Constructive criticism: Winstripe

Discuss application theming and theme development.
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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 12:44 am

Here's my 2 cents:
First of all I like the new theme. The idae of Firefox is simplicity and new theme fits it better than Qute. There are some rough edges, but those will get fixed as time passes.

Things I like about new theme:
- Very simple
- I am sick and tired of over 3Dness of all icons everywhere, this arrows are just very nice (except the shadows)
- Vibrant colors are good

Things I dont like
- Bookmark and new tab icon should be reviewed, they definitely look like something else.
- Reload icon can be a little more circular (Qute's reload was worse though)


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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 1:33 am

I've used the theme since yesterday evening, and I must say that although it's very different from Qute, it also has its own charms! It's obvious that this theme will improve over time, but this is a nice start.

My current main gripe would be the bookmarks icon as well, solely because potential IE converts have *no* idea what that icon could possibly be, and we have to remember we have non-geek users who don't know about tooltips either. To be honest, if I didn't know where my bookmark icon was before, I wouldn't have known what that icon was on first sight. It's very counter-intuitive to those used to see a star or a folder with a star in it (old IE style).

I know of at least a good hundred people who wouldn't figure it out (all the people at the place I work at, except the IT team, duh :-p), which probably could claim the same, so I think this should be improved on before 1.0.

Other than that, this is one lean mean skin! I like the oldschool-ish look actually :-D.

*secretly runs Netscape Navigator 1.22 on the side*


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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 5:42 am

i think we should have a more uniform palette, and that the reload button looks like an oval, instead of a circle, and it creates the efect of falling a little to the right.

also, the close tab button at least should change its color, to other than red, cause it confuses with the STOP one.


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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 5:53 am

Winstripe is a good starting point. I like the clean simplicity as well. Qute is a bit "cartoonish".

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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 6:23 am

I'm worried with the increase of space used by the so-called small icons in Windows Classic mode (I'm using Windows 2000). Don't forget that "more room for web pages" is listed in the advantages of firefox in "Why you should switch". Don't loose this one.

Look at Internet Explorer with small icons (default look on Windows 2000) . Each toolbar takes 22px:

Qute was already a little bigger but not so bad. Each toolbar takes 26px:

Now, Winstripe takes that to 32px, that is 10px more than Internet Explorer:

It is much too big for a "small" toolbar.

Furthermore, when there are icons on the personal toolbar like I want them (and the mail icon is there by default), the personal toolbar items really do look ugly with so much white space.

It could not be as visible in Windows XP, I don't know, but don't forget all the people using 9x/2000/XP in classic mode, that's around half of us (according to Google Zeitgeist).

Maybe that's acceptable to the main toolbar, but the margins should really be reduced when icons are put on the personal toolbar, and worse, the menu bar. Some people put the adress bar and some buttons on the menu bar, have you seen how it looks then?
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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 6:52 am

totally agree

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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 7:06 am

yurk wrote:It could not be as visible in Windows XP, I don't know, but don't forget all the people using 9x/2000/XP in classic mode, that's around half of us (according to Google Zeitgeist).

It's just as bad in XP's modern mode, and I totally agree, the size of the icons is much too great. Part of what I liked so much about Qute was the compact look of the toolbars. They were a bit bigger than IE, but they did a much better job of making use of their real estate.


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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 7:16 am

Agreed as well. One thing I could never figure out is why there isn't three icon sizes. A small size (like IE small), a medium size (perhaps what is presently the small size in Winstripe), and a large size (same as the present large).

Also one thing I could never figure out is why you must download a Toolbar Enhancements extension so icons can resize to fit on the bookmarks toolbar or other toolbars. I thought the whole point of the customize dialog was so it was easy to customize.
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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 7:16 am

Errr, no.

Vertical icon spacing on Luna is exactly the same with Winstripe as it is with IE (in any permutation of large / small / text). On Windows Classic it looks out of place but I'm pretty sure this is unavoidable at the moment (as there is no way for Gecko to know what theme's being used).

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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 7:28 am

One of the specific reasons I switched to Firefox was that I liked that the toolbars were shorter. And they were after I turned off the Bookmarks Toolbar. One of the reasons I didn't like this theme at all when I first saw it was that there is, in my opinion, far too much space around the icons - just as yurk said.

Disagree as you want, Thumper, but I can provide a screenshot of Luna that shows its icons are not so spaced apart.



