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Building a Better Back Button 367

Justin Macfarlane writes "From Stuff: 'Net surfers use the back button more than any other key. A computer scientist has made the command more useful, writes Will Harvie.'"
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Building a Better Back Button

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  • it be nice (Score:2, Interesting)

    if certain people [] didn't abuse the back button, either...
  • 2002 Dupe? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:01AM (#5293907)
    Dupe from Last Year [].
  • by m00nun1t ( 588082 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:03AM (#5293916) Homepage
    Google cache here [].
  • Back button. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 13Echo ( 209846 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:04AM (#5293921) Homepage Journal
    I stopped using my back button when I used to use Opera. Tabbed browsing eliminated my need for a back button (in most cases), and kept my browsing organized. Now, Mozilla and Phoenix support this. It's a great feature. Try using it and you will see that your back button gets only a small fraction of the use that it once had.
    • Re:Back button. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:13AM (#5293976) Homepage Journal
      I use phoenix, and I use tabbed browsing. But it has definitely not eliminated the need for a back button. I still use it quite often. Given, not as often as I used to, but saying tabs eliminate the need for the back button is silly. I open a link in a new tab, when it makes sense to. I mean, sure you can emulate this new back button by opening everything in a new tab, and never closing them, but that's rather silly. I also use my bookmarks very effectively. According to these guys I am in the minority. I have 7 folders of bookmarks, each with 4 to 10 pages in them. Every day I go down one by one and open the folders in tabs, one at a time, until I've visited all my sites. Saves lots of time.
      But, if I'm browsing around I might keep google in one tab, and then when I click a search result, open it in a new tab. But I'm not going to put every page of a 10 page article in a new tab. And if I'm in a forum, I'm not going to open everything in a new tab either. I'll end up having un-updated threads, post windows, and a big mess.
      So, I use the back button less, but not that much less. And I use tabbed browsing and bookmarks about as efficiently as you can. Can I get this new better back button as a phoenix plugin?
      • What we really need is a "South" button. Maybe a "West" button would be nice too, but we could eliminate "North" and "East" since there is really no need to really go there.

        M$ Explorer XP5000
    • My back-button usage probably stayed about the same when I switched to Opera, but I like using it a lot more now. Why? Because it is so fast. You click back, and you're there, not "You click back, wait a few seconds and you're there"
    • Re:Back button. (Score:5, Informative)

      by inerte ( 452992 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:20AM (#5294028) Homepage Journal
      Don't forget that you can go back a page with your mouse. Deafult configuratios is hold right button and click left button.

      Forward is reverse, hold left and click right.

      And since Opera (by deefault) doesn't reload backed or forwarded pages, this operation is very fast.

      Not to mention gestures: Hold right button and move mouse to the left, you are back. Hold right button and move mouse to the right, and you go forward.

      Frankly, Opera kick ass ;-)
      • Gesture based back/forward would seriously annoy the piss out of me. I'm no doubt a freak in this regard, but I like to randomly press my mouse keys and move the mouse around :-p
        Guess my mouse hand gets bored while I'm reading the page and just does stuff to stay busy.

        But then, I assume it would be a configurable option, so probably nothing to worry about.

        As for tab replacing back, I had been using "Open in New Window" for years before I switched to Mozilla, so the tabs just replaced new windows for me. I only rarely use the back button in any event.

        I started doing that because browsers, astonishingly [to me], did not use cached pages when using the back button. Which boggles my mind as it is completely obvious to me that that is what they should do. Especially if the page took a long time to load (e.g. heavy congestion, or high bandwidth site) or if you're on a slow connection (which many people were years ago, and quite few still are today).

        If you know you are going back to a given page, better to open a new window (or tab) and leave the old page open so you don't have to wait for the reload.

        But then, I have some ideas for automobile design that seem completely obvious to me that could have been done 50 years ago that apparently nobody else has thought of yet :-p
      • Re:Back button. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jugalator ( 259273 )
        I still think it's faster if you happen to own a 5-button mouse. Click, you're back. Click, you go forward. :-)

        Hmm... Didn't know about that Right Button + Left Button to get back. Interesting.

