Working in the Browser Sucks
Most of us love cloud software, but working in the browser can be cluttered and cumbersome. The proliferation of cloud software like Google Docs and Salesforce mean modern work is primarily done in the browser.
I personally interact far more with my browser today than I do with my computer’s operating system, and countless user interviews show that I am not alone. In a sense, browsers have become an OS within an OS, but they lack an organization structure that fits they way people work in them.
Browsers have become an OS within an OS
Browsers simply haven’t been built for work; which is precisely why we’re happy to announce that we are publicly launching Workona today to fix that.
Rather than building yet another browser, Workona transforms your existing browser into a professional work tool that’s far more capable of managing the heavy workloads we’re all doing in it. We support Google Chrome for now, with support for other browsers to come soon.
Through the development of Workona, we’ve learned a lot about how people are working in the browser today and why that experience falls short. If you work in the browser, then many of these problems will be all too familiar.
Our love-hate relationship with tabs
If there is one thing we’ve learned in the development of our product: people love tabs. When tabs became popular in the the early 2000s, they transformed how people browsed.
The success of tabs is no surprise in retrospect. Tabs are containers that can hold anything on the internet — documents, task lists, video calls, files, CRM records, research — that can be arranged next to one another in a meaningful group. A group of tabs could represent a project your working on, a workflow, resources for a meeting, or something much fuzzier.
If you’ve ever found yourself losing a battle against a steadily growing pile of open tabs, it’s not your fault. Tab overload is merely a symptom of a deeper problem: Many of us rely on our browser to do almost all of our work, but with no ability to save our progress, we resort to keeping everything open.
Part of the appeal of tabs is just how rapidly we become familiar with their location in the window. Humans have evolved powerful spatial memory in order to deal with all the navigating we had to do as hunter-gatherers. For example, I’m willing to bet you could find a spoon in your kitchen with your eyes closed.
But there’s a more fitting metaphor for tabs in the physical world than spoons: Tabs in your browser are the modern equivalent of papers on your desk. They’re your work-in-progress, your project files, your research, your reminders. With such important contents, losing your tabs can be a traumatic experience.
The missing work management system
Just as in the physical world, some people like to keep their digital desks cleaner than others. I’m one of those people. Before Workona, if I wanted a “clean desk” in my browser, I would often close tabs to get them out of my way, only to end up hunting for them all again later that week.
Groups of tabs often represent a project, but with no ability to save them, you’re forced to keep them all open until the project is complete. Imagine if you didn’t have the ability to save word processor documents. You’d have two choices: print the document or close it forever. This scenario is not far off from the current state of browser.
So what’s the solution? You need to be able to save your work. In other words, we need to bring persistence to the browser. When the tabs in a window represent your company’s quarterly plan, the ability to save the window, close it, and come back to it a week later is a godsend. As someone that manages projects for a living, this shortcoming of working in the cloud was making my life far harder than it needed to be. The longer the project went on, the more likely the tabs were to be shut in a mass decluttering on a stressful day.
Some of you are probably thinking, “But can’t you can just use the Bookmark All Tabs feature for that?” That’s exactly what I used to do, and I could never get it to work long term. Bookmarks are great for saving individual links permanently, but keeping all of my project folders up to date adds way too much friction to my workflow.
Workspaces are smart browser windows with names, that can be shut anytime, and reopened just as you left them.
To make it work, the experience needs to be frictionless. It needs to be a space that you can dive into and out of in an instant, that saves the work you do in it automatically. Which is why we are so excited to introduce workspaces: Workona’s workspaces are smart browser windows with names, that can be shut anytime, and reopened just as you left them.
Less stressed, more focused
Like most people working for an early-stage startup, I have to wear many hats. It isn’t unusual for me to bounce from product, to marketing, to support, all in one day. I would be lost if I had to go back to managing so many projects at once without having a separate workspace for each. Juggling three projects in the browser is cumbersome, but juggling 10 projects is crushingly overwhelming.
With all of my tabs open all the time, it’s nearly impossible to focus on what I’m doing. It’s just too easy to get distracted by another in-progress project. I know that I’m prone to procrastination when it comes to certain kinds of work, so I have to remove all potential distractions or I’ll never finish.
Big writing projects are in that category for me, so right now I’ve closed all my other workspaces and only have the two tabs that I need to write this article open. Knowing that I can close all my windows at any time and not lose a single tab has been transformational for how I work. After using workspaces to manage everything from raising our first round to planning product epics, I never want to go back to feeling the stress of all my projects at once.
The future of work in the browser
Work has steadily shifted to the cloud over the last decade and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. It’s hard to imagine a future where we continue to do all of our work in the same product that people use to browse kitten pics. If you’re a professional who spends their day working in a browser, give Workona a try and feel the difference for yourself:
Today Workona is supercharging your productivity through workspaces, collaboration, sync, and search, but we have many more powerful features planned that we aren’t quite ready to talk about. We hope you’ll join us as we continue to craft a smarter way to work in the browser.