While some users have complained about some of the technical aspects of the new browsers (e.g. latency, compatibility), I have found it to be quite good. Still, I can see some improvements that could be made to the UI to make it even better.
Overall the browser makes a good attempt at being finger-friendly: the toolbar icons at the bottom, though small, are just large enough for finger presses. But while the scroll bar in other parts of OS2008 have become wider and more finger-friendly, the scroll bar in the new browser remains frustratingly stylus-focused. So the first change I would make to the browser would be either add the finger-based scrollbar outright or at least provide the option to use it. Another option would be to make it the default only in fullscreen mode, as I have depicted.
(click for 800×480 version)
I have retained the stylus-sized horizontal scrollbar, since I believe it is less used. In full-screen mode, the page area is now ~735pixels wide, instead of 778px, but you gain a lot of usability for that minor loss of page real estate. (Now, some of you might retort that users can simply use the d-pad for scrolling. I’d agree, except that the d-pad scrolling in the browser is horrendous, since it is designed (foolishly, I think) to jump from link to link rather than scroll smoothly up/down. If that problem was resolved, the need for the finger scrollbar might be mitigated.)
Recent History (Back/Forward)
If you’ve ever gone down the rabbit-hole on a site like Wikipedia or Digg, you know that you can quickly end up on a wandering path of distraction. When you realize you’ve just wasted 15 minutes, you might want to go back to where you started to remember what it was you were seeking in the first place. As it is designed now, you would have to click the back button repeatedly until you reach your diving-off point. Since the browser will reload each of the pages along that trail, this can be intolerably slow, especially if you are on a slow connection.
The latest desktop browsers all provide a mechanism with which the user can jump back to a particular page in their recent history. In Firefox, for example, you can click on the drop-down arrow on the back or forward buttons and select from a list of recent pages. It would be incredibly useful to be able to pick from a recent history list in the browser instead of clicking back repeatedly.
There is already a design paradigm in the browser that could be re-used for this purpose. Pressing the bookmark button (globe) pops up a list of your bookmarks. Scrolling through this list is done with the small up and down buttons at the bottom of the list. The back/forward buttons could function exactly like the bookmark list.
(click for 800×480 version)
Furthermore, it might not be necessary to have both a back and a forward buttons. I imagine that when the user presses the “history” button, a list would pop up; that list would be divided by a horizontal line. Above the line would be the “back” pages, below the line would be the “forward” pages (or vice-versa–comments?). The highlighting would default to the latest page visited (the one that the browser would go to if you just hit the back button in the current design).
(Note: Please ignore the numbers 1, 2, 3 in the list. I just copied the bookmark window and moved it over. I use the numbers so that those oft-visited pages are at the top of my bookmark list.)
Looking forward to your feedback and comments.