        If only Opera could offer the same middle-click on a link => open tab in background as in Phoenix. That's a shortcut I'd kill for. :-)
    • The article divides up usage patterns of the back button in to modalities. the main one being jumping back to the portal entry page after burrowing down a thread. this is exactly what the SAFARI snapback does.
    • I have to agree. When I finally switched to tabs (month or 2 after mozilla made them available) I started to wonder how I ever made do before without them.

      The forward and back buttons are now fairly useless.

      Is this pdf trying to implement something similar to the new thing on Safari? Flash back or whatever they call it?
    • I mostly use middle-click to open new tabs in the background (in mozilla) and just kill the tabs when I've finished with them. I almost never use the back button any more.
    • Re:Back button. (Score:3, Informative)

      by nil_null ( 412200 )
      I really like what Opera did with the Forward button. Do a Google search, and you can use the Forward button (or the equivalent keyboard keys) to go forwards through the search result. I just tried it on a review site and it worked on one of the reviews! It appears that Opera will allow you to use forwards on any page with a "Next" link.

      I've been waiting for this feature for a long time, to the point that I've thought of writing it myself. As a simple solution, I thought about making a macro that used Mozilla's type-ahead find to click on Next. I got tired of scrolling down to the end of the page and finding and clicking the Next button over and over again.

      Well, now Opera has this much needed feature, and hopefully the other browsers will copy it from them.

      Back button improvement? Nah, forward button is what needs the improvement...
    • It's a great feature. Try using it and you will see that your back button gets only a small fraction of the use that it once had.

      I don't buy this. Tabs are no big deal, I just open new browser windows instead. When using Mozilla, I always open a web page in a new window rather than a new tab. Far more used to organising browser windows like that than having a load of tabs.
    • I stopped using my back button when I used to use Opera. Tabbed browsing eliminated my need for a back button (in most cases), and kept my browsing organized. Now, Mozilla and Phoenix support this.

      I wouldn't say 'eliminated' but it certainly cuts it down, especially when googling for info, I don't have to find my google search in the back button anymore. (I don't use any sidebar searching because sidebar searches don't give you all the info.)

      And, BTW, Konqueror 3.1 also supports tabbed browsing now too. Phoenix rocks, and its way faster than mozilla, but it still doesn't beat Konq for speed and stability. NOt to mention Konq supports subpixel antialiasing (great for LCD panels ;) out of the box, while Phoenix requires some tweaking. (To be fair, Phoenix isn't releasable yet either).

    • What would be nice.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @11:18AM (#5294425) Homepage Journal
      Would be disabling javascript on selected pages. I.e. the ability to right-click->open-page-in-new-window/tab-with-java -disabled

      I think I could love that. Oh, and the ability to disable page reloads on back.

      One of the worse offenders IMHO is Google when opening cached copies or a failed search, but automatic search on something it thinks is like the search item. I'd rather a failure and leave it at that, perhaps with the hint of other possibilies, but the auto thing is a bastard.

  • by mschoolbus ( 627182 ) <> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:04AM (#5293926)
    Building a better back better back button!
  • Well, crap. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KefkaFloyd ( 628386 )
    The site's already timing out. I like the back button, and any method to improve it (like the nice contextual menus that appeared in NS4 and IE4) would be a boon to my productivity. The article is the most scientific explanation of the "Back" button ever. However, some of the stuff they talk about sounds a lot like a function cured by Apple's SnapBack feature in Safari.
  • This is a well-done study the highlights not only a proposed better use of the back button, but illustrates the hard science and methodology of usability studies. If we plan to break free of the standard keyboard-and-screen interface, studies such as these are the foundation. and what pretty pictures, too!
  • Entropy (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pac ( 9516 ) <> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:05AM (#5293931)
    Are we now losing energy at every interaction? Are duplicates suffering entropic information loss? I am just asking this because last year this same story was much better.
  • Well, (Score:3, Funny)

