographical landscape model and innovated on the gestures for re-organizing. I had a history based RSS mashup running called “blog mountain” back in ‘04 before I joined the devil
12. Design is high-bandwidth, the Net is low-bandwidth.
There may be a paradigm here for high fidelity concept videos, especially to garner the contributions of top design firms.
Yes, as much as I appreciate the videos, the technology-hacker/designer in me wants to find a satisfying incremental gain using the “zone of promixal development” within the current Mozilla technology.
It’s also challenging to pull out the real defining points from a video mockup. The Adaptive Path Aurora video packs a lot in for example. Collaboration, visual revisitation support, and some serious machine learning and statistical data mining tech.
Getting to Prototype Implementations
Functioning software in the history visualization space is much more feasible in Firefox 3 than ever before. The new places datastore and easy screen capture may create performance bottlenecks for a aspiring developer, but much of this is realizable at the prototype stage.
Screenshots, however, are not enough. We need to be able to extract assets, text or image or whatever, from browsing history to create better memory cues and representations. Imagine being shown the button images that you clicked on as well as the thumbnail. That would better differentiate the site you considered buying from versus the one you did buy from in a historical browsing session. I’ve filed a bug to add cache access support to the FUEL.js browser library.
One of the CFP commenters offers up this set of sketches of a trails implementation. I’m a big fan of the trails notion, and it address collaboration as well as revisitation support. The real magic is not just in the authoring, though Dgray@Xplane captures some of the illusive extracting and subsequent mashup that is missing from common authoring tools. A playback component is needed, ideally along with a standards based representation format, ala microformats?