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Purposeful Design
September 26, 2012 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Design Principles Behind the Firefox OS UX - An interesting look at the design philosophy of a modern smart-device interface, this one being developed as Free Software by the Mozilla Foundation.
posted by Slap*Happy (51 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
You got skeaumorphics in my colorful tiles! You got colorful tiles in my skeaumorphics!
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


After the last three years of mobile OS iterations I've come to one conclusion.

The sooner this fad of extra-lightweight fonts dies the better.
posted by Talez at 11:57 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The sooner this fad of extra-lightweight fonts dies the better.

Well, since this OS is CSS based you should be able to kill it yourself rather easily.
posted by jaduncan at 11:59 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh god, it'll be Bookman Bold *everywhere*.
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Buuuuurn!
posted by Mister_A at 12:01 PM on September 26, 2012


GRADIENTS
BRAND PERSONALITY
DESIGN PHILOSIPHY
PURPOSEFUL DESIGN
THEATRE EXPERIENCE
CONTENT IS KING
FOCUSED IMAGERY
HAND CRAFTED DESIGN
CATERED CONTENT
ENGAGING DESIGN

It's a choo-choo train traveling to design nirvana bu who let the cliches on board? :(
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:12 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


How is this all that different from Metro?

Although they were "inspired" by the Android dialer, I see.
posted by bonehead at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2012


(It scrolls down rather than across I guess).
posted by bonehead at 12:15 PM on September 26, 2012


Still, it's good to see that the typeface is inspired by Erik Spiekermann's Meta, which is a rather nice modern humanist typeface and deserves to become as well known as, say, Futura and Gill Sans.
posted by acb at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


God, that "VISUAL IDENTITY MAP" is painfully Stuff Designers Like.
posted by RogerB at 12:19 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Looks like Windows 8, and that is not a good thing.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:32 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do we need Yet Another Mobile OS?
posted by octothorpe at 12:36 PM on September 26, 2012


Firefox the browser is really good with memory usage, so I would trust it as an OS.
posted by jeather at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Firefox the browser is really good with memory usage, so I would trust it as an OS.

You snark, but recent releases have gotten a lot better. I wasn't especially impressed by their mobile version the last time I tried it on decent hardware, but I was on the verge of abandoning it on the desktop for a while and then it quit leaking RAM like a sieve.
posted by brennen at 12:49 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do we need Yet Another Mobile OS?

This one has three notable design goals -

1) Lightweight system requirements - it will run on hardware cheap enough to be within reach of users in the developing world, and won't require a $500 device to get optimal performance.

2) It will be easier to develop for than the other smart-device platforms, which require compilers and SDK's and in most cases a heavyweight IDE. Instead, it relies on HTML5 with a few features that allow it to run offline and to use local storage.

3) Developed and maintained by a non-profit entity, it will be both free to distribute, and free to examine, modify and repackage.

It won't be able to go head-to-head with iOS or Android or (snicker) Win8 devices, but it's not designed to. It's designed to lower the bar to entry for developers, users and carriers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:51 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Can we have a "developer UI" OS that is just a screen full of comboboxes and maybe stuff turns red when something messes up.

I don't really need icons or picures or that much color.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:56 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was on the verge of abandoning it on the desktop for a while and then it quit leaking RAM like a sieve.

It's my understanding that the biggest memory leak was in add-ons; they would tend to grab a lock on page objects, and then never release them again, so that the system couldn't reclaim the memory. Later versions of FF have stopped respecting add-ons nearly as much, dumping things even if add-ons still have locks on them.

The latest version is driving me up the bloody wall, though, it's got some really nasty bugs if you use both windows AND tabs, jumping around between windows kind of randomly. It is maddening.

As far as this OS goes, it looks okay, but yeah, it looks like a total clone of Windows 8. Which, on a phone or a tablet, would probably be okay. Just keep that shit off my desktop.
posted by Malor at 12:57 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, apparently designers do not have thumbs (only eyes) or have ridiculously long and agile thumbs, because they inevitably place their most important bit of navigation at the far-top-left of the experience.

"Looks sensible" which should actually be a red flag in design. Impossible to reach with a single right human hand if the screen is bigger than the original iPhone. Probably not super-comfortable for a lefty either.

I'd like another word for "design", because I want to differentiate these two meanings:
1. Someone tried to imagine the way a thing ought to work by applying their own preferences and experience, generated artifacts.
2. Someone did (1) then mocked up that work emphasizing the way a human actually interacts with the system, whatever it is.

