The ordering of the UI elements at the top of the screen… divorces the tab — which includes the name of the current webpage — from the webpage itself. Maybe everyone at Apple prefers their bookmarks in the Sidebar instead, but for those of us who are used to the more traditional location, having the Favorites Bar split the tab and its content makes skimming what tabs are where more work than it should be.
To make matters worse, it’s hard to tell at a glance which tab is active and which is inactive. Previous versions of Safari didn’t struggle with this, but Apple has seem to fit to bring the age-old “which iPad app has focus” problem to the browser. Using the Monterey beta, I almost always end up trying to tab to or away from the wrong tab because I can’t quickly register which one is active when looking at the tab bar.
I think Apple has improved the legibility of the selected tab a bit in recent betas, enough that it’s usable, but it’s not as good as it could be.
As to the placement of the Favorites Bar — there’s really no excuse. It breaks the entire metaphor of tabs by placing non-tab-specific content beneath tabs, and divorces the tabs from the URL bar. I’d like to believe that this is a design oversight that Apple will correct at some point, but my fear is that Apple simply doesn’t think the Favorites Bar is a relevant feature in a world where you can browse your favorites from a Safari Start Page.
I like the Start Page a lot, and on the iPad I frequently navigate to favorite sites via the Start Page. But on the Mac I use the Favorites Bar all the time. It’s a valid and valuable Safari feature, and it deserves better than the bad placement it has in the current Safari 15 betas.