Epiphany Redesign

At some point in the future, Epiphany is going to have to update its interface. This page is an attempt to think about how that could be done. Please contribute!

The problem space

What should be the aims of an Epiphany redesign? What problems should it address?

Clean up the toolbar

  • Epiphany's toolbar currently contains many items and looks outdated compared to competitors. It would benefit from being cleaned up.
    • Back/Up/Forward. Back/Forward go together, and Up is probably rarely used. What about a single integrated back/forward toolbar entry? Back is big, forward is relatively small. The "dropdown" arrow makes this especially space-consuming.
    • Likewise with Stop/Reload. Reload probably doesn't make sense when a page is loading, Stop doesn't make sense when you want to reload. Just replace it with one button?

Specifying search engines

  • Epiphany's use of bookmarklets lacks discoverability.

Web applications

  • Some web sites now function like applications. This creates a number of challenges:
    • Desktop integration.
    • Accomodating two distinct types of web browsing behavior: rapid browsing from page to page alongside the permanent opening of a small number of browser windows [1].
  • Form elements are far more common than they used to be. History fails here: back tracing loses submitted form elements [2].

Losing the flow: window and tab multiplication

  • The opening of new tabs and windows has become an increasingly common feature of web browsing behaviour, replacing so called 'hub and spoke' navigation. The multiplication of tabs and windows during navigation creates difficulties for users. Research [1] has found that some users frequently get confused trying to find specific tabs and windows, partly because the titles of tabs and windows are not particularly useful. (AllanDay: I've personally witnessed this. Not pretty.)

  • New windows and tabs break history, making the back button useless in some situations.

Page revisitation: finding the way back

  • In their current form, history and bookmarks is not particularly useful.
    • Evidence suggests that people do not tend to use bookmarks very much [2].
  • Most page revisitation is short term: the 15 most recently viewed pages has been found to account for 88% of page revisits [2]. Short term revisitation centers on the sequence in which pages were visited.
    • The back button works, but isn't particularly effective for going back more than a page or two.
  • Long term revisitation is poorly supported. Research has reported that browser histories go virtually unused [2].
  • Both the history and back button drop-down list only display page titles.

Page noise

  • Many web pages contain huge amounts of noise. This can interfere with reading.

Use cases

These need some work!

  • Allan is shopping for a new sweater. He performs a search on a shopping website. He browses the list of search results. As he does so, he sees a sweater that he likes the look of. He wants to remember this sweater so that he can compare it with any others that he might consider buying, but he also wants to keep on browsing down the list of search results without losing his place.
  • Allan is searching for a recipe for macaroni cheese. He does a Google search and immediately sees three pages which look like they might contain the information he is looking for. He reads each of these pages but none of them contains the recipe. He wants to return to the search results page to see if it contains any results which could contain the inforamiton he is looking for.
  • Allan is looking for a picture of the Effiel Tower for a presentation he is putting together, but his Internet connection is slow and each page he opens takes a long time to load. He wants to view each page that he finds once it has loaded, rather than having to wait for each page to load before moving on to the next.
  • Allan is looking for a flat to rent on Gumtree. He perform a search, producing a long list of adverts. He reviews the results, identifying adverts to fully read. He rejects some of the adverts, leaving a shortlist to chase up. Some of the flats have already been let. He arranges viewings for others. Some do not respond to his calls, and he decides to ring them another time. He repeats this process using slightly different search criteria. Some of the results link to adverts he has already seen - adverts which he has rejected, organised viewings for, or is planning to call later in the day.

Possible approaches

Something like Prism

A page queue

  • Tabs are frequently used in order to queue pages which will be visited in the future. An integrated page queue feature would reduce tab clutter and make queuing discoverable.

Enhanced history

  • Use thumbnails.
  • Communicate the sequence of recent browsing history.
  • Prevent the opening of new windows and tabs.
  • Identify browsing 'hubs' which are likely to be returned to (see Safari's Snapback).

  • Long-term history:
    • Enable the searching of page content from history.
    • Identify key pages which act as anchors in the browsing history. Push them to the top. Seth Nickell's concept for finding files through iterative date comparison might be useful here.

A new home page

  • Something like Chromium's home page, which would display recently closed pages and a list of recent popular pages.

A readability function




  • [1] Weinreich et al (2008) 'Not quite the average: An empirical study of Web use', ACM Transactions on the Web, 2(1): 1-31
  • [2] Obendorf et al (2007) 'Web Page Revisitation Revisited: Implecations of Long-term Click-stream Study of Browser Usage', CHI Proceedings

Useful stuff


  • Why have the toolbar visible at all? Can't we have a + (or something similar) in the top right corner to bring down the location bar and the back/forward/reload buttons? This would probably give epiphany the cleanest look of all browsers. Just an empty window, except for the tabs perhaps. To make it more discoverable. The main problem with this is discoverability as Ctrl+l might not be the best keyboard shortcut to bring up the bars. Maybe do somehing resembling the gnome shell overlay instead, but in the browser window

Apps/Web/Development/FeatureDesign/EpiphanyRedux (last edited 2013-12-11 10:59:19 by WilliamJonMcCann)