Georges Abi-Heila

@John.Val.John

Your browser has failed you

… and extensions won’t ease the pain.

Browsers have evolved to become the central way we do pretty much anything: shopping, scheduling, invoicing, monitoring, calling, texting, reading, watching, listening, writing, sharing: you name it. Along the way, as billions of people were shifting to the browser as their main work tool, it started to show some weaknesses.

At Station, our sole & only focus is to ease our user’s workday. As part of that, we’re trying to identify the small defects in the browser that could help us refine our product.

We quickly realised that one of the best way to identify potential improvements in modern browsers is by looking at their most popular extensions. After all, if so many people are proactively choosing to add a third party component to their main work tool, it must have some kind of usefulness…

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Blocking ads & trackers

“A/S/L”… that dates me I guess.

Why it matters

When surveyed, users say security, focus & speed are their main motivation behind adblockers usage (privacy’s way behind). People are basically saying that they value efficiency above everything: they want websites to load fast and they don’t want their focus to be disrupted, be it by a popup, a banner or a malware…

Where it hurts

Ads & tracking scripts help software providers earn money & improve their apps but this happens essentially at the expense of users:

  • Visual annoyance
    The very characteristics that make ads more noticeable also make them more annoying
  • Increased page load time
    Despite recent efforts to reduce the size of ads, lots of websites’ are still bloated with oversized banners & animations.
  • Decision fatigue
    Advertisements force you, repeatedly & on a daily basis, to make micro-choices about wether to click or not. The more targeted the ad, the harder the decision: willpower is a muscle that ads tend to tire…

Extensions that ease the pain

Adblock Plus, uBlock Origin, Ghostery, AdBlock, Poper Blocker, AdGuard

Users under medication

230+ millions

2. Screenshooting & screensharing

He didn’t have the right screensharing tool

Why it matters

As work gets increasingly collaborative, the velocity & ease of content-sharing becomes a key success factor that individuals have internalised.
Because we share so much content so often, our tools should be straightforward & easy to use.

Where it hurts

The browser, who’s the canvas for most our work tools, isn’t really helping us on that.

  • Too much friction
    Natively, sharing a screenshot is a 6 step process: open your OS screenshot tool > take a screenshot > save it > share it > delete it
  • No sharing history
    Can you send me that screenshot again?”
  • No access control
    Restricting access to photos after sharing them can sometimes prove useful (ask Kanye West, Joe Barton, Anthony Weiner & a couple of others…).

Extensions that ease the pain

Fireshot, Evernote Web Clipper, Nimbus Screen Capture, OneNote Online Web Clipper, Screencastify, MrColes FullPage Screen Capture

Users under medication

25+ millions

3. Copywriting & spell-checking

Why it matters

Because it is representative of the inflation of daily interactions we have.
We chat, mail, text & blog more than ever and it has a huge impact on our working habits.

Where it hurts

Producing texts that are well written & mistake-free at a high throughput -which is basically what we’re asked to do everyday - is a tremendously difficult task.

  • Spell-checking in context
    Sometimes a word is not spelled correctly but quite often, a correctly spelled word is used in the wrong context. Those pesky ones are called “homophones” and we all fall in their trap: there/their/they’re, its/it’s, lose/loose…
  • Grammar checking
    Most grammatical errors are benign but some of them can actually be quite complex to detect (subject-verb agreement, modifier placement, etc.).

Extensions that ease the pain

Grammarly & Hemingway Editor

Users under medication

20+ millions

4. Managing tabs

Sunglasses on heroic quest for survival

Why it matters

This is pretty interesting because it highlights a recent change that had a profound effect on our workflow: the amount of web-apps used at work is dramatically increasing. What previously existed in the physical world (the phone, calendar, rolodex, …) or as a desktop app (Photoshop, Office, iTunes, …) is now mainly accessed through a website.

Where it hurts

In spite of its many obvious advantages, this market evolution can be a real productivity killer if you don’t adapt:

  • Constant context-switching
    Multitasking has been proven to greatly reduce cognitive abilities & increase stress.
  • Window overload & tab-fatigue
    Having too many open windows further expands the time needed to find the right information.
  • Computer slow-downs
    Because each open tab is an independent process, opening a lot of them puts a lot of pressure on your CPU.

Extensions that ease the pain

The Great Suspender, OneTab, Toby, Session Buddy, Tab Resize, New Tab Redirect, Save Tabs.

Users under medication

15+ millions

5. Managing passwords

Don’t worry, we all do…

Why it matters

Also related to the explosion of SaaS is the inflation of virtual accounts pretty much everywhere. We’re basically scattering huge amounts of personal & professional data on websites we don’t really audit. With our trust mostly driven by reputation or lack of time, securing credentials becomes crucial.

Where it hurts

The proliferation of logins induces multiple new challenges:

  • Increased attack surface
    This one’s pretty basic: the more 3rd parties you trust with the storage of your passwords, the more you put yourself at risk.
  • Viral breach
    Being lazy mammals, we tend to reuse the same password (or combination of words) on multiple platforms. Hackers, belonging to the same specie, know that & capitalise on previous breaches to steal multiple accounts of the same user.
  • Access management
    With employee turn-over being at an all time high, keeping track of shared passwords becomes a necessity: off-boarding employees means revoking accesses; while welcoming newcomers requires creating new passwords.

Extensions that ease the pain

Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password, Keeper Security, RoboForm

Users under medication

10+ millions

The future

Most of the features these extensions provide will be natively offered by your browser: if a pain is commonly shared by a large proportion of your user base, then your product should solve it by itself.

Browsers already made a couple of steps in that way by integrating popup blocking, basic password management & spell-checking. Some of them, like Safari & Brave, went even further by blocking ad-trackers.

At Station we think that’s not enough. By creating a one-size fits all experience, we feel that browsers loose their focus & efficiency. Chrome & Firefox are definitely incredible products but a single software can‘t really provide a delightful experience for that many use-cases.

That’s precisely why we’re building a platform solely dedicated to work: an “OS for SaaS” that will help the modern worker access his tools, switch between them & get stuff done. We still have a long way to go & our product is largely perfectible but we really believe that, by maintaining this focus, we could help millions of people get cozy at work 😊

Thanks for your time!

Dig deeper

Most facts presented in this post are sourced from these reports & articles.
If you which to learn more or make your own opinion, I think they’re a good starting point.

About Station

Based in Paris, we’re a team of 9 whose sole ambition is to ease your workday. We’re laser focused on providing the best user experience on the “work hard” side; as others handle the “play hard” side better than us.
Our only product is a free desktop application that unifies all your web tools in one neat & productive interface. It has been thought & designed as a work-only, distraction-free platform that helps you get stuff done.
🏆 We’re Product of the Year 2017! (courtesy of Product Hunt)
👉 Give us a try!
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