BBC.co.uk web statistics

As one of the most popular sites in the UK, I think the BBC homepage is quite a good sample of browser usage in the United Kingdom. This article analyzes the usage of different platforms, browsers and OS versions on the BBC homepage. 95.1% of people use Windows (most of which use XP), 4.4% use Macs and 0.4% use Linux.

86% of users use Internet Explorer whilst 10% use Firefox. 2.6% use Safari and Opera has a miniscule 0.32%. We’re almost at the point that it’s more important to check your website works fine in WebKit/KHTML than Opera/Presto.

Switched to TinyMCE

I finally got round to finishing off the TinyMCE integration as mentioned in an earlier post. That means posting works in Firefox 1.5 again, yay! At the moment it’s quite a minimal setup – similar features to widgEditor with added blockquote, undo and redo. TinyMCE also doesn’t break the back button in Firefox which is great.

If you’re using Opera 9, you’ll find that you won’t be able to use the editor. This is a bug with TinyMCE and should hopefully be fixed before Opera 9 goes into Beta. 

Thoughts on Flock

Flock is a “social web browser”
designed for Web 2.0 based on Firefox. It’s pretty much Firefox but it
has some cool extra features like the “Shelf” which allows you to store
snippets of text or images, and easy integration with del.icio.us
bookmarks, flickr photos and blogging. I just tried it out and it’s a
nice concept but to be honest, I’m underwhelmed.

The first thing
I noticed when I installed Flock and loaded it up for the first time
was two error messages – something to do with profiles. Flock seems to
have imported some extensions and themes I had installed on Firefox a
very, very long time ago. None of the extensions or themes were
actually enabled because none of them were compatible but it’s strange
that it imported the profile.

The first real comment on Flock is
I don’t like the default user interface. Sure, it’s stylish but it’s
not practical. There is no search box by default, no refresh button and
no stop button. These can be added by customizing the toolbars, but
this isn’t something you should have to do. The skin is evil – I’d much
prefer a skin which looks more Windows native. The missing stop,
refresh and search were super annoying though.

Another annoying
thing is that hardly any extensions are available for Flock although
the Web Developer extension is available. Since Flock is practically
Firefox with some extra features, it’d be cool if Flock would be
compatible with Firefox extensions in future.

One of the biggest
changes which you notice straight away is that Bookmarks have been
ripped out and replaced with Favourites. This integrates with
del.icio.us. Since I don’t want to share my bookmarks, I chose not to
publish bookmarks on del.icio.us. In fact, it was probably more to do
with the fact I couldn’t be bothered to sign up. Future versions of
Flock should allow you to choose different services to store your
bookmarks.

Adding a favourite wasn’t that easy. You can click
on the Favourites menu and your asked whether you want to Star or Star
and Tag the page. Way too much terminology for the average end user. By
default, clicking on the Star icon next to the address bar also does
nothing. You need to hit that tiny small arrow. I enabled clicking on
the star to add and tag in the Options > Web Services dialog which
made is a lot more pleasant to use.

It’s nice having tagging, but
I don’t like Flock’s implementation. The Favourites menu doesn’t
provide quick and easy access to your favourites. You can access your
favourites through the ‘Manage your Favourites’ menu item which allows
you to see favourites in different tags but it’s not really that easy
to use. Flock also has collections. This is another way of organizing
your bookmarks. I have no idea how it works or how to add a favourite
to a collection.

Flock isn’t all bad – the frequently visited
sites menu is nice and the shelf feature is cool. You can drag and drop
content to the shelf and it’ll remember it like a clipboard-type
application. You can then drag and drop it back at a later date to the
address bar, blog window, whatever. I would have liked to have been
able to make the shelf stay on top or dock into the sidebar as I
usually run my browser at full screen and it is hard to use the Shelf
when it is hidden behind the main browser window.

The
blog
integration worked (although I did have to sign up to a new blogging
service) but I didn’t find it that much easier to manage my blog
through Flock. Some
of the icons used in Flock are quite ambiguous and non standard so
making a blog post and using the editor is confusing. Being able to
drag and drop bits from web pages to create a new blog entry with a
citation was a nice feature. Flock also allows you to ping sites such
as Technorati whenever you make a post but most blog software does this
anyway.

Yahoo! Search was the default search
engine – this was frustrating since I use Google. Sure, it’s not hard
to change but it’s small things like these which make all the
difference.

Flock doesn’t add that much to your browsing
experience unless you use del.icio.us, flickr and a blogging system
supported by Flock. I found Firefox much easier and enjoyable to
operate (cleaner menus, cleaner options, extensions, themes, etc.) I’m
not sure what the Flock guys plan to add but perhaps it’d be a good
idea to distribute Flock as an extension rather than a whole browser to
replace Firefox.

HTML Mystery

This is a little challenge for the web designers and programmers
among you. I’ve developed a little webpage (well, little is probably an
exaggeration since it’s nothing more than a HTML comment.). Yet this
page isn’t blank – it’s got text, images and rollover effects. The
question is, how is it done?

View Page

If you’ve worked out how it’s done, leave a comment but don’t spoil it for everyone else 🙂

Opera 9.0 Preview Released

A preview of Opera 9.0
has been released. It looks like Opera has been tidied up quite a bit
but it’s still quite messy – default bookmarks, menus, Amazon and Price
Comparison search boxes built into the UI, etc. Quite a lot of the user
interface also seems to have been tidied up – Opera is obviously
targeting the Firefox user.

Opera 9 Opera wysiwyg

This
release adds support for Web Forms 2, canvas, XSLT 1.0, XPath 1.0, SVG
1.1 Basic, WYSIWYG editing using designmode (IE, Moz, Opera and Safari
all support it now so there is no reason not to use it) and some other cool stuff.