    by Omkar ( 618823 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:06AM (#5293935) Homepage Journal
    I don't know about you, but for me, the back button is a little thing on a toolbar, not a key.
  • Where's the Info? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by metal_llama ( 585304 ) <wmf22&cornell,edu> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:09AM (#5293954) Homepage Journal
    So they've programed a great back button. Cool. Now, I love the back button and all - I use it a lot - but I generally like to have a browser to go along with it. This makes no mention of the idea actually being implemented in any current or future browser.
  • Loving Snap-back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Space Coyote ( 413320 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:09AM (#5293957) Homepage
    I personally love the Snap-back feature built into Safari, where, for example, if you do a google search, go to a result page, go several links deep and realize this isn't what you want, you just click the snap-back button and you're right back to your search results. This goes a long way to reducing my dependence on tabbed browsing, and is probably more intuitive for novice websurfers.

    It works in a generic way for all websites, too, not just google, which is great.
    • by Moloch666 ( 574889 )
      Although this does sound like a nice useful feature. It seems it would still make more sense to open your results in a new window or tab. That way even if you found something you want, but you want to keep on searching it's still there. Then if you decided that it isn't what you were looking for you can close it and continue searching.
    • I personally love the Snap-back feature built into Safari, where, for example, if you do a google search, go to a result page, go several links deep and realize this isn't what you want, you just click the snap-back button and you're right back to your search results.

      Whats the difference between this and hitting the little arrow next to the "Back" icon and selecting the Google page?

      Or in CrazyBrowser [] (and probably others), right clicking the tab and selecting "Tab Home"?

  • by nesneros ( 214571 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:09AM (#5293958) Homepage
    If I hit back enough do I end up using NCSA Mosaic? Or do I just end up in gopher?
    • by Pac ( 9516 )
      You keep hitting back in OpenOffice and end up in vi. You hit back too much in Chatzilla and find yourself in talk.

      You backtrack in VisualAge for Java and end up in Simula. Keep going and your code become FORTRAN.
  • Snap Back (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Petrox ( 525639 )
    Apple's web browser, Safari, has a rather elegant alternative: the SnapBack feature. If you type in a web address and then dig deep into nested set of links, you can go back to your original page with the click of a button. You can set any page to be the page you snap back too as well. Makes for very quick and easy googling!
  • by Wolfier ( 94144 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:10AM (#5293963)
    Make it skip those advertising links and go back to the first non-ad location.

    Those back-button-disabled sites annoy me. It is MY back button, not doubleclick's.
  • naively written (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thegoldenear ( 323630 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:11AM (#5293968) Homepage
    the article says "(just 2 per cent of people use history, says some mid-1990s research)"
    and how many people were using the web in the mid 90s?

    and "Microsoft even gave a laptop computer and other support to the cause"
    wow. a laptop.
  • by EvilBuu ( 145749 ) <> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:11AM (#5293970) Homepage
    If within half an hour of posting a story thirty readers have identified the story as a dupe, there must be some way the /. eds could just run submissions through a filter to detect dupes or not. 'Cause they sure ain't catching them on their own.
  • by Big Mark ( 575945 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:12AM (#5293973)
    I use Phoenix and the mouse gestures plugin; this means I end up using the "open in new tab", "change tab" and "close tab" mouse gestures almost exclusively.

    However, there is also a "go back" gesture, quite possibly the simplest of them all, and do you want to know what site caused me to use this quick escape?


    Now, that's one back button I don't want to EVER have to press!

    • Or whatever your browser uses for user-defined style-sheets:
      /* Blacklist link (Mozilla) -- Blocks */
      text-decoration: line-through ! important;
      color: brown ! important;
      that will mark all links brown with a line through them. Never be fooled again.

      My apologies as I forget who to credit for this, but is was posted in a recent Slashdot story about how to block ads and such using your UserContent.css or whatever equivalent. I hope this helps to make your browsing a less visually-dangerous experience as it has for mine.

