Firebug Gets A Little Buggy

Firebug is the web developer equivalent of a hammer to a carpenter. In other words without this valuable tool hundreds of thousands would not be able to do their job and make the web what it is today. So even small changes to the interface are going to ruffle some feathers.

I spent a good half day trying to figure out why my precious Firebug wasn’t behaving like its usual self. For one thing, it wasn’t showing JavaScript errors in the status bar icon like it usually does. It also displayed a message saying “Reload to activate window console” whenever I would bring it up. This makes debugging impossible if I have to keep refreshing the page everytime.

It turns out the Firebug developers made a teeny, tiny tweak to the interface. The screenshot on top is the newer Firebug, version 1.4. The bottom half of the screenshot is from an earlier version. See the difference?

Screenshot of Firebug 1.4 vs the older 1.3 interface.

The ‘X’ used to hide the Firebug window in older versions has been replaced with an Off button. Unfortunately the Firebug developers changed the behavior as well. The Off button deactivates Firebug for that website which explains why JavaScript errors disabled in the status icon. The button that I have come to accustomed to for minimizing the Firebug panel is that circular down-ward arrow about 50 pixels away.

This is a usability nightmare!

  1. The hide Firebug functionality isn’t where the user expects it, especially for long-time users who have developed a muscle memory
  2. The Off button is ambiguous to what the action does (a better word would be deactivate, though that doesn’t quite fit)
  3. The Off buttons breaks away from the rest of the paradigm of the interface (icons are for actions like inspect, and pause while words are for different tabs)
  4. and the Off button is a much larger than the minimize button even though the minimize button is used far more frequently than the off button

Firebug 1.4 interface paradigm

I now have to focus in order to minimize Firebug taking mental energy away from my task. If I’m not paying attention I can turn-off Firebug for the site I’m working on and then I would have to reload the page to get it working again. These sound like little things but compounded one hundred times and it can drive you batty.

So while the latest Firebug update is not technically broken, a poor interface decision sure makes it feel like a buggy mess.

Mozilla Should Fix This Firefox Annoyance

This will be straight to the point. Firefox likes to alert me to new updates to my add-ons and extensions when available. Unfortunately it likes to do this when I start up my browser, stopping everything else it was doing until I click the ‘Continue’ button to proceed.

The Firefox add-on updater stops me dead in my tracks.

I like to launch Firefox and my other needed applications while doing something else that needs my attention. The thinking goes that when I return in front of the keyboard all of my tabs from the previous session will be open and ready to go. It’s frustrating to return to a screen staring blankly back at me waiting for me to click a button so it can continue. Once it is done updating it requires me to click a continue button yet again to continue the browser launching process while I stare dumbly back at it waiting to get to my websites.

The fix to this is simple. Since Firefox gives you an option to skip the updates it could have a count down timer of say 30 seconds before it will automatically skip the updates and continue running the browser. A good example of this is the updating mechanism in the anti-virus program AVG Free 7.5.

AVG’s OK Button with a countdown timer

A minor overlooked detail. Nothing to gripe about, I know. But I just like it when software works with me instead of against me. After all software is capable enough to figure out if it interrupts me and I ignore it’s pleas to work around me and do what i wanted it to do in the first place.

On a related note, the Firefox 3 beta 4 update that was released today is screaming. My 867Mhz PowerBook is a blazingly-fast web surfing machine again!

Bland Revisions For

New Design

Kevin Rose’s Internet video startup,, unveiled its new look today. The homepage has been simplified providing an immediate focus with a large feature box that rotates through different site promotions. Each show now has it’s own section which is easily accessible from the “Shows” drop down menu along the top of every page. Streaming video flash players on each episode page have been bumped up to 555×337 which really draws viewers in. Each show has a plethora of different subscription formats which are only a tab away from the recent episode list. The overall restructuring is a welcome improvement, but unfortunately it came at the expense of visual design.

The new color scheme is drab and bland with a “corporate” feeling that first comes to mind. I suppose this is to appeal to advertisers that Revision3 is trying to attract to buy ad inventory but it feels like something from early 2000. The old design (pictured below) felt slick and cutting edge just like the network itself. But the worst offender of this new look is the typography. For one, it is a light gray (hex code #666666) and could stand to be darker (like #333333) for increased contrast and thus increased readability. The line-height is also not set leaving lines scrunched together making it harder to read. In short, the new design is missing the final polish which used to set it apart from other media websites on the net.

Old Design

Daniel Burka has been the lead designer on most of Kevin Rose’s web projects but it looks like he didn’t have a hand in the new He must be too busy working on Digg and Pownce, two sites I really admire from a design perspective. Luckily I have no reason to visit the Revision3 site on a regular basis except to subscribe to new shows. I hope they take a second look at things and update the style to match the new functionality.