Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Why Firefox 13 'load tabs on demand' is bad UX.

With the new firefox 13, on start-up it does not reload all of the tabs at once.

Theoretically this means firefox loads faster.  Since it only needs to load one website when you restore, not all of them.

This is a great example of a UX/UI app experience that seems good for users, but is in fact bad.  This comes up quite often when optimizing applications, and I have even done this style of optimization in the past.  So I'm using this as a case study in why doing this is not good from a UX perspective.

The Scenario.

I have 8 tabs, and I'm using most of them.

Old firefox behaviour.

  1. Firefox loads, I go away whilst it loads itself, then loads all 8 tabs. I wait.  It takes a while to load - but some stuff can be loaded at the same time, in parallel.  If they are fast pages it is pretty much instant, and I can get to work.
  2. If they are slow pages, then I have to wait once until they are all loaded.  I can go off and do something else until the loads are done.  Or perhaps I can use one of the fast loading pages, whilst the slow ones load in the background.  Browser usage is sluggish, and not all that responsive - but usable.

New firefox behaviour.

  1. Firefox loads, I go away whilst it loads. I wait.
  2. I come back to see the firefox home page.
  3. I have to find the "Restore" button.
  4. I click "Restore" button.
  5. One tab starts reloading, I wait.  I go away to do something else.
  6. I come back, because I need Tab 3.
  7. I click on Tab 3.  It reloads, and I wait.
  8. I go away, and come back to Tab 3.
  9. Later I need to use Tab 5.  I come to browser, click Tab 5, it reloads.. I wait.
  10. [Repeat waiting 5 more times]...
  11. I wait.
  12. I wait.
  13. I wait.
  14. I wait.
  15. I wait.
The other option is I click all of the tabs to get them loading... but that takes longer than the old firefox behaviour, and requires a lot more effort on my part.


From the above scenario, you can see a lot more waiting with the new firefox 13.

I think it is a bad 'solution' they have chosen.  This is also a good example, of why combining the wait times for users is usually a better option than making them wait multiple times.

The best solution is to make website loading quicker, or more responsive whilst other tabs are loading.  Perhaps by giving background tabs a lower priority.  Or just go back to the old behaviour... [starts hunting for the correct about:config option].

Their solution is probably ok for the 50+ tab using people though.  For that use case, there are probably better heuristics though.  How about, reloading say 8 tabs at once, but restoring the 8 most used tabs, and leaving the rest to load on demand.  Or something else... ?


Matt Brubeck said...

No need for an about:config option. Just open the Firefox options window and turn off "Don't load tabs until selected."

Angus said...

right click on any tab and pick reload all tabs.

Ken said...

@Angus: good trick, thanks.

@notme: Your right. And I imagine they are on the path to making it work best for 8 tabs and 50 tabs, as you said. I know my 'improvements' are usually 2 steps forward one step back.

Mitch Davis said...

The auto-load is annoying me. I often have 80-100 tabs open at a time, but I may only have content loaded into about 20 of them. Firefox is snappy with 20 content tabs, but after three days, Firefox slows down so much that I have to restart it. The good thing is that all my tabs are preserved. The bad thing is that Firefox now loads every tab as I'm Ctrl-Tabbing my way through the tabs trying to find the one I want.

I have deselected "Don't load tabs until selected", but as expected, that only affects what happens at start up, not when I select the tab.

Hate hate hate!

Mitch Davis said...

If anyone has a workaround, please do tell!

Marc Cote said...

@Matt Brubeck, Thank you, thank you, thank you. How annoying this was.

peter said...

Thank you so much. I never have more than a few tabs open at the same time - seven or eight at most - and I don't want to waste my time waiting for each tab to (re)load as I move between them (even if I was viewing the tab ten seconds ago). It's another example of a company that knows what is good for me, even if they're wrong. You know, like Microsoft.

P.S. After unchecking "Don't load tabs until selected," restart the browser for the (anti-)setting to take effect.

天龙 said...

I think this should be titled "Why not to read the 'What's New' page that Firefox shows with each update is bad"... As usual, Firefox introduces new features and provide config, settings and fallbacks to deal with them.
For me this is a useful feature. I open the browser and can access the critical tabs ASAP.
I would love for Chrome to have them too.

LukeStanley said...

It could use a screenshot shown straight away for most cases, and a 'hibernated' HTML + JS state being restored would be neat.

eltranced said...

you see the benefit with restarts... restarting doesnt take forever now... as youre not waiting for all tabs to come back...