DevDialogue – Grazing Browser App Developer Speaks

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With Grazing Web Browser for iPad, ThinkBitz has redefined web browsing on iPad. Its unique tabbed browsing interface, Thumpad and extraordinary search bar completely blows away the competition. In an interview with TheAppleGoogle, Colin Knowles of ThinkBitz describes tabbed browsing, his eureka moment with the App and gives us a sneak peek into the future of the App.

1. Safari is pretty good on iPad updated with all the latest web standards, still you chose to develop a new web browser. Why? What according to you is missing from Safari?

The web rendering functionality of Safari is great – it really brings near-desktop-quality web pages to the iPad. Unfortunately the application itself feels a bit bare-bones, especially when it comes to multitab functionality. I like to use Firefox on my desktop with tab functionality customized with Tab Mix Plus and background tabs opened with the middle button (or QuickDrag on my laptop)… when I first got my iPad, I quickly realized it wouldn’t really work to replace my desktop browsing unless it let me surf the same way.

2. How do you compare your App with the competition?

When I first looked for an alternative to Safari, I found they all didn’t really work the way I liked – I found they all tended to crash if you opened too many tabs, and opening background tabs either required using the context menus or (for some) all-or-nothing configuration options. So I decided to start writing my own, and the main goals were to incorporate dynamic loading/unloading of tabs when receiving memory warnings from the OS, and to figure out a good way to open tabs in the background. Those were the primary differentiators for Grazing… the rest of the design flowed from that.

3. Tabbed browsing has been a popular feature and Grazing completely redefines it. How did you plan the idea?

Well, thank you! The early critical response to Grazing’s user interface has certainly been gratifying.

There were two main design challenges – how to select and display tabs, and how to open links in new tabs. I didn’t really feel the desktop tab metaphor worked very well on a small touchscreen like the iPad, but fortunately Apple put a lot of work into defining iPad user interface mechanisms like the sidebar and popovers in the Mail app, and those seemed like a perfect fit.

After that, the Thumbpad was largely the result of experimentation with lots of different mechanisms. I initially tried gestures on the web page itself, but since the browser surface itself relies on gestures for navigation, text selection, etc., there were often conflicts that felt awkward. Eventually I tried the patch-on-the-side idea, and it seems to work pretty well.

After that, it was just a matter of testing and refinement. My beta testers and I basically just used it as our primary browser day after day, and the user interface became more refined and useful.

4. Can you give us a sneak peek into the future of Grazing and ThinkBitz in general?

After that, we’re hoping to iterate quickly through a number of releases to add in the most-requested features, as well as a few surprises. Then… who knows! We definitely have a bunch of cool app ideas, we’ll see which ones see the light of day.

5. Can you describe your Eureka moment with the App?

It was probably using the Thumbpad for the first time – it was very much “yup, this feels right.”

6. How long did Apple’s approval process take and how would you describe your relationship with Apple?

It seems to take about a week for released to get approved, which seems pretty reasonable. So far I’m pretty happy with the Apple developer relationship and development tools, but it would be really great if the embedded web control was less of a black box – there’s a lot of tricks that need to be discovered through trial-and-error (or lots of Googling) that would be nice to see clearly documented as part of the defined API.

Grazing Web Browser for iPad [iTunes Link]