CNET solves Microsoft's Windows 7 'browser ballot' dilemma

How should Microsoft make it easy for a user to choose between the ten Web browsers Windows 7 will offer for install during its initial setup? The answer is really quite simple

How can you choose which Web browser you want to install if you don't even know what a browser is?

Microsoft is going to offer users a choice of up to ten Web browsers to install when users first fire up its new operating system, Windows 7. But how should they be ordered on this so-called 'ballot screen': by alphabetical name? By market share?

The obvious answer has apparently eluded Microsoft: simply ask a user what's important to them when using the Web.

The problem and the fix

Most modern browsers offer extremely similar features (tabs, good security, compatibility with modern Web sites), so a list of key selling points isn't enough to quickly point Mum and Dad towards the most suitable choice.

So here's what we suggest: present a short series of easy to understand questions to determine what features or characteristics are most important to someone choosing a Web browser. At the end of, say, five questions, Windows would suggest the most relevant browser, based on the answers given.

For example:

Question 1: Are you interested in changing the look and feel of your browser to suit your personal tastes? [Yes] [No]

Question 2: Are you interested in downloading tools to make your Web browser more capable, such as automatically posting favourite links to sites such as Digg or Twitter? [Yes] [No]

Question 3: Do you simply need a browser that runs quickly, and don't require any functionality beyond displaying Web pages? [Yes] [No]

A user would just put a yes or no vote against each of these example questions, then press OK. If they selected yes for questions one and two, Windows could suggest Firefox and explain why. If they only selected yes for question three, then it could suggest Google Chrome or Internet Explorer .

With too many questions, more than one or two browsers might be suggested. But if a choice was simply narrowed down to two, it would reduce the burden and confusion of deciding between an overly democratic spread of ten.

Have a thought? Spit it into the comments.


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