As a designer or developer, you need tools that inspire you to work or create, and few of our tools provide the inspiration we need at times. One of our major tools when it comes to web development is the browser and one needs to use a browser that inspires innovation, design wise. Internet Explorer 8 is one such browser.
I have almost all the major browsers installed and use each just as every other web developer for testing my development works. Each provides their own unique user experience and it is these user experiences that unconsciously drive our designs and development. Safari for example, being used by many a MAC user provides slick UI within the browser with cover flow for history navigation and the awesome looking wall for the Top Site feature. Any developer who spends much time with this browser is bound to produce such slick UIs in their web development because it is something they become accustomed to.
Chrome on the other hand provides a super minimalist design which is consistent with all Google developments. This design is good and it provides straight to the point user experiences, but for me personally, I find it a tad boring.
Firefox on the other hand, for me, has the least interesting UI design (at least for the version 3.x) series. This is expected to change in version 3.7+ or the 4.x series, and I think I already like what I’m seeing in the mock up designs (although it is beginning to look a lot like Opera 10.5). The current UI to me is a bit uninspiring and hence, even though Firefox packs some off the best standards compliant internals, I can’t bring myself to use it. Aside that, many users are beginning to see the sluggishness in this browser that I have noticed for years.
My favourite browser, as many readers of this blog know, is Opera. Basically, it provides a nice user experience coupled with great UI responsiveness and a whole lot of nice features.
Internet Explorer 8 is a clear example of good (not best) usability testing. Many bash Microsoft for a lot of things, but one thing you can’t bash them for is product usability. Compared to many other browsers, IE8 lacks standards compliance in its rendering and processing engines, however, the UI design of the browser is inspiring. There are lots of little features such as the Quick Tabs view, popup list for tabs, Tab Grouping with colour coding, etc. These are all simple UI additions that make the browser extremely usable. That is not to say IE8 has great UI responsiveness, as many know, opening new tabs can be a hassle and all. IE8 also has extremely nice looking Developer Tools (beats Opera Dragonfly hands down in terms of UI design)
So looking at all this, why would I say IE9 will be my second favourite browser? Simple! It is bound to have a great UI coupled with good standards compliance. Building on what we have seen in the past few months in terms of new releases of Microsoft products, it is safe to assume that this will not fall short of what we have come to expect. For example, Office 2010 looks awesome, Windows 7 – stunning, Windows Mobile 7 (ain’t seen it physically) but it looks great. IE8 already is a great product in terms of usability so Microsoft will just need to amp it up on the polish and responsiveness and we should expect great things.