Browser = Portal

30 Dec 2004 - 1:22pm
9 years ago
14 replies
914 reads
John Vaughan - ...
2004

Firefox (and some other browsers) allow you to organize multiple pages
(browser instances) into a tabfolder metaphor. You can easily cycle thru
multiple pages - they're all displayed in the same browser window. I agree
that the tools for handling Firefox tabfolders ain't exactly intuitive, but
the all-in-one solution for the "browsers-proliferate-like-bunnies" and
"browser-buried-in stack-of windows" situations is a nice first step.

What interests me about the tabfolder management tool as a part of the
browser platform is that it might also allow *simultaneous* display of those
multiple pages.

For example:
Let's say that there are 4 browser instances available in the tabfoldered
mainWindow (I'm going to call them "frames"): Trade frame, Analytics frame,
Portfolio frame and Market Data frame. In addition to the tabfolder format
display (which only allows you to view one frame at a time), it would be
nice to display all four frames simultaneously in the mainWindow. Like
many sophisticated applications environments, you can resize the windows,
minimize/maximize them, open new frames & close, store favorite layouts as
presets. Now we have the beginnings of a real trader's desktop.

That's just the presentation level, of course. Other functional features
would include tools for managing the frames themselves (transcending
"statelessness"), data transfer among pages, etc.etc.

Browsers are evolving fast now, getting smarter, more self aware. An "open
system" platform like Firefox offers a terrific evolutionary playpen for
ixD. I hope that capable coders will be working on some of these ideas. As
IxD weenies, we should sieze the opportunity to help craft the capabilities
of the next generation of interactive platforms.

Here's some background on where I'm coming from:
http://www.jcvtcs.com/index.html

What kind of stuff are you doing, Prady?

John

----- Original Message -----
From: "Pradyot Rai" <pradyotrai at gmail.com>
To: <vaughan1 at optonline.net>
Cc: <discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com>
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2004 5:45 PM
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] HTML framework for target browser resolution!

> vaughan1 at optonline.net <vaughan1 at optonline.net> wrote:
>
>> Re the issue of "browser=portal" - esp. for desktop biz environment
>> (financial trading comes immediately to mind): Is anybody interested in
>> talking about that? I'd be especially interested if the
>> multi-instance/tabfolder platform a la Firefox allowed for easy resizing
>> & simultaneous presentation of multiple pages in one window. Data
>> transfer among pages would be cool. Observations? Suggestions?
>
> Actually the application in my mind these days is exactly --
> financial, multiple tabs, maintaining states, highly transactional,
> popups, lots of needs for scrolling portlets, etc. I am interested in
> listening what you meant by "multi-instance/tabfolder". I have seen
> the Firefox using it, however, I found it not very unintuitive. Please
> go ahead, explain your point again.
>
> Thanks,
>
> Prady
>

Comments

30 Dec 2004 - 1:53pm
Listera
2004

John Vaughan:

> That's just the presentation level, of course. Other functional features
> would include tools for managing the frames themselves (transcending
> "statelessness"), data transfer among pages, etc.etc.

There are browsers that allow you to subdivide the main window into multiple
distinct pages. They have been around for a while.

Given embeddable rendering engines (like WebKit on OS X) it'd be fairly
trivial to write a wrapper app that can contain multiple viewports whose
URL/contents are procedurally controllable/relatable.

There's also OmniWeb on OS X that has the side tabs with gorgeous graphical
previews that can be sized TO ANY DIMENSION:

<http://www.omnigroup.com/images/images-5/features/tabs.png>

Beyond that, however, there's a cognitive load implicit in having multiple
live screens with intra-I/O that'll quickly get out of hand. There's another
strategic approach to designing such UIs for financial apps, but I apologize
I can't currently talk about it.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

30 Dec 2004 - 2:07pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I like where John and Prady are going w/ this stuff.

I would ask the question, "What properties of the interaction model,
information presentation models, and information structure model would
require the type of display scenario that John presented?"

John, is obviously by his own reference describing a portal, but what isn't
clear is the why? The structure is well founded and described, but I often
find it hard to justify.

Here are examples of properites that I feel justify a portal type view (w/o
describing the limitations of the portal view itself).