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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 8:20 am

Thumper wrote:Vertical icon spacing on Luna is exactly the same with Winstripe as it is with IE (in any permutation of large / small / text). On Windows Classic it looks out of place but I'm pretty sure this is unavoidable at the moment (as there is no way for Gecko to know what theme's being used).

The more efficient use of screen real-estate was one of the reasons why I originally switched to Firefox (well, actually Phoenix, but I think Orbit was comparable with Qute in terms of icon spacing). I agree fully with yurk on this matter.
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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 8:40 am

Nevermind. I wasn't constructive.
Last edited by daka0007 on June 9th, 2004, 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 9:00 am

<b>On theme philosophy.</b> Luna != Windows XP. That said, the perspective, color palette, slight drop shadow, and other elements of the Microsoft Windows XP Icon Design Guidelines are not Luna-only, they are also applicable even to the plain-jane Win2k style and the other themes. It is important that the theme developers stay within this framework, not for Luna, but for all XP/2003 users.

You Mac guys may think our palette is too colorful or too 3D, but to us it's normal and anything less looks cheap. Even as a software developer, I tend to correlate good style conformance with quality software, something that has affected my decision to use Firefox (with Qute), Acronis TrueImage, and other products. Even though I know that beauty is only skin deep, I react viscerally to how programs conform or break with the design conventions. I even design web applications (intranet-type stuff) using the same guidelines and have received a number of good comments from users about this choice.

<b>On gripes from users of third-party themes.</b> DOH! Of course it is not going to look like your 3133t Winblinds skin, but you aren't the 99% of Windows XP users who are using either the classic or Luna themes. Make your own theme if you really want something to make your Star Trek LCARS theme. And yes, I use Luna at home. I still hate the title bars and gaudy Start Bar as much as anyone (I believe I coined the phrase "Fisher-Price My First OS" when it came out), but the form elements and toolbars make up for it and the alternate color choices (e.g, silver and puke green) are mere afterthoughts. I don't have the time to screw around with cracked utheme.dll's, buggy Winblinds, and third-rate third-party themes.[/microflame]

Anyway, on to the icons themselves:

<b>Back/Forward.</b> The triangles aren't doing it for me. I don't exactly like Qute's icons for these either. A few style suggestions:

-- These, above any other icons on the page, should look like buttons. This is key for the true "J6P" users. Qute does this via enclosing the arrows in a 3D sphere and it works nicely. Not sure what the best solution is, but it should probably be consistent with Refresh and Stop.

-- The arrows here are too "triangle-like", but Qute's are too "pointy". Something in between, such as a block arrow with a short stem and a triangle tip, would be better. Something like the Download icon's arrow, but rotated.
-- Personally, I would prefer these to be blue than green, since Green (being "go") is more associated with a server trip (i.e., like Go and Refresh and opposite of Stop), but blue can be interpreted more easily as an action that does not necessarily involve network traffic. I think Qute and Microsoft got this wrong as well, but I understand I have a weak argument here.

<b>Refresh.</b> Even with its overly-simple shape, an improvement on Qute's needless arrow-surrounded document, but there are some confused semantics. In Windows, it looks too much like the Recycle Bin, Microsoft ActiveSync, and Palm's sync software. In the first case, there is an implied action of re-using the same information, which isn't the best description of the Refresh action. The other icons have a semantic link to the idea of a two-way merger, which is also not terribly appropriate (this is repeated in the new plug-in manager). Granted, IE6 uses the two-arrow metaphor as well, but it's not their best icon and surprisingly few users know how to use it.

A better icon might be a single arrow, counter-clockwise back to itself, with the tip ending at around 4 o'clock. Using existing Firefox themes for example, something like Doodle's general shape (but rotated), and iCandy Junior's rendering (but less over-the-top in the perspective department).

<b>Stop.</b> Ditto to others, an "x in a red circle" looks too much like a certain fatal error icon in Windows, even though IE uses this metaphor. The octagon, unfortunately, is also too harsh IMHO and also resembles both an older Windows crash error icon and also the error icon used in the JavaScript debugger in Fx.

Qute's icon, OTOH, is too close to an icon used in Windows for "Delete" (which isn't exactly the right message) with its angle and lack of symmetry (i.e., the look of a red-pen mark).

The action behind "Stop" is better described as either "Cancel" or "Disconnect" or even "Undo," so starting with those metaphors would be better. In fact, the Download pane's Cancel icon (when that appears instead of the current text link) should be identical IMHO to the main Stop button.