      Cheers. :)

  • by loveandpeace ( 520766 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:12AM (#5293974) Homepage Journal

    it took them eight years to figure out that people use the Back button even though they don't understand it???

    puh-leez. i want a job on this team.

    • Sorry (Score:4, Funny)

      by Pac ( 9516 ) <> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:31AM (#5294095)
      The Department of Web Browser Backtracking and Forwarding Studies has no open positions at this time. Leave your resume and phone number at the receptionist desk and we will let you know when an opportunity for re-applying arrises.
    • It only took /. a year to remember that this story was already posted?

      It looks like Taco and crew need to go to some inefficency workshops, and improve their dupe to original story ratio. They may just show those 'Back' button researchers what true geeks are made of!

      • they take a lot of grief for duplicate stories, but let's face it: in web time a year is forever. How many stories have they posted in that time?

        what they need is not (in)efficiency studies or any workshop of any kind. what they need is a librarian.

  • To the days before pop-up ads and neverending torrents of spam!
  • 0.002 seconds saved (Score:5, Interesting)

    by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:15AM (#5293990) Homepage

    Shaving even 0.002 seconds off the back command is worthwhile because millions of button clicks worldwide will be a little more efficient, he says. "If we can save a tiny bit of frustration and confusion, that's the way to improve computer interfacing."

    Well I'm glad they clarifyed that little detail, now I can sleep better at night knowing I've shaved a few clock cycles off my daily routine. I dread to think what the 'analysts' would say if they heard that, we'll be saving X amount of money per fiscal year by using this new back button... kinda straight out of Dilbert!

    On a side note, (when I use Mozilla or Opera) the tabs come in handy... or if using IE, I tend to open most pages in new browser windows, so I have pages available at hand (still on dialup, so it does make a difference)... hehe maybe they're right about the 0.002 seconds!

    • I've actually seen someone go so far as to state that an undetectable savings adds up world wide, and thus saves *me* frustration and confusion.

      "Why yes, we made the red light 0.002 seconds shorter. Sure you don't notice it, but just think how many people drive through that light every day. It adds up to a total savings of ten seconds a day. Wouldn't you like to get home ten seconds quicker?"

      I'd like to know what brand of coffee they've been drinking. It must be kick ass stuff.

      These are the same people who think saving me ten seconds a day on mouse movement makes me more productive. They don't know me very good, do they? Here's a clue interface optimization guy, mouse movements don't come out of my productive time, they come out of my staring into space and making pointless movements to make it *look* like I'm being productive time.

      People aren't machines. If we don't bloody well feel like being productive we'll fuck your efficiency plans every time.

      We always have.

  • by slashbofh ( 622003 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:16AM (#5293999) Homepage
    One thing that has always irritated me about the back button is the lack of a 'tree' effect. In the notation of the paper, lets say I did this:

    Now with the stand back button, or even their modified results, I tend to see:

    [b,a], where what I would like to see is something like:

    [b, [c,d] , a]

    I like mouse gestures, and I find the only one I really ever use is back, and tabbed browsing does get rid of a lot of the single back, but I'm suprised that this 'tree' view hasn't been investigated/implemented.

    • by MattJ ( 14813 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @11:30AM (#5294500) Homepage
      "but I'm suprised that this 'tree' view hasn't been investigated/implemented."

      Oh, but it has. You're describing HistoryTree, my award-winning browser plugin from 1996:-)

      Here, check the Wayback Machine: /s

      -Matt Jensen
    • by jtheory ( 626492 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @11:40AM (#5294563) Homepage Journal
      The "tree" idea won't really catch on simply because most of the alternate branches tend to be mistakes, deadends, etc..

      I think most of the time when you hit a link, back out, and go somewhere else, it's because you didn't find what you wanted. Obviously this isn't always true, but even if it's only true 90% of the time, all of those stumpy little branches on the tree are just extra, unwanted info that will confuse the user.

