The Jolly Teapotby Nicolas Magand
21 July 2021

On the new Safari UI, again

Jeff Kirvin, on his post Safari 15 isn’t bad, just misunderstood:

On a recent Connected podcast, Federico Viticci commented that he hadn’t heard a single comment in favor of the new Safari design in this summer’s Apple betas. What he’s not factoring in here is the silent majority” who either like the new design but don’t feel compelled to hold forth online about it, or the even larger group of folks who just don’t have a strong opinion, who think it’s fine, whatever.

Admittedly, it can be hard to keep these folks in mind when the technorati gets so salty about something, but it’s important to remember that podcasters and bloggers aren’t UI designers, are paid to have strong opinions, and might be too invested in the way things are to see what Apple is really going for here.

I think Kirvin is right, and that’s the problem with getting feedback through beta software: the vast majority of your feedback will come from enthusiasts, power users, and a very specific set of professionals. Users testing the beta are not representative of all users, and since Apple products are so popular and are made for so many people, it may be even more the case for them than for other software companies. For refining features, ironing out bugs, beta users feedback is fantastic, but I’m guessing that for new UI paradigms, changes that break power users’ habits, not so much. Still valuable don’t get me wrong, but not ideal.

Like I’ve said in my previous post about the new Safari UI:

It’s hard to know if you like something because it’s new and different, or because it’s actually good. Just like it’s hard to know if something is really bad if the complaints mostly come from a change of habits.

Kirvin then mentions the recent updates made to the new Safari, which now shows a separate tab bar by default:

The first thing I did when I installed the new Monterey beta was turn that off and revert it all to one line. It’s not so much that I need the vertical space, but I think the new design makes more sense.

I did exactly the same: I think the new approach makes a lot of sense. I can’t say if it’s better, just new, or just different, but I like it. And having the new Safari display a separate tab bar by default kind of ruins the efforts and the logic of the new UI. I hope the option to have this tab bar displayed will stay, because some people might need this bar to be always available, some others may need it from time to time, but I believe the default should be the original one bar” for URL and tabs.

Speaking of the all-in-one URL/tab bar, I am still not decided on whether I should keep the show colour in tab bar” option on or off. Maybe it should only turn on when Safari is fullscreen, and/or when there is only one tab open in the window, and/or only for pinned tabs.

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