Maybe start calling (1) "presign", because it's what you do to prepare for the work of design.

This? This is a fairly well presigned look at what Android would look like slightly reskinned (and if you took the Facebook app's UX and smeared it everywhere). The clue this could only possibly be presigned is that the first pass of UX took about a week - which means it never touched a user outside somebody's head.
posted by abulafa at 12:58 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love the consistency. White for productivity apps, black for media, for that "theatrical experience."

So, of course, the calendar and the alarm set apps are black.
posted by eriko at 1:00 PM on September 26, 2012


Firefox is my main browser because I just don't like Chrome enough. But although it's better than it used to be, it's still not actually all that great.
posted by jeather at 1:20 PM on September 26, 2012


And I gave up totally using mobile versions of Firefox, which was pretty close to making my entire phone non-fuctional.
posted by jeather at 1:22 PM on September 26, 2012


Is that a common design choice? Make "Media" apps dark? I guess that explains why Microsoft Blend is the lone dark app out of all the stuff I use, but it doesn't make it any less infuriating.

At any rate. This is better than making everything faux leather or making my ebook selection screen look like the shelving in the children's section of the library.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Design Philosophy (DNA)

(walks up to stage, bows to the audience, takes a deep breath, and:)

BLEEEAAAAHHHH!!!!!!

DNA STANDS FOR DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID! IT ISN'T A GENERIC TERM FOR ORIGINALITY OR ESSENCE OR TRUE NATURE OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT! IT'S A CHEMICAL, A CHEMICAL! THAT'S WHY IT'S CALLED AN ACID! WHEN AN ART DIRECTOR, PROJECT MANAGER, VENTURE CAPITALIST, BILL GATES, OR WHOEVER USES IT, THEY'RE USING IT WRONG! THEY ONLY DO IT BECAUSE IT SOUNDS COOL TO USE ACRONYM LETTERS TO LEND FALSE IMPORT TO THEIR STUPID IDEAS! GRAAAH!!


(passes out)
posted by JHarris at 1:51 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


so, we're in the ux/ui design period equivalent to architecture in the 60's and 70'swhere everyone is trying to fulfill abstract principles they learned in school while the inhabitants/users beg for mercy.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:07 PM on September 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


Somebody check on JHarris, I'm worried!
posted by symbioid at 2:17 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our media applications have the following characteristics…
Content is King while chrome is a distraction therefore, it is minimized.


I see what he did there.
posted by Kabanos at 2:32 PM on September 26, 2012


It's my understanding that the biggest memory leak was in add-ons; they would tend to grab a lock on page objects, and then never release them again, so that the system couldn't reclaim the memory. Later versions of FF have stopped respecting add-ons nearly as much, dumping things even if add-ons still have locks on them.

As I understand it my beloved Firebug is particularly bad in this respect, on the other hand Firebug is really the only reason I prefer Firefox over other browsers - yes they have similar tools, but Firebug is the one I know. Really if I familiarized myself with the Chrome tools more Firefox would be gone except for testing.
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on September 26, 2012


Kabanos - Chrome did kind of name itself after chrome.
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2012


Why do we need Yet Another Mobile OS?

I don't think booting to a browser is a great idea, but I do think more open source mobile OS options is good. (And no, I don't consider Android in the running.)
posted by DU at 3:10 PM on September 26, 2012


I don't think booting to a browser is a great idea

For a while I set my (work!) Windows 3.1 machine to boot to Netscape Navigator 3. Good times!
posted by alasdair at 3:14 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


so, we're in the ux/ui design period equivalent to architecture in the 60's and 70'swhere everyone is trying to fulfill abstract principles they learned in school while the inhabitants/users beg for mercy.

Completely lost my biscuits laughing at this, it's so incredibly true. There needs to be a "sit in a quite corner and think about what you've done" step in the design process. A lot of design at the moment reminds me of when I first discovered photoshop and absolutely had to use every single filter at least once on a picture.

It felt like genius but the end result look liked a bus hit a flock of seagulls wearing clown makeup.
posted by bemetta at 3:19 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


> the biggest memory leak was in add-ons

Add-on writers! Looking for a project? Write an Unlocker add-on for FF.
posted by jfuller at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2012


I'll never forgive them for what they did between FF3 and FF4.
posted by kersplunk at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


You snark, but recent releases have gotten a lot better.

