How often has this happened: you’re reading Wikipedia, click another article (or two), then forget where you came from?
Human short-term memory is bad at keeping track of browsing history. (We need help.)
Web browsers are perfectly good at tracking history, and they do. The problem is: they don’t show it. Browsers just show you a “back” arrow.
Browsers have had these uninformative back buttons since IE 1.0, without much change. But iOS design patterns suggest a better way. On iOS, apps show you where you came from.
This isn’t even some secret wisdom, known only on iOS.
Some websites show you “breadcrumbs”, telling you where you came from, as you navigate around the site. But when you navigate between sites, then you’re lost!
The browser could easily help you with this act of virtual “wayfinding”. It just needs to show you where you came from. Here’s what that could look like (sketches by http://hollyshisler.com).
This titled button design comes at the cost of more screen real-estate, but, that cost is not disproportionate to the value of the back button. In a study of 215k users, Mozilla found that the back button is the most widely-used element in the whole Firefox interface (https://blog.mozilla.org/ux/2012/06/firefox-heatmap-study-2012-results-are-in/). Given this fact, it’s actually beneficial to increase the size of the back button, because that will make it easier for users to press it (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitts%27s_law).
This UX design concept was a collaboration with Holly Shisler—thanks!