Dear web designers: Stop breaking my browser.

I’ve been running in to more and more sites which attempt to override browser features for no apparent reason. We know you can do all kinds of fancy things with CSS and EMCAScript, but that doesn’t mean you should. To pick out two examples I’ve hit in the last few minutes:

The Verge: Uses some sort of dynamic scrolling mechanism, so my scrollbars (and hence indication of length and position) disappear. There is no reason to do that, and it removes features you would otherwise get for free from the browser.

Gmail: For some reason, searches are done with a dynamic page, so the browser’s back button doesn’t take you back to where you were before the search, and even worse, hitting back from a message in the search results doesn’t take you back to the search results. They even replicated the back button in the interface bar because this is obviously how it should work. I leave a persistent Gmail tab up, and probably 1/3 of its reloads are because of this misfeature.

As my adviser is fond of reminding us, you could build a car with a tiller and throttle as easily as a wheel and pedals, and in the early days people did, but we (as a society) picked some acceptable standard interface elements to ease adoption and transitioning between vehicles. Until recently, browsers were one of the few places in computing like that: it didn’t matter what (GUI) platform you were on: the scroll bar moved you around in the page content, and the forward and back buttons moved you between pages you visited in chronological order. Now, the net is full of pages that break that paradigm, and I can’t find any compelling reason to do so beyond “Because we can.” Please stop.

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2 Responses to Dear web designers: Stop breaking my browser.

  1. Sarah says:

    Is the thing with The Verge anything you can get a screenshot of? I’m curious what you’re talking about. I usually read it from my work computer in Windows in Chrome, but looking at it now on my Mac in Chrome I don’t notice anything strange. Of course, with OS X Lion, scrollbars are hidden automatically. I wonder if The Verge is trying to do something like Lion.

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