      I'm curious to see if research would agree with me.... maybe the tree view would be useful if it only saved alternate branches more than 1 link long.

      Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
      Albert Einstein
  • I think the best innovation in back buttons is by far the 5 button mouse. It makes it so your mouse never has to leave the actual page (to go to a toolbar).

    But more importantly, it rationalizes the existance of the pinky.
  • Mouse Gestures (Score:2, Informative)

    I've been a Phoenix user for some time now, and I really find it superior to IE in many ways. Why? Tabbed browsing, the ability to customize it, great community support, and the most important factor to me.... the Optimoz project [] and it's implementation of mouse gestures.

    I'd estimate that I use Phoenix 99.9% of the time I'm browsing, thus... I use IE sparingly. When I do use IE, I can notice the difference in ease of use almost immediately.

    To me, there is no dilemma in terms of what browser to use. Phoenix/Mozilla and far superior to IE, not to even mention Opera's superiority to it.

  • You can make a science out of the "back" buttons on web browsers? What next, leisure and sport science?
  • Back and snapback (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bpbond ( 246836 )
    Apple's new browser (Safari) has a "snapback" feature, in effect a second back button that goes back in the stack to the last page loaded via a typed-in URL or bookmark. The user can also mark any page to be snapped back to.

    This addresses one of the issues the authors of this study are looking at (getting out of a deeply-nested site), without modifying the familiar stack-based 'back' behavior used by all browsers.
  • Maybe is just me, but looking that page thumbnails I will tend to force my eyes to get more details of what I viewing, this could cause more visual fatigue?

    Also in the scheme where you go a -> b -> c -> d <- c <- b and then the browser history state results of [a, d, c, b] could lead to some non clear transitions (i.e. the back page of d is a) if I don't misunderstood, that can be more confusing.

    Anyway, middle mouse button + browser tabs + maybe mouse gestures + a bit of common sense seems to improve a lot the defects of poor back button design.
  • FFS! (Score:3, Funny)

    by kahei ( 466208 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:19AM (#5294022) Homepage

    It's a stack of visited pages... but instead of being wiped when the process ends, it's persistant, like a history list! Incredible! I'm amazed they haven't patented it yet!

    I'm sorry. I don't normally post 'this article sucks' posts, but in this case, it's just so incredibly pathetically tragic, that I just had to. Once again, I'm sorry, and so I'm sure is the guy who posted this wholly and unforgivably lame article.

    If he isn't sorry, that is a problem and should be fixed

  • First, I like the idea of a gesture based back and forward button. I know I use those buttons often. However, they implented it using client-side Javascript code on the page, which seems strange. Also, they made the gesture a left-click and then a flick of the mouse either left or right. That also seems like a weird way to input the gesture. If you happen to be over a link when you left-clicked, it might follow through the link. I would rather see gesture only, or perhaps a right click and gesture.

    It is a good idea though. I believe it says that Opera and a certain version of Netscape support it now.

  • IE has an annoying habit of clearing the text boxes of a page when I get a timed out page and hit the 'back' button, say when posting to /. (slower than ever!?)

    Chimera and Phoenix keep that information in the box, saving me from having to copy the text, just in case.

    A feature I would like similar to 'back' would be to reopen the last page I was on when I last closed the browser. Often, I close the window and find that I still need some info that was on that last page. I hate browser history ie: I have that turned off, so I can't hunt through the history to quickly find the page.

    That feature would be nifty. Or something to make me less of a spaz.

    • Opera both preserves text in text boxes when using Back and also let you restore the browser state, down to the tabs opened and the amount you've scrolled down on each tab, when you open the browser. You can also configure Opera to start with a saved tab configuration, much like I think Phoenix let you do as well.
    • Yes, having a new browser window remember the "back" of the most recently closed browser would also be very handy to me as well.
      Ah well.
  • So, they have a back button that is linear instead of making weird jumps, stays in memory after shutting down, and can have any number of pages stored? Congratulations, You've just invented Opera! Sheesh, if they really wanted to speed up the back button you would think they would reinvent mousegestures or 5 button mice.

