September 25, 2012
Admittedly, a few days have passed since the September 8-9th 2012 MozCamp EU in Warsaw. But, I wanted to say a few words about the incredible experience.
I was so excited to attend this MozCamp in particular. Eastern Europe, and Poland especially, have some of the oldest and strongest Mozilla communities, in existence for well over a decade. And, Poland is continually at the top of our browser marketshare charts, with roughly half the population using Firefox. Having never been to Poland, I’ve always seen these numbers and wondered about the people and stories behind them.
I’d met many Mozilla Poland community members over the years and knew they were passionate for the open web – people like Marcin Jagodziński, who first translated Firefox into Polish, and Marek Wawoczny, who maintains Mozilla Poland’s active community site. But, meeting these contributors together as a vibrant and enthusiastic community sheds light on Eastern Europe’s passion for open source. The communities here are healthy and growing. They are directly involved in education, many regularly speaking at university campuses to get students excited about innovating in the open. It was incredible to hear about the specific challenges that each community faces in their regions and the creative ways they step up to meet them, from hacking at meet.js events in Krakow to the Free Hugs from Firefox in Paris.
And, as at all Mozilla events, the talks and demos were incredible. As a gamer, I thought one of the most exciting projects was BananaBread, a fully 3D FPS built using only HTML5 by Anant Narayanan, Alon Zakai, and others.
Wesley Johnston showed off some pretty exciting stuff coming up in Firefox Android, like smooth-as-butter scrolling and reader mode, which turns your ugly mobile site into something that will make typographers cream their pants.
Patryk Adamczyk gave a great run-through on the design principles that have guided the creation of the beautiful Firefox OS, including the “personality types” which guided its sound design (good news for anyone who owns a business suit and a skateboard).
I gave a talk on how to user test mobile apps (and other projects). It was a great experience, and people brought some excellent ideas and questions! I’ll blog more about this talk later.
Of course, I could never do justice to all the great talks, collaboration, and hacking that went on over two very short days, but thanks to everyone who made this MozCamp so awesome. Meeting the Mozilla community always leaves me feeling humbled to work on the Project, inspired by what’s coming up, and (in this case) hungover on buffalo vodka.
June 15, 2011
Whenever you open a new tab in Firefox, your goal is to navigate somewhere. To aid your navigation, on this new tab Firefox currently offers you… nothing. Just a blank page. 100% white, and 100% not useful.
Firefox has been displaying this blank page when users open a new tab for as long as there’s been a new tab. And, partially, it’s deliberate. After all, a blank page is guaranteed not to distract you from your current task. It’s just clean and white, like a canvas, offering no suggestions for the next move and no distractions from it. Alex Faaborg explains very well in his recent blog post the concerns we have with distracting users and the ways that data overload on a new tab page can be harmful.
This isn’t the case when you open a new tab in other browsers. Opera was the first to offer a “Speed Dial” with giant thumbnails linking users to their most frequented sites. Safari’s giant wall-o-televisions offers much the same. Chrome has played around with different designs, first trying a speed dial like Opera’s and later integrating other content, such as apps. Internet Explorer, the most unusual of the designs, offers you some options: reopen closed tabs and sessions, start private browsing, or use an “Accelerator,” which usually means do “something with Bing.”
So, which approach is best for our users? Would presenting large thumbnail targets to direct people to sites they frequently visit save them time? Could we present information to make it easier for users to navigate to their next destination? Can we do so without being distracting and leading users away from the task they had in mind?
We realized that we couldn’t answer these questions without finding out more about our users. So, a few people at Mozilla are heading up studies to find out how people use tabs and how different designs of new tab page effect how they browse and user the web.
Here’s what’s going down:
Intern Lilian Weng is currently working on a quantitative study within Test Pilot to capture data on what users do after they open a new tab. This should answer questions surrounding user intention when opening a new tab, and possibly how long users take to perform actions after opening a new tab.