Meanwhile, the Firefox guys are sending Firefox to the edge of space. “Firefox One” launches on Saturday. What was wrong with the Enterprise?

Firefox hits 100,000,000 downloads

The Mozilla Press Release and a post at Spread Firefox
announce Firefox has hit 100,000,000 downloads. That’s almost a third of the population of the USA. At the moment the
counter stands at 100,027,614 for me. The 100,000,000th download took
place at Wed, 19 Oct 2005 10:13:40 PDT or 17:14:40 GMT.

It’s
pretty amazing that Firefox went from being a browser very few people
had heard of one year ago to a browser which has been downloaded
100,000,000 times, has changed the face of the web by making web
designers develop for browsers other than IE, greatly progressed the
web standards movement and delivered a much better browsing experience
for many.

Firefox 1.5 RC will be released soon and the final
release to 1.5 will probably be released around November. Let’s make
the second year and the second release even better and more popular
than before.

Milestones:

   1. November 9, 2004: Firefox 1.0 released
   2. February 16, 2005: 25 million downloads
   3. April 29, 2005: 50 million downloads
   4. July 26, 2005: 75 million downloads
   5. October 19, 2005: 100 million downloads

Some thoughts and reactions from the Mozilla community at Planet Mozilla.

MSN Messenger 8.0

Bink.nu: “Microsoft today released a site to
sign up for the MSN Messenger 8.0 Beta program. This next generation
version Messenger will include Yahoo! integration allowing for users to
talk to people who are on the Yahoo! IM client.”

You can sign up for the beta here. According to Mess with MSN Messenger, the beta is meant to start mid-November. The Hotfix contains a list of rumoured features for MSN Messenger 8.0. Some random MSN Spaces blog
also has a list of rumoured features. Tabbed chatting sounds good (at
the moment I’m using Messenger Plus) and support for Yahoo! Messenger.
I was hoping that this meant a bridge between Yahoo! and MSN was
created but I do wonder if MSN Messenger will instead become a bit like
a multi-protocol client (Trillian, Gaim, etc.) and require you to also
have a Yahoo! Messenger account.

Replacing Browser Bookmarks with Tagging

There are some ideas on the Mozilla Wiki about how tagging could replace bookmarks
in future web browsers. There is a planned overhaul of bookmarks and
history in a future version of Firefox – originally this was to be a
“Places” window which would merge bookmarks and history, but there have
since been several proposals on how bookmarking could be improved.

Tagging
sounds fantastic and I’d certainly tag more than I bookmark but I’m not
sure whether it’ll appeal to end users. At the moment I store URLs in
my head rather than bookmarking them and Firefox’s autocomplete usually
does a good job of guessing what URL I want. Sage does a fantastic job
of checking RSS feeds built around the Bookmarks system.

Without
doubt, bookmarking definitely needs a big overhaul and personally I
can’t wait. Perhaps the web browser to change it all is going to be Flock.

Usability of Menus

Menus are part of the standard interface for most programs and most
Operating Systems. On Windows, you’ll find the menus for each
application at the top of the window. To open the Options window, you’d
click on Tools and then move your mouse to Options. If you haven’t had
much experience using a mouse or you can’t keep a steady hand, menus
can cause some usability problems. You could move the cursor a little
too much to the right and activate the Help menu.

A few months
ago as part of my work experience, I was supervising a class of Year 3
students and working with them on a publication project using Microsoft
Publisher and Internet Explorer. It was quite interesting to see how
they used technology – how some of them actually typed in wwwdot
instead of www., how hard it was to spell Google, using laptop
trackpads and typing website addresses into the Google search box
rather than the address bar. However, probably the most annoying thing
for them was using menus. I lost count of how many times they tried to
click on the Edit menu which then disappeared and was replaced by
another menu as they tried to move the mouse to click Paste.

The official Star Trek site
is a terrible example of these bodged up menus. Move your mouse over
“Series and Movies” and then to Deep Space 9. Every single time I
manage to activate the Library menu and need to try again. If you
don’t, the chances are you’ve probably thought twice and been careful
to take a extra large detour around the Library menu. The human hand naturally moves in an arc shape – not in straight lines.

I’ve used
some programs on Linux which require you to click on the next menu if
you want to see another menu item. Perhaps this would be a way of
getting around this problem. The latest version of Office also replaces
menus with “ribbons”. These provide quick and easy access to things
which would have previously been available on the menus. The fantastic
thing about this is they are easy to target and the buttons stay there
at the top of the screen. If I had my way, the Vista UI guidelines
would be updated with a recommendation for application developers to
replace menus with easy to use and simple ribbons.

The Start Menu is another example. The Mezzo Desktop Environment
for Linux replaces the concept of a popup start menu seen in Windows
with a desktop wide menu which takes up the whole screen. The thing is,
if you click on the Start menu, you don’t care what’s on the rest of
the screen – all you care about is being able to access your programs
quickly and efficently. Desktop wide menus make it much easier to
target the required program and provide a lot of extra space. You don’t
get some of the usability problems associated with a Windows-style
Start Menu either.

From the Mezzo Laws of Interface Design:

2. Nested
menus are evil.
A good user interface will eliminate
nested menus since humans have a hard time targeting menus
in the first place, let alone panning up, then scrubbing
to the right or left in a 20 pixel wide corridor.

Mezzo
Solution:
Desktop-wide menus. Mezzo banishes the
nested “Start Menu” and “Apple Menu” concepts in favor of the expansive desktop-wide menus launched
by single-clicking the Corner Targets. These menus eliminate
the pan-and-scan method of finding the proper information
in a menu, and cut down on the user accidentally missing
the nested menu, and having to go back and re-drop the menu
to try again.