Safari 15 users decry Apple’s counterintuitive tab redesign

Safari 15 for Mac comes with a tab redesign that’s led users to complaints about the way the browser indicates which tab is active, among other things.

Safari 15 users decry counterintuitive tab redesign
Safari 15 for Mac tab redesign

John Gruber for Daring Fireball:

I despise the new tabs even when the “Show color in tab bar” and “Compact” layout settings are turned off. They don’t look like tabs. They look like buttons…

The “Separate” layout, with “Show color in tab bar” off, is the closest you can get to Safari’s previous tab design. These new “tabs” waste space because, like buttons, they’re spaced apart. Tabs that look like real-world tabs aren’t just a decorative style. They’re a visual metaphor. My brain likes visual metaphors. It craves them. And my brain is very much comfortable with the particular visual metaphor of tabs in a web browser window. Buttons do not work as a metaphor for multiple documents within a single window. Thus, trying to use the new Safari 15 on Mac (and iPadOS 15, alas), I feel somewhat disoriented working within Safari. I have to think, continuously, about something I have never had to think about since tabbed browsing became a thing almost 20 years ago.1 The design is counterintuitive: What sense does it make that no matter your settings, the active tab is rendered with less contrast between the tab title and the background than background tabs? The active tab should be the one that pops.

Joe Rossignol for MacRumors:

Apple has also inverted its shading of tabs, with an active tab now having darker shading and inactive tabs having lighter shading. The change has annoyed Gruber and other users, as evidenced by this Reddit thread with nearly 1,000 upvotes.

In a Safari 15 window with two tabs open, especially from the same website, Gruber said determining which tab is active is basically a guessing game. Gruber acknowledged that it is easier to discern the active tab when more than two tabs are open, but he said the confusion with exactly two tabs should have been reason enough to scrap the design change.

“I can’t tell you how many times I closed the tab that I needed because of this,” one Reddit user expressed in frustration.

Unfortunately for users who do not like the new design, Apple has not made any changes to the shading of tabs in either the Safari 15.1 beta or the latest version of the experimental Safari Technology Preview browser.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s a garbage change for the sake of garbage change, we guess.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.Bert Lance

Here’s how the tabs used to look when they actually worked (click or tab for larger image):

Safari 14 for Mac tabs
Safari 14 for Mac tabs

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    1. -“And tabs don’t automatically load until you click on them.”-

      Oh no! really?
      One of the main points of tabs is that you can keep reading one page while letting the next load. Does Apple just not do any user testing anymore?

  1. What worries me most is that nobody within Apple told the Safari team this is crap and they should restore the old design. Crap should never leave the kitchen. Somebody has pushed this through and then politics is part of the ‘design’ process.

  2. I won’t cry or decry, but i agree: this is yet another superfluous UI change on the part of Apple’s modern, lesser, largely mediocre engineers. All they seem to be capable of is differentiation. Differentiation is not innovation; it is in fact what Bill Gates and Michael Dell were accused of that made them pariahs in the second round of Jobs years, and breaking the UI experience every time an update is issued is just plain amateurish. The Apple I celebrated at one time is way dead. Now they are just a better alternative to Windows or Android, nothing to get excited about, really. Just a little better. There’s no light on in Silicon Valley at this point. Simply none.

  3. Aside from the surveillance stuff, I had already decided not to upgrade to iPad OS15 because of the atrocious waste of space. Crap like this with Safari is one of the many hidden turds that characterize Apple’s “updates” in recent years. I still haven’t gotten used to the shoddy and un-advertised Calendar app changes from a year ago. If I can’t stick with iOS 14 and Big Sur indefinitely, I’ll be switching to Windows or Linux in the future. Even bloated Microsoft of the late 90s wasn’t as tone-deaf, pig-headed and smugly arrogant as Apple is today. Let this sink in, Apple now sucks at UI design.

  4. Whining on steroids means throwing out the baby with the bath water. “Switching to Windows or Linux?” Righhht. If every whiner on the planet simply held their breath till they turned blue when they got annoyed, who knows, we might
    be far less densely populated, might even end Climate Change.

  5. Tab analogy in GUI design has always been “front”=”current tab”, “back”=”other tabs”. As pictured by MDN with screenshot from previous Safari revision the front/back look is achieved by lighter color for front (lit surface) and darker color to recessed tab (in the shadow). The current amateurish design lost that visual analogy and the effing dark tab is the currently active one. This messes with the brain worse than the spike protein from Maxxine.

  6. I have had Safari crash a few times or the tabs just freeze up. The 1password Extension won’t work either.
    And yes, I prefer the old layout much better. When they go to fix this, remove the per site security garbage too. That only seems to block sites from retaining wanted allowances, no matter how I set the damn page.
    Never had much to complain about, but Safari has sunk to a new low.

  7. I guess I am the only commenter so far who uses the “Dark Theme” on OSX 15. I mention it because in my case the active tab is actually the LIGHTER tab of the group vs everything mentioned above. I pity the poor folk who have their Appearance theme set to Auto where the shading situation reverses twice every day.

  8. What annoy’s me the most is I can’t close a tab without first selecting it with these buttons. With the previous tabs, the X would show up if I hovered on the tab to allow me to close it without fist loading it. The other annoyance is not showing some of the title for the website when you have multiple tabs for the same site open. There is a long delay before they load and I still have to hover over each tab to know which one. Maybe I just work differently than everyone else.

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