Firefox 3.0 - Hoots mon, where’s my page title?

History

I have to admit that I’m a browser laggard, I haven’t installed Google Chrome, and I was a late comer to upgrading from Firefox 2.x to Firefox 3.0. I wasn’t always like this. I actually used to pay for Opera rather than deal with Internet Explorer back in the days of Windows NT4 days. Recently I’ve been lazy. Firefox 2.x had all the stuff that I used to pay for in Opera; tabbed browsing, opening entire folders of favourites etc.

So the following may not come as news to some people in terms of usability ... but I believe it does have implications for web site developers which should be heeded.

Improved Address Bar

When I upgraded to Firefox 3.0 I bemoaned the loss of a simple bookmarks file, bookmarks.html. The developers had moved to a more sophisticated SQLLite database model. This database is not only bookmarks but also records your browsing history.

And it’s the proper storage of browser history which is what results in a truly MASSIVE usability improvement. How many times have you wanted to go back to ‘that page’ you viewed yesterday (or even a few minutes ago) in Firefox but you can’t remember the URL. No worries, just type in some keywords from the page title and up pops the a list ofURLs which match those keywords, and you can just select the URL you want.

It took me a while to realise that this has changed my browsing habits quite radically. I now bookmark less and just use keywords in the page titles. That means I have begun to expect page titles to have relevant keywords that allow me to quickly locate them. If I close a tab on a news site such as The Register or The Guardian and I want to call it up later, I just use keywords.

The Top 6 Gotcha (it’s the Google not on the 'first page' all over again ...)

This became apparent when a submitted some sessions for the community event, Developer Day Scotland (http://www.developerdayscotland.com/). I will point out now, that this in no way a criticism of this site (my own website, www.tigernews.co.uk, has similar failings). It is just the Developer Day Scotland site demonstrated how reliant I was on this new functionality.

Basically, I didn’t bookmark the page, as I’m lazy, and I knew I could use page title keywords to find it for me.  Type in Scotland and first in the list is the splash page for Developer Day Scotland. I drilled down into session details, and submitted some sessions, and then went off on my normal business. The next day I wanted to see if the sessions had appeared and so I typed in Scotland expecting to see the various pages within the site appear at the top of the list (I'm too lazy to scroll, no seriously!).  Only the splash screen was in the top six. So I navigated through to see whether my sessions had appeared. I did this the next day too. Then I got annoyed, why was I not getting the quick navigation I had come to expect?  It’s the Page Title stupid!

Here’s the URL versus page title mapping;

http://www.developerdayscotland.com/ Developer! Developer! Developer! Scotland
http://developerdayscotland.com/main/Default.aspx Home
http://developerdayscotland.com/main/SessionProposals/tabid/77/Default.aspx Session Proposals

The howler here is, Home, which is about as generic as you can get, that brings up an awfully large number of hits in my Firefox history, which just goes to show how common it is to leave it at this.  For me, it was simple; if I typed in Session Proposals in the address bar in Firefox 3.0 and I get straight through to the DDD Scotland session list.  After a few days, my proposed sessions appeared.

As I mentioned, my own site has similar gaffs. For instance, the main home page title is Computer Consultancy For Television Companies.  How about the company name – doh! It’s on other pages, just not the home page.

Take Away ... for web developers

I like the ability to fast find previously visited pages in Firefox, and if I do, other users will as well. It’s also in Internet Explorer 8 (beta 2), so that is a lot of users coming down the line expecting this functionality.

The solution for web developers is simple, adopt the same format that Microsoft Office uses for Window titles, <document name> - <application name>.

For web sites this becomes our page title becomes, <page content title> - <site name>.

... and of course, this is exactly what The Register and The Guardian already use, which is why I can find things really quickly in my history in Firefox.

Print | posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 9:45 AM

Comments on this post

# re: Firefox 3.0 - Hoots mon, where’s my page title?

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Okay - All updated, the title of all the pages on the Developer Day Scotland website now include the text "Developer Day Scotland" (except the splash page which remains "Developer! Developer! Developer! Scotland")
Left by Colin Angus Mackay on Dec 16, 2008 12:29 PM

# re: Firefox 3.0 - Hoots mon, where’s my page title?

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good god update to fire fox 4 NOWWWW
Left by Stev on Mar 31, 2011 9:08 AM

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