1. When there is a reason for quick comparative between different
information sets
2. When a decision to act will be based on human prioritization based on
comparative information (dashboarding)
3. When monitoring needs to be done, where each information set has its own
universe of action, but the temporal nature of the data will determin
subsequent action.
4. When what is being displayed can be acted upon or act upon other display
sets (or as John calls them, "frames").

I'm sure there are others, and the ones above area really one requirement if
you break it down. I'd love to hear other people's thoughts about the
patterns of use of portals.

I'm not exactly sure why this is a "browser" question though.

-- dave

30 Dec 2004 - 2:14pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> I'm not exactly sure why this is a "browser" question though.

To illustrate the notion that the web browser is not always the best tool to
work with complex UIs?
:-)

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

30 Dec 2004 - 3:54pm
Alain D. M. G. ...
2003

--- Listera <listera at rcn.com> a écrit :

>
> There's also OmniWeb on OS X that has the side tabs with gorgeous
> graphical
> previews that can be sized TO ANY DIMENSION:
>
> <http://www.omnigroup.com/images/images-5/features/tabs.png>
>

Georgeous? Maybe yes, maybe no. Some would say chaotic. De gustibus
et coloribus non disputandum as they would say in latin. After all,
some find Nielsen's site ugly while other think it is beautifully
useful. Personally, I think he should have used grey scale in a big
way instead of colors. With those previews in the side tabs Omniweb on
OS X gives the same look as in a huge mall parking lot: A riot of
colors. But is there any use in it? For their screenshot page the
people at Omniweb have chosen Web pages that look significantly
different from each other, but when you actually look at the visual
results of your own browsing and "favorite-choosing" you notice that
there is no significance, since you are visiting and picking pages for
the relevance of their subject and not for visual distinctiveness.
Microsoft Research bumped into that wall with their Data Mountain
prototype, and they never solved it when they went on to the Task
Gallery prototype.

Alain V.

__________________________________________________________
Lèche-vitrine ou lèche-écran ?
magasinage.yahoo.ca

30 Dec 2004 - 3:58pm
John Vaughan - ...
2004

David H: >> I'm not exactly sure why this is a "browser" question though.
Ziya: > To illustrate the notion that the web browser is not always the best
tool to work with complex UIs? :-)

Short answer: It's a Browser Question because that's how it's been framed.

Longer answer: The portal/desktop/workspace issue has been around since the
late 70's (at least on my radar). Over the course of that period the
platform du jour (for me at least) has included several videotex protocols
(Prestel, Teletel, NAPLPS, CAPTAINS, Bildschirmtext), DOS, Hypercard,
Supercard, Windows, Toolbook, Visual Basic, innumerable proprietary
standards, and now ........... The Browser.

Yeah, yeah, so the browser was originally designed to be simple and
relatively stupid. It carries a lot of legacy, but it's also evolving.

The issue for me isn't whether or not it's "the best". It just IS.
* The Browser is ubiquitous (unlike, for instance, OS X) :-)
* The Browser is a cross-platform standard (well...maybe only *sort of*, but
do we really need to haggle?).
* The Browser is what my client is using. Actually, it's what ALL of my
clients have been using recently.

Anyhooo, that's why I'd like to stay focused on the topic of:
"Making the Browser into a richly featured, multi-windowed interactive
experience."

Thanks

30 Dec 2004 - 4:30pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 30, 2004, at 12:54 PM, Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt wrote:

>> <http://www.omnigroup.com/images/images-5/features/tabs.png>
>
> Georgeous? Maybe yes, maybe no. Some would say chaotic.

And some like me would just say it's ugly. 8^)

Andrei

30 Dec 2004 - 5:31pm
Listera
2004

Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt:

> For their screenshot page the people at Omniweb have chosen Web pages that
> look significantly different from each other...

Sounds to me like you've never actually used it.

The reasons I uppercased the fact that you can scale those 'previews' TO ANY
SIZE is just that: IF you're a financial pro and using a large monitor, you
can scale them up to, say, 500x400 pixels *each* to distinguish one from the
others. The reason they are 'gorgeous' is because, using Quartz engine, they
are faithfully rendered at any size. They don't have to be small, crummy,
unintelligible thumbnails you might be accustomed to in other apps.

So, back to the topic at hand, this gives you a main window plus essentially
an infinite number of high-res, large-size windows you can rearrange at will
to jump around in, which was my point.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

30 Dec 2004 - 5:44pm
Listera
2004

John Vaughan:

> * The Browser is a cross-platform standard (well...maybe only *sort of*, but
> do we really need to haggle?).