    I ignored this the first time it came around. I took it in strides the second time. But this time I just have to say it: This is not news! Nothing they are talking about is new or newsworthy. The browsing world does not consist of I.E. and Netscape. There is also Konqueror, ICab, Opera, Lynx, Phoenix, Arachne, XMosaic, Omniweb, and a host of others. Some of those back buttons behave in a similar fasion. The only thing mentioned in the article that none of the above do is provide little thumbnails of the pages, but many of them cache the entire page so that thumbnails are unnecessary.

    Please, people. If you are going to be doing a major research project into improving other people's online experience, for crying out loud do your homework and find out what is out there. It's called exploratory research, and your thesis advisor should have required you to do some before beginning. I know, I know, they ARE the thesis advisors, which says a lot about the University of Canterbury.
  • Net surfers use the back button more than any other key.

    There's a back button on my keyboard? Here and all this time I've been using the oh so difficult 'alt-left arrow'.

  • Would it not be usefull to have available a graph of the visited links along with or instead of the foward and back button?

    You could have a popup window or something which would display thumbnails of all visited pages in a "linked" way. You could then select the thumbnail to wich you want to get back. It could also, maybe, display a list of all links (a href) in a given pages and some other informations...

    And, something I would really love as a feature, persistence of this history. There is already an "history" of the typed URLs, but most of the time, I search in Googles and click thru the links to get where I want, so a back/forward button history would really make my day!

    Just my 0.02$...
    • Thats what I've been asking for. I want a tree view in my back button, so when I navigate back to a page and then forward down a new path, it doesn't wipe out my previous path. I don't want thumbnails of the page tho, too big, and I never recognize them after drastic rescaling anyway. But I can usually recall about how many branches ago I saw that other page that I want to get back to.
  • I disagree (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:29AM (#5294079)
    ...I never use the back button, I only move forward. It's negativity like the back button that is ruining this country.
  • Just read the article and clicked "back". Old Style. Worked for me...
  • There comes a point where computers and interfaces are either so easy that they become too difficult for an adult mind to understand, or so difficult, that it becomes easy to critcize them; or not use them at all.

    That was the general idea of his comment. The thing that most people don't understand in the hardware/software innovation areas is that Speech Recognition, Gestures, Pen input is all great, but with clunky interfaces, poor pattern problems, and standardized, almost Pavlovian use of keyboards for input and mice for movement on a screen. Very few, if any are ever gonaa change unless you do something radical like Apple Computer and just make it standard. IE, they pushed USB and no floppy and have had a 70% adoption of the two concepts.

    This is the general reasoning behind the PDA adoption rate. Who wants to look at a tiny screen? But really, who wants the frustration of character recognition, "I WROTE D DAMMIT, not an O!" (only a small population, even in face of lots of units sold, actually learned Graffiti well enough to use it)

  • This guy Cockburn sounds like those soft-"science" alarmist wonks that make up a socio-phychological disease so they can get a federal grant and a book deal.

    Sure, most people have trouble understanding page histories and navigation, but this guy seems to be willing to go to great lengths to make something that is arguably *too* simple, abundantly complicated. The problem people have isn't with the 'Back' button, but the 'Forward' button, and Cockburn doesn't even realize it.

    • It's because of the resulting choice "tree". After clicking back one or more times, if you click on any link, you end up pruning a whole branch of links.

      Kinda obvious, but the users who won't understand probably need things simple and less powerful. Making more choices blatantly available would just confuse them.

      As is the choices are already available: Power users could just open lots of windows with each link (middle mouse button, or shift click), thus keeping interesting branches active. The main trouble I find is the browser crashing or the O/S running out of resources or crashing. So I figure rather have more stable software than a fancy back or forward button.
  • it's called tabs.
  • Smarter History (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alric ( 58756 ) <slashdot.tenhundfeld@org> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @10:49AM (#5294205) Homepage Journal
    People are posting ideas about treeview back buttons and different back lists.

