The Usability Post
Thoughts on design and user experience by Dmitry Fadeyev

Focus On Goals, Not Actions

Last week, ReadWriteWeb published an article on Facebook and their universal login initiatives like Facebook Connect. The article bore the headline “Facebook Wants to Be Your One True Login”. The keywords in the headline pushed the article to the top of the Google search results page for “facebook login”, as a latest news result.

While the article was number one, a curious thing happened. Hundreds of Facebook users arrived at the article, presumably wanting to login to Facebook. They didn’t understand that the page they arrived to was not actually Facebook.

Many then proceeded to “login” through the Facebook Connect button in the comments area, and finding that this didn’t take them to their Facebook homepage proceeded to leave angry comments, all the while not understanding that the page they were on wasn’t Facebook.

The story may be amusing, but it illustrates very well that many people using the Web don’t really understand or care about domains and addresses. They know what they want to do but they don’t specifically think of it in terms of a URL they must go to first.

This is one of the things Google gets so right in their Chrome browser. Instead of two different bars, address bar and search, Chrome comes with just one: a combination of both. Type in a URL and Chrome will take you there, type in a search string and you’ll get Google search results. The bar really focuses on what you want to do or where you want to go rather than how you want to get there.

The Facebook login confusion episode above wouldn’t actually have been remedied had these people used Chrome because they’ll still get the same search results page – that’s an “error” (if you can call it that) on Google’s part, but the results page can be fixed (and it has). What’s important is that the single bar is a much better fit for how people use the Web than the current duo of address and search bars. Even as a power user I’m enjoying the simplicity of being able to type into just one bar without thinking about it and get confused when I meet a “page not found” when I try to do the same in Safari by mistake.

This little interface tweak succeeds at bridging the gap between what a user wants to do – their goals – and what they have to do to get there – the actions they have to take. Do I search or do I go to a web address? It doesn’t matter – just type. I think Google gets it spot on in Chrome and it’s a feature I’m looking forward to seeing on other browsers.

What do you think? Do you like the single search/URL bar in Chrome? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

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Further Reading

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