Although there’s been quite a lot of talk around the Konfabulator / Dashboard controversy there’s been much less talk about the new features added to the WebKit framework which is the underlying rendering engine used in Safari. I suppose this is in part due to NDAs and all that, but since this stuff does seem to be somewhat public knowledge — and is showcased on Apple’s website, I’m curious about other’s thoughts on these new additions.
Specifically, I’m referring to the new UI widgets — the Search Field and the Range Slider Control. Although I’m happy to see something new in the way of form widgets for the web (really, has anything new happened on this front in the last, oh, five or six years?), it’s frustrating because they’re (currently) not a part of the W3C spec and may not be for some time, if at all, and therefore obviously won’t validate without tweaking your DOCTYPE declaration.
Do you think they’re useful outside of Safari or Dashboard? Would you like to see these form widgets available in other browsers such as Internet Explorer or Firefox? How can you see using the slider control in a real-world application? Are these widgets a step towards allowing developers to build even more expansive, applications on par with desktop equivalents?
The search input field is clearly designed for a specific purpose but I think if implemented appropriately, provides a more user-focused way of implementing basic text search for websites that is both intuitive and actually useful. The ability to provide a search field that remembers search queries across sessions with no special programming or scripting is a real boon for both designers and developers. Although we could debate the issue of how many ways the same task could be implemented, in the end, would it not be better to work from a standardized, lightweight method that gets the job done and works across browsers and platforms. Perhaps with a bit of luck and a bit of time we’ll get there.
So, what to do.
I’ve been debating implementing the search field as a test though it’s general usefulness would be limited since there’s only a small percentage of visitors who would see the benefit. The upside is that the field degrades gracefully so it behaves the same as a regular text input field in unsupported browsers. Safari 1.3 or the beta of Safari 2 is required to use the new WebKit features in Mac OS X.
Although I haven’t checked my site stats specifically looking for visitors using either of those browser versions, I will be monitoring things and maybe these changes will appear… or maybe not.