Part I: Better Everyday Browsing

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Windows Internet Explorer Engineering Team Blog

Part I: Better Everyday Browsing

Hi, my name is Paul Cutsinger and I’m the Lead Program Manager for the IE8 User Experience.

As Dean mentioned in his beta 2 announcement post, for IE8 we focused on improving people’s everyday browsing experience – what they do all the time. We looked closely at what people do and how they do it to design ways to make their browsing even better. For all of the top usage patterns, we looked for ways to reduce steps, introduce new capabilities, and improve on how people actually browse. 

In this post, I’ll discuss a small sampling of IE8’s new features that make everyday browsing faster and easier. Future posts will cover each of these, and other, features in more depth.

Smart Address Bar

Based on our observations of IE7 and IE8 Beta 1 usage, we learned that roughly 80% of the time people’s destination on the web is a previously visited site. In the past, people would use their Favorites or History, or they’d just go through all the steps to navigate to the website again.

The Smart Address Bar enables you to find Favorites and sites in your history by just typing a few letters. That’s much fewer steps than using the Favorites and History center. We also added the capability to search the title, web address and even folders for those who have organized their favorites. This means that you’ll find sites even if type something other than just the first part of the web address. To make it easier to find what you’re looking for, we group the results and highlight the matched text.

IE8 Smart Address Bar

Favorites Bar

One click access is ideal for the sites and information you want frequently and you can use the Favorites Bar to do this. You can now add favorites, feeds, Web Slices and folders to the Favorites Bar for one click access. It’s also one click to add a favorite to the Favorites Bar.

Many people make a habit of checking back on certain sites like email, auctions, news and blogs many times a day. Well, it’s great that these can be just one click from the Favorites Bar but, it’s really only interesting to see these pages when they’ve changed. So, feeds and Web Slices will turn bold, like an unread email, when there’s something new to see. Now you’ll know that there will be something interesting even before you click.

IE8 Add to Favorites Bar Button

New Tab Page

When people open a new tab, they’re about to go to a website. So, we looked for ways to make that as fast and easy as possible. They could use the address bar or the Favorites Bar. They could also use the Search Box with its Visual Search suggestions new to Beta 2. Those are all great ways to go to a website. While studying usage patterns, we found a few other opportunities to refine the experience even more. Now, from the new tab page, you can immediately start common navigation tasks like reopening a closed tab or starting an InPrivate Browsing session.

All of these come together to help you get to the websites you want with the fewest possible steps and without needing to hunt through the menus to figure out how.

IE8 New Tab Page

Tab Grouping

We’re seeing an emerging tab trend where people open several pages so they can read them later. For example, they might be reading a news article or blog and then they open some of the links in new tabs as they go so they can finish reading and easily come back when they’re done to read the related pages.

We love tab browsing, but it’s easy to get confused where all the tabs came from. IE8 opens keeps these pages grouped together and color codes them. As you close tabs in a group, IE takes you to the next one in the group; similarly, if you open more tabs from the first site, IE appends them to the group rather than adding them to the end of all the tabs. With this, it’s easy to read and use all the related pages together. We’ll be blogging in more detail about this feature (and others) over the next few days.

IE8 Tab Grouping

Find on Page

We’d heard from many, many users that the Find dialog in IE6 and IE7 was always getting in the way, making it hard to actually find content on the page. So, we’ve added a Find bar at the top of the page (finally!) that lets you more easily find content on the page.

This is an example of how we’ve simplified experiences to remove subtle but significant extra user effort.

IE8 Find On Page

Faster and Easier throughout the product

As you use the beta and read the deeper feature blog posts, you’ll see more examples of how we made browsing easier like how we highlight the domain in the address bar for quick visual scanning. You’ll also see how we made browsing even better with service connected features like Visual Search, Accelerators, and Web Slices in part 2 of this post.

I hope you’ll enjoy how much faster and easier browsing is with IE8. I look forward to hearing your feedback on the beta.

Paul Cutsinger
Lead Program Manager

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