    I use my History archive for this. I think the history archive could contain a little more "intelligence" in storing previously visited links, and I wish that Mozilla offered a "This Session" history folder that only contained sites/pages visited by the current instance of a browser.

    History + configurable 5/7 button mouse + tabbed browsing = a pleasant navigation system.

    However, it is good to always question the accepted method of interface design. So, I can't get too down on the article.
  • I hit my back button to return to ./ less than 2 paragraphs into that .pdf about using the back button.
  • It's not as useful as a back button, and not all sites are organized in a way to make it useful. But sometimes I think to myself, "Self.. I wish I had an up button on my browser."

    On this train of thought.. would it be that difficult to put one into Mozilla? Everytime I sit down to look into it, some other shiny object comes along.. oo, tin foil
  • 'Net surfers use the back button more than any other key.

    Yeah! No kidding! You should have seen the amount of users hit the back button when they saw this article! New record!
  • Finally, the improved back remembers pages visited days ago. Explorer and Netscape both delete back memory when the program is closed. Not so with Cockburn's improved version.

    oh, it's been improved to be that way? in the early days of the internet, all the questions i ever fielded from the computarded were, "how do i erase where i've been so nobody else knows?".

    kids don't want their parents to know. guys definately don't want their women to know. and nobody at all wants their government to know where they've been surfing. does the super back button have an erase the back button feature built in???? that's all anyone really wants anyway.

    figures, academia always seems to nail their heads right on all the internet hits.

    best back buttons around today are on Mac revs of Mozilla, IE and most mac browsers. CMD + -- = go back . i jones for it on pc's, it rules. course it did wear out the left arrow key on my keyboard after a few years of going back :)

  • 1) Mozilla will incorporate this behavior into its 1.3 series before Microsoft gets around to it.

    2) Microsoft will patent the idea, even though the inventor said "the concept is in the public domain".

    3) Prerequisite CowboyNeal option.
  • I thought everyone used 'right click -> open in new tab' more often than the back button?! Back is only good for getting out of a 200 page PDF! ;)

  • ...That select such great stories! I mean, this dupe is infinitely better than, say:

    2003-01-30 03:16:56 NASA Set to Unveil 'Jupiter Tour' Mission (articles,space) (rejected)


    2003-02-05 21:06:34 Optical Camouflage a Reality (articles,tech) (rejected)

    "a duping we will go, a duping we will go, hi-ho the dairy-o, a duping we will go!"
  • When people use a feature a lot, you better think things through very very thoroughly before making any changes. And then do LOTS of testing.

    I dunno about you guys, but I'd figure it's better to add a different button rather than change the back button.

    If it ain't broke don't fix it.

    What should be fixed are those web pages which people click back almost immediately after visiting them or attempting to visit them... But let's not go there too deeply ;).

  • It's all very well tweaking stuff like the length of the history list that the BACK button knows about, but it's not the real issue.

    The real issue is SPEED.

    In Netscape 3, going BACK was instantaneous. Of course it was: the browser already had the page in its cache, so it was a simple matter of re-rendering it.

    Not any more: going BACK now entails re-fetching the page. Why? This is nonsense. If I want the page refreshed, I have a perfectly good REFRESH button to do that with. But when I click BACK, it's because I want to go back to what I was looking at before.

    And with Mozilla (I don't think NS6 did this but I'm not sure), it's yet worse: if you go BACK to a page that you reached by POSTing a form, you have to click a button to re-submit the form contents. For badgers' sake! Just show me the page I was looking at already!

  • by Ctrl-Z ( 28806 ) <tim.timcoleman@com> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @12:35PM (#5294957) Homepage Journal

    Nothing makes me hit the back button faster than the realization that I've just clicked on a link to a PDF. Come on! Can't you at least warn us?
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @12:36PM (#5294965) Homepage
    The authors obsess over UI and user-mental-model issues, which to be sure are real enough. But those are not the biggest issues with the BACK button.

