I find the notification dialog used by Firefox 3 to be rather unsettling.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with it; it’s just a rectangle that comes out from underneath my task bar to tell me something important, like how Firefox has found an update, or some document has finished downloading.
But the speed at which this thing comes out … it’s incredibly slow … it’s almost like it’s sneaking around my desktop, looking for trouble, doing something menacing. It doesn’t actually make any sound, but if it did, it would be the creaking of a rusty door in an abandoned haunted mansion. I don’t know why I have such an averse reaction to it. Something ’bout that dialog just ain’t right. I would really prefer it to be a little quicker, and then just be done with the whole thing. I’ve even looked in the Firefox settings to seeif you can change the speed with which the notification appears, but alas, it is not configurable. I believe that it could do everything it currently does – notify the user that something important has happened, and enable them to act on it – in about half the time.
Not only is it slow, but it’s also pretty easy to immediately tell, when it’s only a quarter or so of the way out, what it is communicating. So on top of being weird and awkwardly slow, it also evokes the kind of feeling like when your friend is telling a really long story that you’ve already heard before, and you already know the punchline but must suffer through it anyway. It’s pretty hard to ignore something that is moving on your screen, no matter how slow it is or how small a portion of the screen is affected; your attention is drawn to motion.
I much prefer the Outlook notification dialog which flashes on the screen, and then fades out by lowering the opacity over a course of a couple of seconds. Leave it to Microsoft to make this whole thing configurable, although it is buried incredibly deep: Tools -> Options Menu -> Preferences Tab -> Email Options -> Advanced Email Options -> Desktop Alert Settings!!
At first thought, it wouldn’t seem that the behavior of a new event notification dialog should warrant it’s own settings user interface. But being that a notification can pop up at any time on your Desktop, which is actually a fairly ‘public’ place, given that people can see your screen over your shoulder or you might be projecting, etc., it makes sense to devote this much attention to it.
As another data point, the GMail notifier that sits in the icon tray combines two kinds of animations – transparency as well as motion – to alert the user when new mail is found on the server. This pops in and pops out much faster than the Firefox dialog does, and it’s just as readable. I can’t quite tell, but I think the movement may include a little ease-in and ease-out; I’d argue that this kind of organic motion, as opposed to something which moves at a constant pace, is more natural to the human eye, which ultimately helps make the notification seem more ‘familiar’ and less of a distraction.
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