[whatwg] Geolocation - Browser usability issues with regards to asking user permission

Peter Kasting pkasting at google.com
Wed Apr 6 17:04:57 PDT 2011

On Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 4:37 PM, Andrew de Andrade
<andrew at deandrade.com.br>wrote:

> 2) The HTML5 specification defines how browsers should implement this
> consistently --> either a bar across the top OR modal dialog box, but
> not both. This isn't ideal either since there are arguments both for
> and against both solutions.

Besides the con you mention, I think this is also outside the scope of
HTML5.  The spec has frequently advised browser vendors on characteristics
that must or should be true, e.g. w.r.t. allowing users to manage and delete
local storage data in a similar fashion to cookies -- but actually dictating
precise bits of UI goes too far.

3) Each browser chooses their default interface approach (bar or modal
> dialog), but the Geolocation API specification allows for the webapp
> developer to override this default. Those apps for which location is
> essencial for the user experience can choose to always display a modal
> dialog box before the user proceeds to use the webapp.  Those apps for
> which it is not important, can opt for the bar across the top.

Unfortunately, it is far more common for an author to feel that a particular
permission is essential than for the user to feel so.  Furthermore, modal
dialogs have other usability issues that the browser vendor may wish to
avoid, e.g. requiring script on many different tabs to stop.

In addressing the privacy aspects of the user experience, we've
> created a usability issue which needs to be addressed as well.

Allowing users to toggle a feature on a per-site basis is not just a privacy
issue but in many cases one of general functionality.  For example, Chrome
includes a "click to play" feature under a flag that allows users to
dynamically control plugin invocation, not for privacy but usability
reasons.  The browser vendor may have strong UI design goals or interface
consistency requirements that dictate how functionality choices are
portrayed to the user.  As a browser UI developer, I am not willing to cede
control over those aspects to the web developer.

If users don't notice or understand the geolocation prompts in a particular
browser, I think the appropriate response is to provide feedback to the
browser vendor that users are not successfully navigating their UI.  I would
be very interested in the details of your testing, how you determined that
users were missing the prompts, and how effective were more generalized
methods (than making a floating div as a UI callout) in guiding users (e.g.
simply telling users they need to give the site permission to access their
location before it will work correctly, showing your UI with a big "No
permission to access your location; did you tell your browser to allow
this?"-style banner overlaid, etc.).


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