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When I say advice for Safari developers I mean Apple employees not web developers targeting Safari.  As regular readers know, I’ve been somewhat tough on Safari since its release for Windows (see here and here for examples.)

With the release of version 4, Safari seems like much more of an option for Window’s users.  It seems that Apple may even be trying to gain some market share (which depending on who you ask is around 8% right now).

Since I’ve moved my bookmarks into the cloud, I am more open to exploring the pluses and minuses of alternative browsers.  After years using Firefox I recently used IE 8 for a month or so and now I am on to Safari.  I have it set as my default browser on both my laptop and desktop.

With the exceptions of cold start up time and a few rendering issues, Safari works for me.  Still even though it is adequate, there are a few issues that make me unlikely to use it beyond the week trial that I have planned…I thought I would write these up.  I don’t think these issues are just that I am used to something else, but I believe these are real usability issues.

1) On all other Windows browsers if you type C N N into the address bar and hit control+enter, the browser adds http://www. to the beginning and .com to the end thus taking you to cnn.com in this example.  Safari does not do this.  And it isn’t that you need to substitute command for control as it is with most other Apple keyboard shortcuts, no this feature is missing in action.  [edit: it would seem that this feature has actually been implemented.  Lack of feedback when pressing a link can easily replace this issue.  In any other browser when you click on a link it will briefly change color to indicate that an action has been detected, Safari lacks this visual clue.]

2) This might be personal preference, but I hate the close tab button being on the left side of the tab.  This is contrary to every other browser out there.  Firefox and IE make up about 90% of the browser market, so wherever they agree becomes a de facto standard.  The other browsers should either conform or state the reasons that made them break the de facto standard.   There may be good reasons to do it some other way, but they should be stated so the user knows they did not do it just to be different.

3) Apple and iPhone users should stop stating that Safari Mobile gives you the full internet.  This is so patently false that it destroys whatever credibility they have.  One might ask, how I know this to be true and the reason is simple.  If Safari Mobile gave the full web, then there would be no reason for iPhone only web sites, the very fact that so many major websites make a special version just for iPhone proves conclusively that Safari Mobile does not give the full web experience.  It would seem that the iPhone has done more to splinter the web than anything since Explorer 3/4.

4) Finally, the search box needs to be customizable…sure Apple makes bank off Google, but at the expense of the user–why can’t I search live.com or Amazon or Wikipedia from that box?  (If I am missing something, please let me know.)

Some things I like about Safari 4 (come on, you didn’t think this post was just to rip on Apple, did you?) are the UI, the speed, and the find in page feature.  The UI looks good, it is very usable.  To me it, along with Explorer 8, has the most usable interface available.  Once opened, Safari seems very fast.  It will occasionally hiccough with DNS and stall out when a link is pressed, but I chalk this up to the fact that it is a beta, assumably Apple is working on this issue.  I like the way the find on page feature works and it is very clear and doesn’t leave you searching for where the text is highlighted, Explorer should learn this feature from Safari.

I’ve only been using Safari for a couple of days and when my experiment is over, I will switch back to Firefox and/or Explorer…but still it is nice to see some competition in the browser market.

What do you think?  Is Safari the better browser for your needs?  Why or why not?

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