RE: [Epiphany] bookmark system

Firstly, let me say to all of you that nothing I said on the Shrike list
or that I say below is intended to be a flame or a complaint of any
sort. I love the work all of you have done first on Galeon and now on
Epiphany, and I very much support the general GNOME 2 paradigm of
minimal configuration options - things should just work.

What I hope I can offer is simply an anecdotal report of my first two
days of using Epiphany, and respond to some of the things Marco said
from an anecdotal point of view. I'm just trying to supply "data", not
argue for a case.

On Fri, 2003-05-16 at 10:43, wrote:
> I read the the whole thread on the shrike list and there are a few
> things I'd like to clarify:
> - We are very open to problems reports, suggestions ... I'm personally
> proud of the progresses we have been making but that doesnt mean I
> think it's perfect.

You should certainly be proud of Epiphany 0.6 - it's fast, lightweight,
and looks great.

> - We did not try to hack a not traditional bookmarks system just for
> the joy to do it. We believe, and we are not alone, that the
> traditional way of organizing them is just not working for normal
> people. So it's worth to break the old convention to try to reach
> better results.

Yes, I do understand that there are limitations to the traditional
hierarchical bookmarks system, and that not all users are as naturally
organised (well some who know me might be more likely to say
"pathologically anal") as I am. In attempting to innovate you seem to be
striving for a way to allow people to organise their bookmarks and
retrieve them simply (perhaps especially for those people who are
naturally rather disorganised). However, my initial reaction to Epiphany
was that whilst that may be true for some, and even the majority, you
had made my working with bookmarks considerably harder. I wonder if
there is a way to accommodate both people who don't naturally categorise
things hierarchically and those who do at the same time.

> - While our system is quite innovative, the differences from tradition
> can be reduced to:
> 1 It's not possible to organize bookmarks in a multiple level
> hierarchy (like not News->Gnome-> but only
> News->

That was the biggest shock. I let Epiphany import my Galeon bookmarks,
which consisted of about twenty top level categories, each with between
three and ten subcategories, some with yet more sub-subcategories: each
"leaf" contains between five and twenty bookmarks. Once these were
imported into Epiphany I ended up with about 150 topics, which is of
course incredibly hard to use once I (eventually, it was none obvious to
me) discovered "View Bookmarks Bar" and attempted to use the "All"
button as a quasi-bookmark menu of the traditional variety. The menu
runs off screen by some considerable way.

Perhaps if I had started bookmarking sites from scratch with Epiphany it
would have been easier. But importing a hierarchically arranged set of
traditional bookmarks was totally disorienting, and I felt I couldn't
find anything anymore.

> 2 The main way to access bookmarks is the bookmark dialog, not the
> bookmarks menu.

Okay, well that completely passed me by. I didn't even realise that
until I read your mail. I thought that was for editing and organising.
It would not have occurred to me to use it for navigating to my
bookmarked sites. Is there some way that Epiphany could start with this
somehow open and attached to the browser window?

> Submenus are phisically hard to navigate, cannot provide search
> functionalities and cannot integrate editing features (I dont like the
> separation of editing/viewing, manipulating the view directly is more
> usable ihmo).

I personally don't find submenus hard to navigate, but that may be of no
interest whatsoever if there are usability studies which show that the
majority of users do.

I do understand what you mean about integrating editing and searching
features - the trouble is that the dialog as it stands does not
obviously suggest that it is meant to be used for anything but editing
and searching. As I said, it never occurred to me that you were meant to
use it to actually navigate to your bookmarked sites.

> Bookmarks toolbar can provide fast access to categories like News.
> There is also a traditional bookmark menu on it, to keep
> "compatibility" with traditional systems.

Epiphany should start with that displayed by default, as it took me
quite a while to even find it. Of course, if you're going to have an
"All" button on it which simulates a traditional bookmark menu, then it
seems odd to me that you don't simply have a bookmark menu on the menu
bar and be done with it.

Also, in the version I have (0.6 from Red Hat Rawhide) I can't drag and
drop anything from the "All" button to the toolbar, and I can't see any
other way of doing it, so I have this entire toolbar taking up screen
real estate with nothing but an "All" button on it.

> 3 You can associate bookmarks with multiple topics. (for example
> News/Computers)

I can genuinely see the usefulness of that.

> - Please make sure to try at least 0.6 but better 0.7 before sending
> me flames ;)

Well I'm on 0.6 now, and as soon as 0.7 appears on Rawhide I'll install
it. I would never dream of sending you flames!

> Remove the bookmarks.xml file, so that some defaults will be created.
> Without default topics, the system doesnt make sense.

Hmmm. Wouldn't that be cheating? I mean, you want to know about the
experiences of people migrating to Epiphany, and the first thing anyone
will want to do is bring their bookmarks with them. The default topics
were created, although they are empty.

> - Bookmarks are not put in a flat list. You can associate them to
> topics and navigate by topic in the bookmarks dialog.

As I said - it was very non-obvious that that was what the bookmarks
dialog was for.

> - The location entry autocompletion is just a convenience feature, not
> the main way to access bookmarks

With the UI as it is my first impression was that the location bar
autocompletion was the *only* way to access bookmarks. It took me a
while to discover the Bookmarks toolbar, and I never discovered that the
bookmarks dialog was for navigating to bookmarked sites.

Regarding both the location bar autocompletion and the bookmarks dialog,
it seems that (especially given a limited number of top-level topics,
and no subtopics) that the primary way of finding bookmarks is by
searching for them. However, searching for them implies that you
remember their name! I standardly find my bookmarks not by remembering
their name, but by remembering how I categorised them. Also, I bookmark
many sites and enjoy browsing though my hierarchy and discovering things
I'd forgotten about. It seems very hard to do that in Epiphany.

> - Considering the problems an innovative bookmarks system was likely
> to raise, I managed to keep the bookmarks code generic enough to be
> able, for example, to add a traditional Bookmarks menu very easily.


> - Last, designing something different for an important feature like
> bookmarks is difficult and we are not professional ui designers. The
> risk is to not reach good results enough for the change to be worth.
> But I dont think we are totally on crack. Our bookmarks system came to
> be very similar to the Apple Safari bookmarks system, which try to
> solve the same problems. (I started to work on it before Safari was
> made public, so I didnt just copy it ;)

I sincerely congratulate you and the Epiphany team and what you are
trying to do and what you have done so far. Again, I am not trying to
criticise. All of this is intended to be simply a report of my
experience in the hope that it will be useful.

> That's it. If you have more questions, I'll be happy to reply to them.

Likewise. I really hope I can make some small contribution to the design
of the bookmarking system. I think that the idea of a truly innovative
one is very exciting.

Best, Darren

D. D. Brierton  
       Trying is the first step towards failure (Homer Simpson)

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