Oh, man. When I was handing in my thesis I kept my computer open (in hibernation when I was in bed) for 4-5 days straight. Firefox would remain open with plenty of tabs (not always loaded) for long hours and memory usage would just explode. The interface works for me, so FF is still my main browser with Opera as a second.
posted by ersatz at 3:42 PM on September 26, 2012


I kinda forgot Firefox exists, after about a year of using nothing but Chrome...
posted by Jimbob at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


*quiet corner even. See, if I took my own advice the world would be a more pleasing place to people who like neat, sensible things, like spelling.
posted by bemetta at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2012


Apparently it has a calculator.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:44 PM on September 26, 2012


For those who still think that Firefox uses more memory than Chrome:

Chrome uses way more memory than Firefox, Opera or Internet Explorer (GHacks, June 2012)

Browser Speed Tests: Chrome 19, Firefox 13, Internet Explorer 9, and Opera 12 (Lifehacker, June 2012)

You'll see that 3rd parties are measuring that Firefox uses less memory than Chrome.

For Firefox 15 (which is the current general availability release as of Sept. 2012) our team worked hard to fix memory management problems with Addons (zombie compartments!) detailed here: Firefox 15 plugs the add-on leaks.

As a Mozillian, I'm more interested that we have a choice of browsers. Of course I think Firefox is the best, and that's what I use daily, but I think it's great that we have competition in the browser market and that we all have many browsers to choose from, even on Android (but not on iOS.)

(Full disclosure: I work for Mozilla but not directly on the development of Firefox.)
posted by gen at 5:57 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll never forgive them for what they did between FF3 and FF4.

I stopped using Firefox because it never really respected OS-wide conventions for user interface, such as key combinations, or how items were highlighted when selected, or what happened when the Tab key was pressed. I always felt like I was using a Windows app or maybe even some unknown OS with its own way of doing things. It sounds like that hasn't changed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:09 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I stopped using Firefox because it never really respected OS-wide conventions for user interface, such as key combinations, or how items were highlighted when selected, or what happened when the Tab key was pressed. I always felt like I was using a Windows app or maybe even some unknown OS with its own way of doing things. It sounds like that hasn't changed.

Should we read this as "because it didn't feel like it fit in on OS X"? It does pretty well (a darn site better than Chrome, which I am using to write this) with the Linux stuff I care about it respecting, and I've never noticed anything particularly out of place on Windows...
posted by brennen at 6:32 PM on September 26, 2012


(That said, it's patently ridiculous that I can't install and update Firefox via apt on Debian stable - Chrome is getting that one right.)
posted by brennen at 6:34 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


brennen: please complain to the Debian team.
posted by gen at 6:45 PM on September 26, 2012


I've never noticed anything particularly out of place on Windows...

Yeah, that was more or less what I pointed out, in slightly different wording. I never felt like I was using a native app, but something which approximated it. I feel the same way using Java and Qt apps; it's just an annoyance, like realizing you've been walking around with your t-shirt on back-to-front. I use Firefox for testing, though, and it seems to render SVG quickly, something which Chrome could improve on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:46 PM on September 26, 2012


brennen: please complain to the Debian team.

That entire dispute was and remains moderately ridiculous, but Google are providing a package download and their own repository. Y'all could do the same.
posted by brennen at 6:51 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Google are providing a package download and their own repository. Y'all could do the same.

Seconded. This would make me very happy indeed, and it isn't like stable Debian changes so much (!) that it would be a burden to keep up with.
posted by jaduncan at 8:25 PM on September 26, 2012


I literally just swtiched to Chrome because Firefox keeps choking and crashing like a beeyatch.
posted by bardic at 8:51 PM on September 26, 2012


It really is amazing how much foundational stuff they have to blather about to avoid being sued for mixing the parts of other UIs they like.
posted by mobunited at 10:14 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wrt Firefox on Debian, it seems like this should do what you want (I think "release" is the most current version?)
posted by mail at 2:12 AM on September 27, 2012


I rather miss Firefox. I'm wedged so puppet-deep in Google's ecosystem that there isn't much point in using anything other than Chrome, but Firefox will always be the first browser that I found a joy to use instead of a chore.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:42 AM on September 27, 2012


Interestingly, I'm switching from Chrome to Firefox at work, because the new rev of Chrome for Mac chokes and dies on some of the web-based and java admin tools I need to use. I agree with the earlier complaint about Firefox not respecting local UI conventions, always drove me nuts. Safari and the other webkit browsers are WAY too slow and buggy, tho.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:11 AM on September 27, 2012


I read "BRAND PERSONALITY" as "BLAND PERSONALITY".

I think my reading may work better.
posted by azarbayejani at 7:42 AM on September 27, 2012


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