First impressions: quick starter
I had the pleasure yesterday of trying out quickstarter, by simply googling for random applets around the web and trying them out. To coin a phrase, applets are fun again (don't quote me on that, it's geeky in the wrong way). No, honestly, as of this Release N I was able to visit many, many sites, some quite old, to see what their applets were about. The experience was, overall, very smooth and for the first time I didn't find myself cursing applet technology under my breath. It's kind of a revelation to have applets be usable and useful again. I was also surprised by how well applets blend into web pages with this new update, even pages that were quite old (as in "this applet requires Java 1.1" kind of old).
So, first comment, great work.
Now some criticisms, or comments on what I think you can improve.
2) Occasionally an applet couldn't be loaded. This was usually some internal exception in the applet, e.g. from missing resources or such. I'd just like to add a vote against the current graphic/icon that displays when the applet can't load. I think some kind of scalable icon that takes up the (usually square) icon space, with no words, would be preferable (e.g. the familiar "men at work" icon, for example). I personally find the dialogue box that comes up in case of error a little shocking (the ! icon, the word "error" repeated in title and text). Suggest the whole "error" experience be a little gentler.
3) On navigating away from a page with an applet, what I often saw was (briefly): the applet reset to a grey background, then the page switch. It would be nice to avoid it--the delay in page navigation was probably just the browser doing its thing, but the applet background greying out at the same time caused me to associate the two events (and I blamed the applet).
4) The purpose of the orange animated icon wasn't always clear to me (e.g. what was going on). In the best case, the animation showed up, the progress bar filled up, and the applet launched. That was in 80% of the cases. In some cases, the progress bar would halt (right at the left edge, e.g. 1-2%) while something? was going on in the background. That happened at least once on this page http://www.site.uottawa.ca/~stan/csi2514/applets/avl/BT.html, for example, but on a number of other pages as well.
5) Branding: I think you have a good start with the orange animated icon. I would work on getting the other artifacts in line with that. The dialogs that come up (on error, for webstart) are distracting in the sense that they look like dialogs written by a programmer. As a programmer, I'm interested or accepting, as a consumer, I'd like an integrated experience. For example, for JNLP, there is the first splash icon, then a "downloading" dialog box (which has two modes, one without progress bar and one with), then a permissions dialog--I would try and base these more around the original splash window. The experience should be more like launching NetBeans or other desktop apps--branding + progress. The UI on the permissions dialog also seems to mix four different styles (bold fonts, non-bold, ancient Java icon in title bar, new looking style icon in top right and bottom left). Needs more UI work. I think the new orange animation should lead the way, that's done very nicely.
I hope these comments are helpful in some way. As I said, for the first time ever? I was able to spend a few hours yesterday just cruising through applets old and new. I appreciated the effort on your part that made that possible. Applets are in part about sharing experiments, ideas and experiences. This update is re-energizing that part of the original vision.