Follow-up to “Microsoft Proposes a Browser Ballot” Post
October 19, 2009
It seems that my previous post has set up a lot of debate on the topic of Microsoft’s proposal and the browser space overall. I’ve been reading through the feedback and have been impressed by the constructive and insightful comments (as well as some less constructive). It’s clear that this is a subject people care about and have many excellent ideas on, and I’m thrilled to see this debate playing out. The nature of innovation and user choice on the web and how it pertains to the operating system and corporate interests is one of huge importance.
Many people agreed that changing the order of browsers on the ballot would mainly effect users uninterested in deciding what browser they use. This being presumably a majority of current internet users, what I want to avoid is systematic bias – particularly one that causes the majority of users to receive an outcome that is not optimal for them. That’s essentially the problem with having a ballot: it forces users to make a decision they likely don’t care about, and thus end up with an experience that may not be right for them. As a user experience designer, my rule of thumb is that if the user is ever asked to make a decision he doesn’t care about, the design has problems.
Naturally, I’m very happy to admit that I do believe Firefox is the best browsing experience available. That said, my proposals in which Firefox received ordering preference according to market share were intended to be illustrative of the problems with having a ballot rather than as highly desired solutions. Any ballot is likely to contain preset systematic biases that swing certain voters. Normalizing for all of these is unlikely to be possible, so how to best minimize them is a good discussion to have.
The wider issue of how to best help users make appropriate choices without needlessly overburdening them with the complexity of the choice is itself exciting: we face it daily in politics, economics, medicine, etc. It’s a space that I hope we can continue explore on this blog and in the wider internet community.