Since the release of Internet Explorer 8 beta 2, we’ve listened, watched and learned a lot about how people use the new features and our focus has been to refine them for RC1 (the Release Candidate).
This post will give you an overview of the end user changes we’ve made which we’ll discuss in detail over the coming weeks.
In IE8 we made a big push to make sure you can easily get to the sites and use the services you care about. If you’re anything like us, you visit a lot of websites and use a lot of different services or, maybe you’re not like us, and you might have a set of favorites that you stick to. Either way, IE8’s features work together to streamline the experience – it takes fewer clicks and less time. We’ve also worked to get rid of tedious management tasks. Put a favorite on the favorites bar if you want to go there often. Use the Smart Address bar to get to any place you’ve been – favorite or not. Can you still organize the web into folders? Sure, you just don’t have to.
Let’s talk about a few of the changes we’ve made since beta 2.
Some of the first feedback we received concerned the search box’s quick pick. People really liked the visual search suggestions and it created a new usage pattern. Now people have more search providers and they switch between them. For example, I might search for a camera on Live.com and then want to check prices on Amazon. In the past, as soon as I clicked on Amazon, it took me to the site. In RC1, it now shows visual search results for Amazon.
Because of this change, you can refine the search on Amazon, switch over to Ebay or your favorite search engine.
Figure 1: Amazon.com and Ebay.com visual search
Here’s a link to get more search providers to try this out.
We received consistent feedback that people wanted to see more typed URLs. We also saw that the top four items selected from within the Smart Address Bar are: Open a previously typed URL, Open a history item, Delete a typed URL, and Open a Favorite. Conversely, Open feed and Open autocomplete suggestion were rarely selected.
Based on that information, we tuned the experience of the Smart Address Bar. We made feed results optional and hid them by default. We also streamlined the autocomplete suggestion so now it simply shows the Shift+Enter shortcut and not an entire section. This freed up space to show more results in the list – particularly when you click in the Address bar and press the down arrow.
The resulting feature delivers more typed URLs with less visual clutter.
Figure 2: Smart Address Bar -- more typed URLs
The Favorites Bar is the way to keep Web Slices, favorites, and feeds one click away. People wanted to be able to add more to the point that they’d take extra steps to manage them. The most common technique was to rename each favorite in the favorites bar so that it had a shorter name. While this allows you to have more favorites showing, it’s tedious. For those of you that would like to fit more on the favorites bar there’s now a way to customize the bar to show shorter names or even just the favorite’s icon. To try this, right click on the Favorites bar and choose Customize title widths.
Figure 3: Favorites Bar with Long Titles
Figure 4: Favorites Bar with Short Titles
In Beta 2 we introduced InPrivate Browsing and InPrivate Blocking, which help put you in control of data on your shared computer, and as you browse the Web. We heard that some of you wanted the ability to use these features separately, so we’ve done that. We’ve also made numerous other tweaks to the UI based on your feedback – more on that in a later post.
Some other popular features were Tab Groups, New Tab Page, Find on Page, Accelerators, SmartScreen Filter and Web Slices. As we blog more about the details of the IE Release Candidate, we’ll discuss these plus changes to support developers, security, performance and reliability.
We hope you enjoy browsing with the release candidate, and just like with Beta 2, we’d like your feedback and are looking for ways to make IE better.
Paul Cutsinger Principal Lead Program Manager Internet Explorer User Experience
Jess Holbrook User Experience Researcher Internet Explorer