Safari redesign provides lessons for adaptive design

Henrik Eneroth reworks OS X Lion's Safari to boost usability

Safari redesign

Eneroth’s redesign of Safari is aimed at scaling better to screens of all sizes

User experience designer Henrik Eneroth thinks Apple has missed a trick with its Safari full-screen mode in OS X Lion. In a post on the Antrop blog, he offers a redesign that aims to make better use of screen space and improve usability. While the design reworks a piece of software for OS X, the lessons are relevant to web designers, increasingly tasked with catering for hugely varying screen sizes.

Eneroth says he did the redesign to illustrate that left-hand tab navigation could be the preferred solution when using a web browser in full-screen mode on high-resolution displays. "One of the characteristics of user experience design is that one attempts to design an experience that spans many mediums and channels," he explains.

"It was obvious that Safari, while scaling well to very small screens like on the iPhone, didn't scale well to larger screens. The redesign is an attempt to extend the current web browser design in a way to make it scale better across all screen sizes. And in using left-hand tabs, this opens the door to nifty optimisations that can improve the overall experience."

The parallels with adaptive web design are clear, especially when we ask Eneroth about the problems with Safari on OS X Lion. "All application interfaces are based on assumptions about the conditions under which they will be used,” he says. “For a long time, assumptions could be made as to what size display you'd be using the application on. This worked perfectly fine when display sizes increased linearly over the years, with most of the population having roughly the same size screens."

But, as Eneroth says, screen sizes have now diverged due to an explosion in mobile devices (small screens), a boost in laptop sales (medium screens) and technology becoming cheaper (leading to larger desktop displays).

"This fundamentally changes how we need to design applications, if we want to deliver a solid, unified user experience across all screen sizes," argues Eneroth, claiming Safari illustrates perfectly that "merely stretching the old interface is inadequate — the UI needs to morph and adapt to its environment".