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Should I Open A Complex Web-App In A Secondary Window???

A question for all you usability folks (U' all ?):

I'm working on the UI design of a very complex browser-based application and am considering something I've wondered about in the past, opening it immediately in its own secondary window as soon as the user navigates to the address, or right after they log in, I suppose.

Background

The app is essentially a spreadsheet system, along with typical administrative tasks that most business systems have, but its distinguishing aspect is the extent to which it emulates lots of Excel functionality. The sheets happen to interactively "reach into" multi-dimensional (financial---no less!) databases, a fascinating phenomenon of which I've only recently become exposed to in a new job. I mention that only to give you a flavor of the complexity... this is a typical app that previously would never have been considered in a browser, and many would still advise against. At least we have the luxury of coding only to IE6+ because it is a purchased system.

Why

I want to open it in its own window because one can then strip off any and all of the affordances (toolbars and buttonbars) built into the browser. (It would not strip off anything from the original window.) Why? Because the vast majority of those affordances are irrelevant to application work. They are for surfing and ad-hoc content-centric tasks; take a look at the IE menus and buttons. Worse, they often conflict with control needed by a complex app.

In particular I want to eliminate the Back button and the myriad tools for browsing away from the page such as the address bar. I understand that the user could still effect "Back" and other actions in numerous ways such as right-clicking or keystrokes. But making them less prevalent would go a long way toward improving the user experience by reducing actions that highlight the weaknesses of the browser in emulating the guidance previously afforded by Windows dialogs.

The Question

My question to you is "What affordances would I unwisely be giving up that I might absolutely need?" For instance, IE's Tools/Internet Options/Advanced could be important. I would expect that the availability of that on the Login page would suffice.

Reply to jackbellis@hotmail.com


"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen

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