    First, an extraordinary number of commercial web sites misbehave when the back button is used, probably due to handling of posted form data, passing along nontransient data as strings in URLS, etc. etc. Try a Google search on the exact phrase "Do not use your browser's back button" for examples of a few thousand sites that at least WARN you of problems. For every one that does, there are many that do not. The problems can be very serious, including double-shipped items, items ordered but never shipped, incorrect charges, etc.

    Second, the back button seems to painfully and slowly reload pages over the Net. This may be a function of cache settings, but this is a function that should return to a locally cached state by default. Possible even a cached bitmap... (Yes, I know it would be difficult to get this just right without increasing the amount of function misbehavior).
  • by ldopa1 ( 465624 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @01:16PM (#5295314) Homepage Journal
    I would like to see a change in the Forward button, not the back button.

    If I go to a page on a website (page A), visit a page from there (page B), and then go back to page A to visit yet another page from there (Page C), I would like to be able to go back to page A again, and then when I hit the forward button, be offered the chance to go to either page B or C. Kind of a tree arrangement.

    Another alternative is to emulate Opera's Hotlist functionality - Have the hotlist dynamically build a folder-view type tree for each site I visit.

    Aka, when I go to (for example), I want to be able to go back to the search page and add more options just by going over to the hotlist and clicking on the Search "folder", three clicks back.

    I think I might have to prototype this..

  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <> on Thursday February 13, 2003 @01:28PM (#5295448) Homepage
    I really like the idea of maintaining a Back trail that includes leaf nodes of browsing paths. But I was kind of hoping their list of Back Button Improvements would include dealing with sites that hijack your Back button to do a refresh or launch sixteen popups. Like maybe add them to a Ban-This-Damn-Site-From-My-Browser list.
  • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @02:16PM (#5295865) Journal
    I have done extensive research and have figured out a way to build a better forward button as well.

    Currently the forward button only works after you've hit the back button. This is highly inconvenient, because the forward button is useless when you fire up your browser.

    However, my new improved forward button will allow web users to actually click ahead into the future so that they don't have to type the URL of the site they are about to visit. It does this with my patented Mind Matrix Technology (TM) that uses a complex mathematical formula to determine what the user wants to see next.
  • I am a big fan of "Open Link in Background Window/Tab" offered by a lot of smaller web browsers.

    I currently use K-Meleon while on the PC, and iCab on the Mac.

    One thing I wish the "Back" button could do is remember the page that sent me to the page in quesiton, even if it was in another window or tab.

    Try this: Right click on a link. Select "Open in new window" (or tab). In that new window 9or tab), try using the Back button.

    The browser *should* be able to remember where you were coming from. iCab used to do this (going on my memory here), but no longer does.
  • by ThePyro ( 645161 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @06:34PM (#5297764)

    The most annoying things about the back button:

    1) I just opened a page in a new tab (tabbed browsing rules). I closed the original tab. Crap! I want to get back there! Yet the back button in the new tab has no idea what the previous page was... Is this still a problem in other browsers that support tabbed browsing? (I'm using Mozilla)

    2) The redirect problem (mentioned somewhere above). A page redirects me so fast that if I go back then I simply get redirected to where I just was. There's not enough time to go back twice.

    3) Ambiguous behavior of back links. Let's say I'm viewing page 5, and I just came from page 6. There's a back link at the bottom. Is this going to tell my browser to go "back" to page 6, or is it going to take me to the page 4 (the page that comes before 5) ? I guess this is more an issue of standardizing the behavior of links named "back"... but it's still obnoxious.

    4) More of a "forward" problem, but still a problem... I visit a site. I follow three or four links, decide I don't like them, and go back to where I started. I then follow a different link. Crap! The first set of link WAS where I wanted to go after all! Unfortunately there's no way to get back there without digging through the history - your "forward" history gets overwritten once you go back and then follow a different link. In some cases you might remember which links you clicked on to get there... but not always.

    The history tree mentioned above might be decent solution to that problem... or maybe not.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982