This is my first shot at UIs.

I drew some sketches of a web browser that combines a menu button with the title bar. I placed the menu button beside the MMC (Minimize-Maximize-Close) buttons, puts basic browser controls and extra stuff on the left, placing the tab bar below it.

One thing I noticed about Firefox (4.0 in Windows) and Chrome (basic layout) is that they attempted to compress the menu bar into a button (although in Firefox you can opt for a full menu bar). In the sketch I tried to consolidate the basic functions to further allow bigger webpage screen coverage, I also tried to remove the address bar and search bar.

Would this require a large and long learning curve before being accustomed to it? Here's a link to my sketch.

  • Hard to say, but do consider the fact that you are mixing OS window controls with the content controls of the window. This will take some effort on the user's part to discern between the two. – DA01 Jan 9 '11 at 15:54
  • If the buttons were distinctly spaced, like some 10px gap between the MMC and the Menu button, will the part of discernment be a little shorter? =) – Rek Jan 10 '11 at 4:20
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    A screenshot/sketch would help a lot. – peterchen Jan 10 '11 at 6:44

I have to second Hisham's comments here: why would you want to do this? If it's really an attempt to save screen estate, bear in mind that it's a TINY amount that you're saving, and please weigh this up against this drawbacks: namely, going against the user's expectations. Whilst many people won't be too adversely affected by this difference, some - particularly novice users - might well be confused by the fact that your application behaves differently from the others they're used to using.

You mention Firefox and Chrome's display of the menu under Windows. This is something I strongly disagree with; in short, window decorations should be the responsibility of the window manager/OS, and not for each and every application to define.

Also, I can't quite tell from your sketch, but it looks as if you've taken over the entire title bar. If that's true, be aware that you're disabling the standard functionality of the title bar (such as dragging to move the window).

  • I read your blog post, you have a strong point. This makes me remember about IE9's 'cleverly thought-out' but confusing menu layout. Anyway, not all applications set their own window decorations, but it doesn't mean all applications should strictly comply to everything that the user wants, in my opinion. That would make them 'like the rest of them'. =) – Rek Jan 10 '11 at 13:25
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    I haven't tried IE9 yet, but I'll take your word for it! I agree that there can be some edge cases w.r.t. UI where creativity and experimentation can be beneficial. However, I think those are rare cases, and your application should only experiment with its domain as opposed to that of the OS. – Bobby Jack Jan 10 '11 at 16:20
  • And also, you're right, I didn't noticed that I removed some functionality. By aiming to compress the browser functions, I almost forgot that. Well, I think it's because I was assuming that the window would be in a maximized state. I still need to re-think the sketch if I want it for un-maximized window states. Thanks =) – Rek Jan 11 '11 at 11:26

The first thing that comes to mind is: why?

You described the non-standard UI that you are trying to design without describing the purpose and the benefits to the user. From your question regarding the user's learning curve, you are obviously aware that you are treading on uncharted territory. For this to be worth the risk, there should be a clearly defined objective(s), e.g. design saves 10% screen real estate, or users will find UI very fast to use once they get used to it.

Keep in mind Apple's own experience with Safari 4.0. They attempted to have the tabs on top instead of bottom, as users were accustomed to:

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They ended up backtracking due to negative user feedback.

  • Now that you mentioned it, thanks for reminding me =) I'll edit my post and add it. – Rek Jan 10 '11 at 12:16

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