Yes, we do.
(Remember, I'm the HTML/HTTP advocate here against the herds of 'web's dead'
mongrels :-)

> "Making the Browser into a richly featured, multi-windowed interactive
> experience."

This remains the Achilles' heel of the browser: it got where it's today not
by offering "richly featured, multi-windowed interactive experience" but by
managing to stay relatively simple. Things that make it "richly featured,
multi-windowed interactive experience" are add-ons and often what cause the
mind-numbing compatibility issues that degrade the experience.

Most Windows users are encouraged by design and thus accustomed to
maximizing their windows. They are foreign to "multi-windowed interactive
experience" beyond switching blindly via the taskbar.

So the experience you're after has to be often grafted on to the users.
Whether the web browser can handle it is almost a secondary problem.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

30 Dec 2004 - 5:55pm
Chick Foxgrover
2003

Yes I agree. It's one question but it is still there because the
browser it what people are using and continue to plan development
around the browser in my experience in the asset management world.

With the endless consolidation and dissolution of groups responsible
for such properties like corporate and department apps and portals it
may also be one of the most flexible ways to deliver at least some
functionality to some group before the next management change. And
then a new group can pick up where they left off ;) But right or wrong
is besides the point, that's where a lot of the work is.

> Short answer: It's a Browser Question because that's how it's been framed.
>
> Longer answer: The portal/desktop/workspace issue has been around since the
> late 70's (at least on my radar). Over the course of that period the
> platform du jour (for me at least) has included several videotex protocols
> (Prestel, Teletel, NAPLPS, CAPTAINS, Bildschirmtext), DOS, Hypercard,
> Supercard, Windows, Toolbook, Visual Basic, innumerable proprietary
> standards, and now ........... The Browser.
>
> Yeah, yeah, so the browser was originally designed to be simple and
> relatively stupid. It carries a lot of legacy, but it's also evolving.

> * The Browser is what my client is using. Actually, it's what ALL of my
> clients have been using recently.
>
> Anyhooo, that's why I'd like to stay focused on the topic of:
> "Making the Browser into a richly featured, multi-windowed interactive
> experience."

-----------------------------------------------------
Chick Foxgrover

30 Dec 2004 - 6:26pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Well, it seems I was mis-understood again. So much for trying to be brief.

If I wanted to, I could use XUL right now to do everything in Mozilla
x-platform that was discussed pretty easily, and if that doesn't work, well
heck w/ XHTML standards I can do all of it just within the current browsers
that understand this which are many and plentiful. THAT is why I felt like
the "browser" is not really the question for me. I just think the question
is irrelevant.

That is to say, just do it. ;)

That said, everyone went off on the browser thread again.

And in so doing, everyone missed what to me is really the more interesting
question
... Why?!, or more aptly, what makes the solution for mult-windowing
work/useful, and when is it not such a good idea?

-- dave

30 Dec 2004 - 6:36pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> And in so doing, everyone missed what to me is really the more interesting
> question
> ... Why?!, or more aptly, what makes the solution for mult-windowing
> work/useful, and when is it not such a good idea?

Yes, but they are thoroughly related. Because you have limited functionality
in terms of widgets/interactivity/windowing/rendering/etc in a web browser,
you're often *forced* to use multiple windows, the management/intra-activity
of which itself then becomes the issue, which is the thread.

In other words, RIAs can provide a much greater density of
info/interactivity in a single window than can the browser in several. So,
yes, before one wonders about how to manage those browser windows, the more
pertinent question might be why have so many windows to begin with.
Unfortunately, as you can see, the two are inter-related.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

30 Dec 2004 - 7:05pm
Alain D. M. G. ...
2003

--- Listera <listera at rcn.com> a écrit :

> Sounds to me like you've never actually used it.

I did not need to, since you described it quite well to begin with, at
least well enough to get me interested to go visit the site and find
out what was necessary to make some guesses about what was involved.
And you confirmed my guesses in your last message.

> The reasons I uppercased the fact that you can scale those 'previews'
> TO ANY
> SIZE is just that: IF you're a financial pro and using a large
> monitor, you
> can scale them up to, say, 500x400 pixels *each* to distinguish one
> from the
> others. The reason they are 'gorgeous' is because, using Quartz
> engine, they
> are faithfully rendered at any size.