Interns Diyang Tang and Lilian Weng are preparing to do an A/B test using Test Pilot to determine how user behavior differs when presented with a new tab page vs. none. They are attempting to answer questions such as:
– Does a new tab page discourage breadth in visited sites?
– How do users navigate to a website after they open a new tab in each scenario? (location bar, search bar, top sites, bookmarks, history, etc.)
– Are there users who are more mouse-based and some who are more keyboard-based? How does a new tab page affect them?
Diane Loviglio and myself are preparing more qualitative “cafe” tests to gain insight into how people use tabs currently. We’d like to know why and when users open new tabs in a more contextual perspective than Test Pilot data provides. Our goal is to find a wide enough range of users that the most common new tab behaviors can be grouped and discussed in a more tractable framework.
Once the research from tests 1-3 is available, variations on new tab pages will be implemented and tried out with real users. There are multiple testing methods that could be useful here, such as a multivariate testing or even journaling to gain insight into how new tab pages effect behavior of a user over time.
Not quite a research project, but intern Abhinav Sharma is designing and implementing an experimental new tab page which uses contextual information about a user’s current browsing session to offer suggestions. His page makes intelligent recommendations about where you’re likely to go next based on where you’ve been. The project’s still in alpha, but you can see the code he’s done already for a basic speed dial implementation on his github.
You’ll notice that a lot of this work is being done by our awesome new Summer 2011 interns! It’s only early June and they’re already rocking hard.
I’ll post what we learn from these studies as results come in. I predict we’ll gain some insight into user behavior that will inform not only Firefox’s new tab design, but many other features besides!
December 20, 2008
May 21, 2008
I’m Jennifer Boriss, but I go by just Boriss. Two weeks ago I started work at Mozilla as a user experience designer. I’ll be working alongside established superheros Mike Beltzner, Alex Faaborg, Madhava Enros, and Aza Raskin to make the Firefox the best online experience possible.
I’m joining Mozilla at an interesting and exciting time. The much anticipated Firefox 3 will arrive soon, and its first release candidate was released on May 17. The response to RC1 so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and deservedly so. Firefox 3 is a solid, excellent product, and everyone here and in the community is very thrilled to see it out the door. The Firefox 3 release is the latest in a long series of exciting events to happen at Mozilla. Ever since Firefox 1.0’s release in 2004, it’s been steadily gaining users in almost every country. Today, Firefox enjoys over 16% market share online (28% in Europe), and this is only growing. Fairly impressive, considering IE held 95% of the market at Firefox 1.0’s release.
Like many, I found the success little open-source browser that could very exciting. Beyond the fast, clean web experience, the collaborative and open nature of Firefox’s development is exciting as a model for achieving projects online across many countries. And also like many, I found the previous lack of choice in browsing and the poor user experience of Internet Explorer disturbing. If the internet is the new medium of information, business, and communication, the experience of its users is too important to be entirely written by Microsoft. This is why I joined Mozilla and am pumped about what’s to come.
This is a formative time for Mozilla, but also the internet as a whole. The nature of the browser and online experience will go through a series of important changes – evidenced in part by the hype of web 2.0 and more recent development of rich internet applications. How we access and create content is still shifting and being rewritten. While no one knows the precise direction the internet will take, we can set broad goals and work through advancing technology to achieve them. My focus is on user experience, so some possible goals could be:
These are fairly broad goals, and I surely don’t know all the specifics of how we should achieve them. And, given the number of very passionate Firefox users, the task of improving the user experience is a bit daunting. If Firefox were a poor product, this job would be easy. As it is, Firefox already has what I consider an excellent user experience, and I know the risk of fixing something that isn’t broken – I won’t do it lightly. That’s why I’m hoping this blog will be more of a conversation than a monologue. I’ll use it to post ideas and designs for Firefox, and hope that people will comment. I welcome all feedback, especially negative. After all, my job at Mozilla isn’t to implement my own personal visions, but rather to be an advocate for the users. So rant, rave, complain, tell me what makes your grandmother angry, whatever – let’s start the conversation.