I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to be a private beta tester for AT&T’s new Pogo Browser they are in the process of developing. This browser really pushes the status quo for both Microsoft and Mozilla when it comes to usability features. The primary advantage the browser brings to the market is its use of thumbnail images of web pages, which are incorporated into every aspect of traditional browser functions.
First of all let me just disclose that I am not a software tester, I’ve done no performance testing or comparisons of the Pogo browser against Internet Explorer or Firefox. My specific interest in Pogo is its usability features.
As stated, Pogo makes use of image thumbnails of web pages as usability aides that make it easier to manage multiple websites, bookmarks, and history. There are five main sections where the use of thumbnails as a feature is showcased: PogoDock, Collections, Bookmarks, Springboard, and History.
PogoDock. The PogoDock is Pogo’s version of tabbed browsing. Instead of tabs at the top of the browser window with the text-based title page for each tab, Pogo places a dock at the bottom of the browser with thumbnail images of each page you currently have open. This gives you a quick visual reference of all your open websites. The PogoDock has a tack button in the lower right to toggle the auto-hide feature, so you can gain the extra browser window space as desired.
Collections & Bookmarks. Collections is basically Pogo’s version of Favorites or Bookmarking. When you want to bookmark a page, you add it to your Collections. Think of Collections as just a subfolder in your Favorites list. When you launch Collections, they display in the web browser as three dimensional containers that you can scroll through using your mouse wheel. When you are at the Collection that contains the site you wish to open, just click on the Collection, then double click on the site thumbnail.
Springboard. Springboard is a set of webpages you want to be able to access from a single view. A Springboard can be set to display upon startup, as opposed to your default web page. This is Pogo’s alternative of multiple home pages . Whereas IE has a limit of 8 home pages that can be upon on startup, you can add many more pages to your Springboard for startup.
Visual History. Have you ever gone back into your history to look for a page that you viewed yesterday, but you cannot remember the name of the site you were on? Say you were doing a Google search looking for an answer on a quirky Outlook problem, and you viewed several search results. Now you want to go back and re-read one of those pages. You’re looking at the history in Explorer Bar, but it’s not helpful at all. There’s about a 100 entries from yesterday, all in alphabetical order.
Pogo answers that usability issue by taking snapshots of the pages you viewed, and incorporates them into the history. When you launch history, it loads in the browser window, as does Collections and Springboard. It’s history displays the snapshot of each site you visited as a thumbnail, and provides the domain name, and a timestamp of the page visit. In addition, it displays history in chronological order, not alphabetically.
As you can see, the Pogo Browser really does a great job of using visual elements to enhance browser usability. While it is still unclear whether or not Pogo will have enough fortitude in the marketplace to dethrone Internet Explorer or Firefox, it will certainly force both players to take a look at what they are doing, and how to follow suit in looking at browsing as much more of a visually rich experience.