Status Bar display (was: Links to new windows)

12 Jan 2004 - 7:38pm
668 reads

Ben, I feel your pain!

Look at this thread for a possible solution:
<> (though it did not
work for me...)

I see the disappearing-status-bar issue as one of the greater annoyances in
winXP/IE6 . I have learned to depend on the status bar both in IE and File
Explorer. In IE It is the a (only) way to tell what might happen when you'll
click on a link (and avoid PDFs).

Apparently someone at MS decided it should be turned off by default, a
decision I can't understand. One might claim this feature is off to prevent
information overload for novice users, but I can not buy this argument in
this case. The status bar is barely noticeable, and has no unwelcome effect
. On the contrary - In IE it shows me some hidden properties of a link
providing sort of a (somewhat crippled) 'feedforward' gadget. It also
displays important page status data (such as the little padlock icon to
reassure I am on a secured server).

If someone can argue for the decision to have the status bar off by default,
please do so.



From: ben hyde [mailto:hydeben at]
Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 5:22 AM
To: discuss at
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Links to new windows

This is a really interesting area - knowing what something is going to do
before you use it would seem like common sense. I cannot think of another
product where you would expect the user to turn/push something without some
indication of what it is likely to do, though I guess a lot of this it
learnt... Though again, somethings encourage safe play more than others.

I agree that this shouldn't have to be coded for ind. pages - but cannot see
the browsers catching on to this for sometime. I have seen plenty of sites
that state all links open in new pages or of course those that indicate the
content of the link (particularly important for pdf/swf etc. where the user
needs to have the capability of viewing the file!)

A possible way around this would be to make the information in the status
bar more meaningful. I normally expect internal links to open in the same
window - but cannot pedict where external links will open. If there was a
simple target clue - appendix to the address such as new/self/full - maybe
this would be a start - but is it do-able?

Anyway, what prompted me to write this was a current gripe I am having with
IE6 - the first window I open displays the status bar fine, but any
subsequent windows (I am a multi-window person, and my google toolbar also
opens new windows for search results...) doesn't display the status bar - so
I have to keep turning it on manually! I have hunted through the help but
cannot find anyway of selecting for this to be displayed all the time. I
think the status bar is one of the few clues to the user of what a link is
going to do - e.g. javascript pop-up, url, etc. And I rely on this a lot.

So, I wonder if anyone can let me know how to fix this?

In terms of a convention for links that open in a new window - I like the
idea of using the cursor to indicate this - maybe it could indicate the file
type too? Anything that is automated and reduces the work for the designer
and the inconsistencies for the user would a great FMM.

Happy new year to you all.

ben <>

p.s. thanks for the link to the DIS paper Dan

p.p.s. I am currently having a weird problem with pdf files on the web - I
have just installed v6 reader but when I open a pdf in a web page it opens
using v4 - is this something I am doing wrong?

Dan Saffer <dan at> wrote:

On Friday, January 9, 2004, at 04:06 PM, Hoekema, Jim {PBG} wrote:
> It seems to me this is an area where the web could use a new
> convention, so
> that users would better understand the consequences of an interaction
> before
> taking it.

By the way, there's a term for this, coined by Tom Djajadiningrat, Kees
Overbeeke and Stephan Wensveen at ID StudioLab in The Netherlands:
feedforward. That is, understanding what a control does *before* you
use it. Introduced at DIS2002 in this paper:

But How, Donald, Tell Us How?

(large pdf file)

The Donald in this case not being that fat-fingered vulgarian Donald
Trump, but Donald Norman. These folks argue that affordances aren't
enough: once you know tha t you can turn a knob (or click on a link) you
need to know what it's going to do in order to make an informed
decision. Interesting stuff.


Dan Saffer
M.Des. Candidate, Interaction Design
Carnegie Mellon University


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