Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Misguided usability “feature” in Safari

Safari_AppleStartPage Finding it necessary to test some features of a web application using Safari, I dutifully downloaded the Windows version and installed it. Upon launch I was greeted with this gaudy home page shown here on the right. Now maybe some people enjoy the tackiness of a supermarket tabloid emblazoned with color and too many things going on at once. In fairness, Apple’s start page is no worse than Microsoft’s MSN property. In all the years of using IE and Microsoft attempting to shove their noisy, bulked up on steroids homepage under foot as the welcome doormat, I’ve dutifully avoided it and set my startup page to Google’s minimalist starting point. To me it’s like the difference between opening my front door and stepping out onto a quiet, country scene or stepping out onto the sidewalk of the Las Vegas strip – to each his or her own.

Safari_setHomePageHowever, when I attempted to switch my home page over to Google I was jarred with this unexpected dialog from those brilliant minds at Apple. How do I put this gently? WTF?!?! What does setting my home page have to do with using the search bar? Don’t they get it? Let me put it to them plainly – I can’t stand your lousy home page and hope to never see it again.

After reflecting for a moment it occurred to me there’s some nefarious programming going on here. It wasn’t a case of them whining about not using their home page, THEY EXPLICITELY CHECKED FOR AND ATTEMPTED TO STOP ME FROM USING GOOGLE AS MY HOMEPAGE!!! They also deflected the issue by directing me to the search bar as though it was a matter of searching. Firefox doesn’t do this. Internet Explorer doesn’t do this. I’m guessing that Opera doesn’t either although I haven’t tried Opera.

It dawned on my that they made an intentional decision to write code that would check if I was switching my home page to Google’s and attempt to warn me off. Someone actually thought up this “feature”, added it to the development tasks, assigned it to a developer to code, wrote a test plan for QA to verify the “feature”, informed the localization team so that it could be translated into however many languages the browser supports and shipped it! How many man-hours of production costs went into this “feature”?

Um…maybe the Apple team (and the users of the software) would be better served by more useful features like a simple, easy way to debug JavaScript instead of this. Today being April 15th in the U.S. I thought it was apropos to mention this little additional “line item” in the Apple Tax.

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