Individually they might be gorgeous (depending on the work done by the
design artist and the branding specialists, and after that on the eye
of the beholder) but together, they offer visual chaos, like cars in a
parking lot or the spines of paperbacks on a book case, before you get
closer and get a chance to read the titles and authors.

They don't have to be small,
> crummy,
> unintelligible thumbnails you might be accustomed to in other apps.
>

Right you are, and I have seen quite a lot of those too often crummy 96
by 96 pixel or 128 by 128 pixel thumbnails, and I will unfortunately be
seeing even more. I have also seen some very large amounts of the
usually rare vector-based thumbnails available within specialized
high-end CADD applications, which means that I appreciate how good
those OS X Quark-based thumbnails can be sometimes. I have not seen
Omnipage but I have taken a look at Macs running severa kinds of
applcations OS X.

> So, back to the topic at hand, this gives you a main window plus
> essentially
> an infinite number of high-res, large-size windows you can rearrange
> at will
> to jump around in, which was my point.
>

And my point is that in most cases this higher quality thumbnailing
feature wil be useless because the images on which they are based are
not significant. Garbage in, garbage out. Yes, there are a few Web
sites out there which give a great attention to branding, and see to it
that the front page and even many of the main pages within the site are
quite different from that of their competitors, but even they cannot
extend this visually identity prefectly to all pages, in all possible
size reductions. So in the end you get a lot of page images that look
alike, even with great quality reductions. Unless of course you are
dealing with an exceptional user base, whose work takes them nearly
always to pages that are consistently well branded, such as the main
pages of Fortune 500 hundred companies, to give but one example of
"class".

Alain V.

__________________________________________________________
Lèche-vitrine ou lèche-écran ?
magasinage.yahoo.ca

30 Dec 2004 - 7:29pm
Listera
2004

Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt:

> And my point is that in most cases this higher quality thumbnailing
> feature wil be useless...

But we are NOT talking about 'most cases' here: Prady and John are
interested *specifically* in multi-window financial apps and the ability to
relate/manage/move among multiple windows. It's highly likely that most if
not all these windows will emanate from the *same* site, perhaps having
same/similar appearance. It's in this specific context that I'm pointing out
the unrivalled ability of OmniWeb to show sizeable, movable, group-savable
and high-res 'tabs'. In this case, they certainly are not useless. In fact,
if the goal is to keep track of multiple browser windows, I dare you to find
a better product than OmniWeb.[1]

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

[1] After having used nearly a dozen browsers, I have found the graphical
tabs feature of OmniWeb virtually indispensable. When I go back to Firefox
or some other browser, it's one of the first things I miss. However, I'll
grant you that until one uses it one doesn't quite grok its almost cerebral
utility.

30 Dec 2004 - 9:55pm
Dave Malouf
2005

> Yes, but they are thoroughly related. Because you have
> limited functionality
> in terms of widgets/interactivity/windowing/rendering/etc in
> a web browser,
> you're often *forced* to use multiple windows, the
> management/intra-activity
> of which itself then becomes the issue, which is the thread.

Oh!!!! So I think I discovered a component that I wasn't thinking about. We
as designer are not in charge of ALL the components that need to be
integrated together. Sorta like I need to have google, amazon, and ofoto all
working together. Or Fidelity, Citibank, and Bloomberg or something weird
like that. So that is why we are thinking about the tab/window model here.

I was thinking about a portal application where I am in full control of all
aspects of the applications being integrated together.

> In other words, RIAs can provide a much greater density of
> info/interactivity in a single window than can the browser in
> several. So,
> yes, before one wonders about how to manage those browser
> windows, the more
> pertinent question might be why have so many windows to begin with.
> Unfortunately, as you can see, the two are inter-related.

Totally, but even if we are talking about different pieces of content with
different owners, I still don't understand why RIAs or even browser
extensions make a difference. Windowing in layers is very doable in HTML and
if you don't like that behavior then there are the other options like RIAs,
XUL, or plugins to the browser. BTW, for windows users there is a plugin for
IE called viewpoint (www.viewpoint.com) that does something similar as what
Ziya mentioned in terms of a thumbnail system.

I still think the why and the how should be separate questions, but that is
just me.

-- dave

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