Monday, April 2, 2012

Chrome Browser restore option is not usable

By Mahmoud M.Orabi

When using a browser for a long time, you are going to have multiple tabs opened at the same time. You even become unaware if you already opened some websites, which means that you can have a lot of duplicate tabs that take from the computer memory for nothing. In addition, it becomes more required for you to feel safe that your tabs will be restored in case of unexpected issues. Chrome has a lot of usability issues when it comes to the session restore handling such as the non-existence of conformation dialog, difficult-to-understand sessions restore, and unclear error clarification.

1. Requirement:

I experienced these issues when using Chrome 18.0.1025.142 m

2. Confirmation when closing browser

When you have many tabs on chrome, and it happened that you accidently clicked on the close button for whatever reason, this will close the chrome browser right away without any confirmation. This is too bad as this will cause you to lose your login sessions at different websites, or current activity. For example, if you are playing an on-line game, this means that you are going to lose your current session because you accidently closed the browser instead of maximizing it. For now, Chrome is able to provide a confirmation dialog if there is a download in process which is good, however, not sufficient. We still need to have confirmation dialog in all cases when closing the browser.

2.1 Suggestions

Regardless the number of tabs or the current download status, the users must be prompted if they want to close the browser or not. And if there are some users prefer having different behavior. Then, this can be provided as a preference. And it can include some variables such as the tabs count and download status.

2. Restore session in reusable

When a user closes the browser, they expect that they will be able to restore their previous sessions. Chrome provides this feature, however it is too unusable that people do not even know that exist. First the restore option is placed at the right corner in a very small font:
From a personal experience, I had not known about that option before I searched for it. And also, I asked 5 people if they know if chrome provides a restore option, but they mentioned to me that this is something that they totally hate about chrome. This means that this option place is not usable at all.

2.1 Suggestions

There are several suggestions regarding getting a solution for this usability issue such as:

1-      Session restore option must be presented very clear and must be shown at the top or center of the welcome page, and also its font must be big enough to be detected.
2-      Another suggestion is to have the restore session option as it is, but show a popup dialog coming from its place to mention to the users that this is where they restore the session. It must be large enough that the eyes will catch it very quickly.
3-      One more suggestion is by having a “Do you know” tip that will make that session restore as a first tip when the user is using the browser for the first time.

As personal preference, I would prefer the second suggestion, but we can make it more usable by having a “Do not show this next times” checkbox, so the users will not need to see it every time.

3. No way to help the users to reduce the number of tabs

When using the browser for a long time, you may end up with many tabs opened that can be even more 20 tabs. At some point, you become not able to remember what websites you opened, and if you would like to open a website, you will need to know which tab to go for, and thus you just decide to enter this url directly in a new tab regardless it is a duplicate or not.  

3.1 Suggestions

When you enter a URL and it happened to exist in your browser, the browser should just simply take you to that URL directly.
Important to mention that having this nice usability enhancement can lead us to a functionality issue For instance, a user wants to open the same URL in two different tabs in case they want to do different activities. Running two asynchronous operations at the same time for the same website is an example. Thus, we have to make sure that there is a preference for that in order to make sure to avoid this issue.

4. He's Dead, Jim!

When unexpected error happens, we get the following error message in Chrome
This error handling causes us to lose the current tab or restarting the browser, and if we did, we will face the other restore handling issue. In addition, the error message will be more challenging for the translation process. The statement “He’s Dead, Jim!” is the catchphrase of “Leonard McCoy” character in Star Trek (Vaughan, 2001). I do not mind using it in that context, but it will lead to difficulties on the translation process to make sure that it will convey the same influence.

5. Conclusion

Chrome is a fast web browser and has its fans, and I am one of them. However, the session restore is a major usability issue in the browser, and they must work on fixing all of its related issues in order to make sure that it meets all end-to-end users’ scenarios in term of usability.

6. References

Vaughan, T. A. (2001). Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion, and American Culture (review). Journal of American Folklore, 114(454), 511-512. doi:10.1353/jaf.2001.0044

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