It was interesting that when Safari 15 was dropping at this last WWDC, in my circles at least, I mostly heard enthusiasm. Like the colors-in-the-browser-controls stuff was a neat trick and fun to play with. And there were other more serious features, like iCloud Private Relay, which were near-universally applauded for the security innovation.
But the UX changes in Safari 15 are much more controversial in wider and more generally Apple-related circles.
Michael Tsai has a big roundup of opinions, including many serious criticisms. Like Steven Shen showing off how hard the tabs are to use on iPadOS and Saagar Jha pointing out that it’s hard to tell the difference between private browsing and not.
But I’d say most of the criticism is leveled at the browser controls themselves, regardless of the color trickery. Nick Herr went as far as calling it Chickenshit Minimalism:
Condensing the address bar into each tab is also irksome. It is a clever idea, but it means that everything moves around because tabs move. They scroll left to right; they change size as you open and close other tabs.
The small size of a browser tab also means that many controls are hidden by default, including the reload and share buttons. They are all buried into one of those vague “⋯” controls that Apple is obsessed with these days. If you share web links a lot, there is not even a way to add the button back to the toolbar in a more permanent state. This, I think, continues a worrying pattern of bad UI habits.
In other words, chucking useful buttons under a random kebab menu isn’t something that people who used those buttons are going to be fond of. There’s “Hiding buttons from popular built-in apps is a bad idea.” by Federico Viticci, which goes into similar changes in iOS Safari. Gruber also:
I think the new Safari interface is a noble experiment — intriguing ideas that were worth trying out. But I don’t know anyone who thinks, in practice, that they’re not a huge regression in usability. I’d love it if Apple just went back to the previous Safari interface for tabs and browser chrome. It’s crazy to me that even the Share button is now an extra click or tap away. If Apple ships this design for the Mac it’s going to push a lot of current Safari users to Chrome or other Chromium-based browsers.
Not popular changes. I wonder if people would really jump-ship just for this? My hunch is that Safari users are either Safari users because that’s just what ships on their Mac and they don’t care to think about it much, or are Safari users very much on purpose because of the Apple-ness of it and these changes wouldn’t be enough to force them away.
Others applaud the effort. Jason Snell calls it a self-inflicted wound, but sees the good:
Apple has tried to minimize Safari’s interface as much as possible. Its designers have looked at every single interface element, from the tabs to the URL bar to every single toolbar item, and pondered if they could afford to hide, remove, or minimize those elements to give more space on the screen for the web page itself.
I think that Apple should be applauded for making the effort, not only because the vast majority of its customers are using screens that are at most 13 inches measured diagonally, but because Apple should always be striving to find better ways of doing things. I don’t believe there’s any class of app—from web browsers to email clients to text editors—that’s a solved problem.
Jeff Kirvin thinks it’s just misunderstood:
What I see in Safari 15 is the first steps into a new design language for iOS, one prioritizing adaptive, contextual interfaces. Ever since the move to the new “all screen” iPhone X design, content has been king on iOS, and Apple has been removing more and more user chrome. This is the next step on that journey.
While I’m at the Safari 15 thing here…
- High five to Niels Boey for “What does the Safari 15 update mean for my designs?” which might be the most comprehensive look at the visual changes I’ve seen yet.
- High five to Luke Channings for looking into this… “Does Safari 15 finally fix viewport height?” The answer is… mostly yes: “if you subtract
100vhyou’ll get what you want.”
Tangentially related (I hope)
Safari isn’t protecting the web, it’s killing it: https://httptoolkit.tech/blog/safari-is-killing-the-web/
related discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27985783
The redesign goes minimal on MacOS but invasive on iOS.
I don’t remember a browser, ever, having decided that it’s more important than the content users are requesting. Apple thinks Safari is so much more important than the content that they invasively put their tab bar floating over it.
That’s bad form, especially since for many sites it requires updating their CSS (or even their design). It would hurt less if it weren’t an active target area making interactivity on the lower part of the screen virtually unusable.
You can argue that everybody should just roll out env(safe-area-*) initially added to support iPhones without home buttons. But you’ll have to detect iOS 15 for that, since in earlier versions you needed to add a whole lot of margin/padding to escape the target area for the swipe target area at the bottom (which you don’t need on 15).
Now in the latest beta Safari tries to detect tappable elements that fall under the floating tab bar (but it’s not always working in my tests, troublesome with position:fixed etc). They should however just scrap the floating tab bar and make it fixed to the bottom, minimizing on scroll as it used to do while up top.
It also bugs me that they are implementing things like auto-minimizing the tab bar when detecting tappable elements but will not support the fullscreen api on iOS.
What website is in the background of the hero image, Chris?
It was pulled from one of Apple’s WWDC videos on the design updates.
My main gripe with Safari is that it’s obstinately not cross-platform. It’s a sh*t move in today’s day and age (same goes for Sketch, BTW), and just makes it easier for websites to have Safari-specific glitches on them due to how difficult it is to test from a non-Mac platform.
Apple makes great hardware, but their software practices are sh*te.
Safari isn’t protecting the web, it’s killing it