Maemo UI improvements blog.

September 4, 2009

Fremantle: Browser zoom.

Filed under: Heavy UI improvements, Medium UI improvements — Andrew Zhilin @ 02:29

Hello everybody.

Today I’d like to share my thoughts about upcomming Maemo 5 release (along with new highly anticipated hardware) and it’s window to the internet, in other words – browser.

First of all it’s cool to see “mouse over” mode (as I was calling it long ago, but haven’t got time to describe it in pictures though) in MicroB (Timeless said that it’s Maemo brower now :D) that allow you to hover above drop down menus without clicking unnecesarry links , that’s cool :)

But now I’d like to mention circular zoom feature. Well, maybe it sounded as a great idea for non-multitouch zoom and pretty unique too. But as you can see in various video demonstrations (or for yourself, lucky owners) it doesn’t work quite as it was expected to. It starts with some really bad looking page fluctuation and then starts to zoom in/out at some unpredictable speed. I’d like to show you how my vision on “fine zooming” in browser.


Basically it can be done one as the circular zoom – one handed with one finger but it can be more intuitive and user controlled aswell, just like pinch action.

First of all slide your finger from the right of the screen, just like you do it for “roll over” mode from the left.


Now just tap anywhere on the page to mark the center and move some part of the page to or from it. You can repeat moving as much as you want, it will not disappear until you tap the center again or zoom icon on the right. Same thing can be applied for rotation functionality (circle line will appear then)


Well, that was simple feature, so that’s all for now.

As always I’m waiting for your comments, thanks for reading, take care.



  1. If you are interested in a specific area of the screen e.g. a text block just double tap on it and you will get it fit-to-width. For instance, I just tested with the same hhtp:// . Double tap on the “WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR” column brings that column fitting the width of the N900 display. Double tap again and you are back to full page. Easy and simple.

    Double tap is also very useful when little checkboxes and similar tiny interactive elements don’t get hit at once. The browser is quite clever finding them and activating e.g. a checkbok or a “new” link with tiny font even if your finger is covering a wider area. But if they resist you just double tap, have them really big and press with a knuckle if you wish. ;)

    I personally find the spinning gesture more useful for zooming in/out images and videos. Since I use the browser mostly for reading stuff, I end up using double tap more and I’m really happy with it.

    Comment by qgil — September 4, 2009 @ 08:13

    • Yeah, double tap is very nice, as I can judge by the videos. And I have totally nothing against it, this article is related to the spinning zoom only :) Glad to hear that it’s working better than I expected.

      Comment by Andrew Zhilin — September 4, 2009 @ 11:33

  2. After playing with it, I’m happy with it – yes there’s a bit of fluctuation at the start, but it always works and the feedback response is instantaneous to know if you’re at the width you want yet.

    Double-tap is cool too.

    Comment by Andrew Flegg — September 4, 2009 @ 10:30

  3. Andrew Zhilin – nice ideas :)

    However, while you get more “stability” with that approach, it also requires more gestures and taps than what the N900 does. I guess the designers of N900 just wanted to have directly activating zooming instead or activating a separate “zooming mode”.

    Comment by Mox — September 4, 2009 @ 11:36

    • Yes, maybe you’re right, but this method also adds precise in actions. You can zoom un exactly where you want and rotate exactly how you want, not just zoom in and then pan around in search.

      Comment by Andrew Zhilin — September 4, 2009 @ 18:47

      • I quite like your ideas in expanding the interaction further. Nevertheless, I just want to share this quote which often inspires me.

        “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
        —Antoine De Saint-Exupery

        Comment by Mox — September 9, 2009 @ 17:22

      • Well, I guess that’s how Apple products are born :D Nothing left to take away :)

        Seriously, that’s a tricky quote, you can’t apply it everywhere. For example, we have mobile browser. According to that quote we should hide all the stuff in one menu (to take away all buttons and fields) *or* expose all buttons on the screen (take away all menus). Both solutions are wrong as you noticed. User experience design is not a matter of minimalist solution, it’s a matter of making user forget about UI, to use it like a piano, possibly without even looking at it. That’s my personal opinion of course :)

        Comment by Andrew Zhilin — September 13, 2009 @ 05:10

      • Although it’s quite injustice to start explaining quotes, I think it was never meant to be taken explicitly, nor black-n-white as you seem to think.

        btw. that piano example you give could easily apply to airplane cockpit too. The professional pilots use it without watching or thinking. I know how to play piano, and I think it’s not the easiest interface to music… for example singing is more intuitive :) Not necessarely any easier, but more intuitive.

        Comment by Mox — September 13, 2009 @ 11:43

      • Well, maybe I have some weird point of view, but I don’t like any statements, that can’t be understood directly. I’m not talking about metaphoras, just some cheap talking like this quote. Cause you know, since Exupery is a famous author – everybody starts to search hidden meaning in every word he said, that’s wrong. Human can’t be right every single time, that’s not what destinct genius from ordinary people. Genius can finally come up with Little Prince or Bohemian Rhapsody or whatever, but he will still make mistakes after that, it’s humanity.

        Yes, piano and plane ui are somehow simillar, both have tons of keys/switches but have good logic so you can use it very fluid after some time.

        As for singing, I think it’s more physical thing. Virtually everyone can play piano, but only those who, you know, can sing – can sing.

        Comment by Andrew Zhilin — September 13, 2009 @ 12:22

      • Stuff get’s easily too abstract/philosophical for most people’s liking, but in essence, I think any too explicit guideline will fail to be useful for any larger group of people… unless they adapt it to their purposes, that is.

        On the otherhand, the thoughts of big thinkers, of which I consider Exupery to be one of, are something that you won’t “get it” immediately, but only find meanings to it, as time goes by. And re-discover new points of view along the way. So those kind of things are more like tools for thinking rather than explicit recipes.

        If you find it worth to try to understand what I’m rambling about, there’s one book that talks about this from quite different angle: “Herman Hesse: Siddharta”. Online:, Amazon: It’s not the easiest piece of literature to read, though.

        As for singing. I think everybody can sing, and can learn to sing better, if they want. I do not attach the requirement of professional quality to singing. For example most mothers hum some sort of lullabies or tones to their babies, regardless of whether they are able to perform songs publicly or not.

        By the way, there was this news story about adult japanese business men going to singing schools in droves, as at the time, karaoke was integral and unavoidable part of business negotiations, and business relationship development. Quite funny thing…

        Comment by Mox — September 13, 2009 @ 12:49

      • Ah, well, I can compare that definition of singing with, like, just pressing random keys on the piano :) It sounds, but that’s not music yet :)

        Comment by Andrew Zhilin — September 13, 2009 @ 14:42

      • FWIW, the definition of singing I’m after doesn’t include equality between computer-generated random notes, and a person singing in his own style, with the skills he possesses. The latter is intentionally following a pattern of a song, either already known one, or self-composed. Even very rudimentary “humming” usually has recognizable beginning and end, and/or a recognizable repeating pattern. Not random at all.

        Comment by Mox — September 13, 2009 @ 14:51

  4. Perhaps I’ve missed the preview videos you’ve seen but it seemed to work pretty accurately for its purpose. Although reflowing text and fitting to screen is generally more useful than actual zoom.

    Is this zooming behaviour system wide or just in Maemo Browser / MicroB?

    Comment by Jonathan Pritchard — September 4, 2009 @ 19:53

  5. I might have missed something, but is there not a little clash between this method and bringing up the browser history?
    Both seem to be initiated by sliding in from the right.

    Comment by nj — October 8, 2009 @ 16:22

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