Safari 15 Users Say New Tab Design is Counterintuitive

Safari 15's controversial new design on the Mac has led to complaints about the way the browser indicates which tab is active.

safari 15 tabs
As illustrated by Daring Fireball's John Gruber, there was never any ambiguity about which tab is active in previous versions of Safari, as an active tab is shown with lighter shading that matches the browser's toolbar.

In Safari 15, however, tabs have a new button-like design with a rounder and more defined appearance. Apple has also inverted its shading of tabs, with an active tab now having darker shading and inactive tabs having lighter shading. The change has annoyed Gruber and other users, as evidenced by this Reddit thread with nearly 1,000 upvotes.

"The design is counterintuitive," wrote Gruber. "What sense does it make that no matter your settings, the active tab is rendered with less contrast between the tab title and the background than background tabs? The active tab should be the one that pops."

In a Safari 15 window with two tabs open, especially from the same website, Gruber said determining which tab is active is basically a guessing game. Gruber acknowledged that it is easier to discern the active tab when more than two tabs are open, but he said the confusion with exactly two tabs should have been reason enough to scrap the design change.

"I can't tell you how many times I closed the tab that I needed because of this," one Reddit user expressed in frustration.

Unfortunately for users who do not like the new design, Apple has not made any changes to the shading of tabs in either the Safari 15.1 beta or the latest version of the experimental Safari Technology Preview browser.

Tag: Safari

Top Rated Comments

Bawstun Avatar
15 months ago
Just yet one more example of the poor designers Apple employs lately. It’s such a small thing but it speaks to a larger problem. Their user interface has sucked on many design angles for years. Just take a look at Apple Music. Nothing is as intuitive as it used to be…
Score: 140 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Joe_ Avatar
15 months ago
When you got John Gruber (who defends Apple 24/7) agreeing with you, you’ll know Apple has messed up:
https://daringfireball.net/2021/10/the_tragedy_of_safari_15_quote_unquote_tabs
I have nothing personal against him but he defends Apple like it’s no tomorrow.
Score: 57 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PBG4 Dude Avatar
15 months ago
Never have I been so happy to not upgrade an Apple OS. Truly a first for me.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bookofxero Avatar
15 months ago
It is "natural" scrolling all over again...
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
paulypants Avatar
15 months ago
100% agree. Glad I'm not the only one finding this backwards.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mapsdotapp Avatar
15 months ago
if Apple was brave enough they would have stuck to leaving the Compact tab layout as the default view. it eliminates all ambiguity about which tab is active and looks the best.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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