Thursday, September 11, 2008

Google Chrome: A User Interface Review

An extensive review of Chrome ...

"When Google’s Chrome was announced, I made some comments based on the information we had to hand at the time. To summarise, I thought the layout of Chrome was badly considered when assessing it based on Fitts’s Law. Now that Chrome is actually out (for Windows, at least), we can take a closer look at it, put it to the test as it were. But unlike some other sources, who seem really caught up on whether Chrome is actually the fastest browser out there (Chrome on Windows XP through a VM doesn’t feel as fast as Safari on OSX, but that’s neither here nor there), I wanted to look at it from a user’s point of view. After all, if Google wants to be a success in the Browser Wars II (this time it’s personal?), they’re going to have to win the hearts and minds of ordinary users, and that isn’t done by rendering a JavaScript heavy page x milliseconds faster than FireFox. It’s done by being easy to use, and friendly. So let’s look at Chrome from a Use Experience and Usability point of view.


Before I get any further, I want to point two things out. Firstly, Google Chrome is a very early beta product. It’s not ready for your Gran to use yet, it may not be ready for you to use yet, depending on your disposition. So tread carefully. And let’s take this as an IR beta, and not a Google beta. I don’t expect it to be flawless, neither should you.

Secondly, I’m an OSX user (you’ll find that many people in the field of user experience favor Macs). As such I’m testing Chrome on an iMac through Parallels Desktop which is running a Win XP Pro Virtual Machine. Results are indicative of this setup.

Breaking Conventions

Google seem intent on breaking some well established conventions with Chrome. We’ve seen with the iPhone that breaking established conventions can be a liberating thing, something that frees designers from the shackles of the past and allows them to come up with something truly great. There is, of course, a downside. Unless your new interface is truly intuitive, which is very difficult to do in an IT system, there’s going to be a steeper learning curve than usual. There’s also going to be mistakes and failures. And when you knowingly introduce failures and mistakes, you run the risk of user abandonment. Sometimes this will be abandonment of a task, but in cases like Chrome, and the iPhone, it will be abandonment of the tool.
Interface Differences between Chrome and FireFox 3

Interface Differences between Chrome and FireFox 3

The image to the right (below) highlights some of the differences you will notice between Chrome and a more conventional browser, in this case I’ve used FireFox version 3 on Windows XP in vanilla form.

I’ll be addressing each of these differences in turn."    (Continued via Usability News, The Usability Blog)    [Usability Resources]

Chrome vs. Firefox - Usability, User Interface Design

Chrome vs. Firefox


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