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Firefox visuals being updated for v2.0

So it would seem the Firefox team is afraid that IE7’s glassy buttons will out-cool them, and feels the need to compete with a visual update.

Most of it looks fine, no complaints here, but I’m utterly confused at their decision to have the RSS button visible at all times; merely disabling it when there’s no RSS feed available for a site.

When no feed is present, the RSS icon is grayed out. Otherwise, it appears in classic ‘XML Orange’ Now, I’m well aware of the old UI adage that elements shouldn’t simply appear and disappear as their availability varies (they should be enabled or disabled, which is what Firefox is doing here) but transient features of web pages seem to be an exception to this rule.

It seems to me that RSS is kinda like a pair of spectacles. Present only on people with poor eyesight, they don’t hang around on everyone’s faces only ‘activating’ for those people who actually require them. Unless they’re hipsters. Spectacles are a feature of particular people, not of all people, and RSS is the same. A page either has it or it doesn’t. There’s no “it might have it if circumstances were to change slightly”, as is usually the case when a button is disabled. It isn’t like the Print button being disabled when you don’t have a printer selected. The RSS button is, in fact, most like our old friend Security Padlock.

The security padlock’s presence in a browser window indicates that this page is viewed over a secure connection. When the connection isn’t secure, there’s no padlock. One might expect, then, that Firefox 2 adopts a new stance on the security padlock — disabling it when there’s no secure connection, but still leaving it visible. This expectation would be wrong.

The security padlock isn’t at all visible on sites that don’t use secure connections.

In all, the convention for web browsers seems to be visibility, not disability. And while I applaud Firefox’s decision to buck the trend, I must criticize its decision to buck it so inconsistently.

Unless there’s some particularly logical reason for all this that I’m missing.