[uf-discuss] Microformats gets strong showing in Firefox 3 UI

Alex Faaborg faaborg at mozilla.com
Tue Jun 5 21:09:27 PDT 2007

Hey, I'm working with Mike Kaply on microformat support in Firefox 3,  
and I would love to get feedback from this group on the user  
interface design.

To answer a few questions that have been raised in this thread:

> if you could tell me the correct
> place to let the Mozilla folks know about this - they should be
> careful about changing the cursor for a microformat - sometimes an
> hCard, for example, will be the whole page

Yeah, Mike Kaply and I have been thinking about edge cases like  
this.  One possible solution would be to create some heuristics for  
determining if a microformatted content area is too large to change  
the cursor, and also provide a way for Web sites to directly control  
if the cursor changes or doesn't change.

> I'm still waiting for someone to come up with the
> "perfect" microformats UI.

Changing the cursor isn't perfect, but it is the only way for the  
browser to provide a visual cue of contextual action without directly  
modifying the page itself, which is why this is the best solution I  
have heard so far.

I think there are a few things we could do to improve the interface  
further include outlining the microformatted content on hover  
(Operator 0.7 and later tried this), and possibly flashing the  
microformatted content areas on page load.  I also like the user  
interface for viewing tagged sections of images on Flickr:  http:// 

> If an on-hover cursor change could indicate microformats for mouse- 
> users, how might keyboard access to microformats work?

We will need to provide a keyboard interface in secondary UI for  
accessibility.  Overall, microformats are great for accessibility due  
to the number of steps they eliminate for tasks like adding something  
to your calendar.

> The cursor thing could be in addition to other ways (that don't
> exhibit MMN) of getting at Microformats.

The cursor change isn't technically mystery meat navigation, since  
you can hopefully see what you are hovering over, and the icon of the  
application that is going to launch is appended to the cursor.   
However, I have heard this UI compared to a mid 1990s adventure game :)

We will likely have some type of interface to view all of the  
microformatted content on the page, but we haven't decided on what.   
A rather comprehensive list of various options is here:

> I hope that the Operator will show the Firefox crew that  
> Microformats isn't clitter.

The creator of Operator, Mike Kaply is also writing the microformat  
implementation for Firefox 3, so technically "Operator" and "the  
Firefox crew" are the same person.

In terms of clutter, the right side of the location bar is quickly  
turning into the equivalent of the Windows system tray: the random  
place where you stick your extra stuff (locks and RSS icons and  
microformat icons, etc).  As we start to rethink the overall browser  
UI, we will hopefully find a better place to put these types of  

> only if the users don't use it it becomes clutter

If the user is viewing a page with microformats and RSS through a  
secure connection, they will have a yellow location bar containing a  
favicon, lock icon, feed icon, and microformat icon.  We are worried  
that this is too much visual clutter.  Options include things like  
merging the feed icon and microformat icon, taking security UI out of  
the location bar, moving some of these things to secondary UI, etc.

> what would clutter Firefox is when it intrudes into my webpage

In a lot of cases it is easier to directly interact with information  
in the page than it is to find it in a menu somewhere.  For instance,  
if you want to map a single item in a list of 100 items, you don't  
want to do a visual scan for the same item in a menu, you just want  
to click on it.

We are of course going to allow Web sites to provide their own UI for  
interacting with microformats as well, but I personally think we  
should provide a good default interface.

Discussion of microformat support in Firefox 3 in the Mozilla  
community is going on here: http://groups.google.com/group/ 


On Jun 5, 2007, at 1:24 PM, Pelle W wrote:

> On 6/5/07, Montgomery, Mike <MMontgomery at terpsys.com> wrote:
>> I like the idea of an icon that is activated when microformat  
>> content is
>> available as mentioned by Paul.  It would provide an immediate visual
>> cue that information is available without direct user interaction  
>> such
>> as having to hover of content or right-clicking.  It would also  
>> provide
>> a way to indicate information that may be hidden on the page.  I  
>> picture
>> it being similar to the RSS feed icon.  Maybe it is something that  
>> also
>> appears in the address bar.
> I also agree with Mike, Paul and others here. I read that someone  
> raised the question about keyboard navigation and the only real  
> solution to that problem I think would be to lift microformats out  
> of the actual webpage and into the the browser UI.
> Mike Kaply wrote:
>> I'm considering experimenting with putting a microformats icon on the
>> URL bar similar to the RSS icon, but that would be Operator only. The
>> Firefox folks specifically don't want to clutter up that bar.
> That would be the absolutely best solution - I hope that the  
> Operator will show the Firefox crew that Microformats isn't clitter.
> Mike Kaply wrote:
>> The basic problem with Firefox is that they don't want to clutter  
>> the UI
>> with something that might not be used a lot (this is a statement  
>> about
>> all microformats in the UI)
> What they referrer to here is whether the users will actually use  
> the microformats and not if the developers will support it - right?  
> Because if the developers don't support it it won't clutter the UI  
> - only if the users don't use it it becomes clutter.
> I personally think that microformats support would be more popular  
> than RSS-support. The latter has only been adopted by some people  
> and have a bit of a learning curve - a microformat almost doesn't  
> have a learning curve because it is information in a way we've all  
> already worked with.
> I personally would say that what would clutter Firefox is when it  
> intrudes into my webpage. What wouldn't clutter Firefox is a  
> friendly notification of the presence of some hidden data.
> / Pelle
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