June 7th, 2010

Chromatic Chrome-Addict

Chromatic Chrome-Addict

Okay, I admit it. Although I still hate the way it looks, Google Chrome is winning me over with the significantly better performance/responsiveness (vs. other browsers) that it's known for.

But yes, my biggest gripe remains Chrome's oddly non-standard appearance. Rule #1 for applications with non-OS-standard cutesy designs: include an option in settings so users can defeat your cutesiness, if they so desire, and make the application look like whatever a standard application running on the host operating system should look like. Or, in broader terms, one of the core principles of usability and user interface design is a consistent, predictable, self-evident user experience. If you absolutely must add your own unique stamp, go ahead, but make it an option users can choose to disable.

In the case of a web browser running on Windows XP (as in my case), this includes: (1) a title bar in whatever color the user has specified; (2) standard Windows XP minimize/maximize/close gadgets (or "Classic" ones if the user has specified that system-wide setting); (3) a menu bar below the title bar; and then (4) the address bar and browsing buttons below that. Why is this so hard? Even Internet Explorer has gotten it wrong since version 7 came out, with its funky, non-fully-customizable layout. (It's worth noting that current versions of other Microsoft applications, including Windows Live Messenger, also break the rules.)

At least Firefox still looks like it should, but from a performance standpoint, I'm especially disappointed with that one. I thought the folks at Mozilla were supposed to be the reigning champions of smart browser design, but it feels no faster than IE for me. Google is really schooling the competition in a big way right now.

It's worth noting, however, that Chrome -- like Firefox and Safari -- has its own proprietary bookmark system, storing them all in one big file in its own custom location, which is far inferior to Internet Explorer's approach of storing each bookmark as a separate file, allowing you to access them directly from the Start Menu. This also allows management and organization directly through the Windows desktop interface. I can't comprehend why other browsers would reinvent the wheel and inhibit usability by eschewing this standard, and it remains somewhat of a deal-breaker for me, preventing me from switching completely off Internet Explorer.

Chrome does appear to have some kind of online bookmark synchronization feature, which is an outstanding idea that could cure the headaches of inconsistencies among multiple computers. I haven't played with it yet, but I'm glad to know browsers (or at least one browser) may be moving in that direction.

But in the meantime, I'm still stuck between browsers, and it's more annoying than ever: Internet Explorer gets bookmarks right, Firefox gets the user interface right, and Chrome gets performance right. Can't somebody please just do it all?