One wild idea would be to use a darkish orange, symmetric "x" to remove the link between the color red and the ideas of errors or deletion. Orange is underutilized in most themes but is actually a nice color (given decent contrast) under XP. I'm not religious about this, however, just throwing it out there to the wolves...

<b>Home.</b> Perspective and 3D should be used. Qute's latest version is the best I've seen, even above IE6 on XP. I've always hated, however, the confusion between the concept of a "home page" (i.e., the root page of your own web site) and a "start page" (the default URL when opening the browser). Perhaps Firefox could be the first browser to shun the old "house" metaphor and get a little closer to something that means "starting point" or "default." Something that evokes a place of beginning, more like the initial place for your game piece on a board game.

<b>Email.</b> Other than lack of perspective/shadow, no complaints here. If possible, it would be *cool* if the envelope only had something in it when your email has an unread Inbox message.

<b>Print.</b> Perspective should be better, looking dead-on is just bad. Could also use the metaphor of paper rather than the printer itself, though that would be a strong break from tradition. Must use care, however, since "paper" (along with a magnifying glass) is the standard for Print Preview. Maybe something involving an arrow and a sheet of paper, signifying a "download to paper."

<b>Download.</b> I love the concept of a progress bar combined with an icon. I wish, however, that the arrow was more prominent somehow. Obviously, both should be green, so there is some issue with overlap. Not sure what to do here, just think that the arrow itself is too small.

<b>Bookmarks.</b> I had to stare at it way too long to grok it. Have to admit that IE6+XP's Favorites icon (the Star) is among their best. Could use a heart, a la AOL, or possibly some spectacles or eyeballs (i.e., "look here"). Personally, however, I'd rather than this icon go away completely, it is 100% superfluous with an existing menu.

<b>New Tab:</b> Either the tab is too big, or the window is too small. The earlier revision made by someone in this thread looked much better, but the "page" part was taking up too much space.
Perhaps leave the tab the same size as the existing New Tab icon in WinStripe, but change the "page" shape to only be bordered on the left and top, and shown w/o Status bar grey stripe.
Maybe a gradient or uneven break the bottom and right to signify that it is a cut-out piece of a larger canvas. Plus sign looks great, could stand to be a little lower.

<b>New Window.</b> No complaints, looks fine here. Someone complained about the "Luna-like" appearance, the only thing here that is explicitly Luna=like that I see is the rounded form edge at the top, which is no travesty. Windows has defaulted to blue title bars since well before Windows 95. Again, plus sign could be a hair lower, not as vertically-centered.

<b>Bookmarks: Separator.</b> Love it. Much better than Qute's.

<b>Options: General.</b> Perhaps a better metaphor for "general options" would be something that looks like some radio buttons or checkboxes. The light switches and gear shifts aren't doing it for me.

Overall, I think there is room to break with some traditional metaphors and create a browser whose icons still have the same general purpose and sort order, but a more easily-grasped meaning for uninitiated users. I deal with "average users" regularly, and I strongly believe that (a) they will get as much or more out of Firefox as us geeks and (b) they will need lots of hand-holding and attention paid to the little things that make the app easier to grasp and more familiar.

I recommend that the theme design team consider creating a wiki for a more formal, structured ongoing discussion of each icon. This will allow the preservation of design history and philosophy, somewhat like the documentation that was provided by the designer of the new Fx and Tb logos, while allowing users to post and vote on their ideas and suggestions.

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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 9:11 am

richardtallent , wow, nice post.

My only immediate quibble with your suggestions is that the symbol you suggest for the refresh icon is rather similar (at least the way you describe it) to IE's History icon. That could be confusing.

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Post Posted June 9th, 2004, 9:13 am

Another idea for New Tab: why should this be in the main toolbar at all? Seems that something not much more than a plus sign on the left of the existing tabs would be easier for users and wouldn't require the icon metaphor of "here's a tiny screenshot of a tab that you click to get a tab lik this below this." Too much "wheel within a wheel", which was both the success of Qute's icon (the lack of trying to show the page with the tab in the icon) and its downfall (something that looks like a tab and is roughly the same size should *be* a tab, not a thing that creates a tab).

This also fits nicely with the existing Close Tab button. I can't decide whether it would be better to put them both on the right (close being the furthest to the right) or to put New Tab on the left. Probably the right. On the right, there is the possibility of hitting the wrong one, but (a) if you hit new tab instead of close it is easily correctable and (b) you probably won't hit Close instead of New because New is a purposeful, single action while Close is something you might keep clicking a few times in a row.

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