Category Archives: mozilla

SUMO in 2013: Firefox OS

You’re reading the second part of the SUMO in 2013 blog series, and this time the focus is Firefox OS!

  • Part 1: Delight our users
  • Part 2: Firefox OS — you’re reading this one right now!
  • Part 3: Firefox Desktop
  • Part 4: Firefox Android
  • Part 5: Summary

So what exactly is Firefox OS? From mozilla.org:

Firefox OS will produce an implementation of new Web standards to free mobile platforms from the encumbrances of the rules and restrictions of existing proprietary platforms.

We’re collaborating with OEMs and carriers directly, giving them more influence to meet the specific needs of their users and market. Users and developers aren’t locked in to one platform, so they can access their info and use apps across multiple devices.

Developers will no longer need to learn and develop against platform-specific native APIs. […] Consumers who use devices powered by Firefox OS won’t be locked into one specific platform giving them more choice, flexibility and freedom. With Firefox OS, the Web is the platform.

Create best-in-class mobile support experience for Firefox OS v1 launch

firefox-phone2013 is going to be an incredible year for Mozilla since it will be the year when Firefox OS and the open mobile web get into the hands of users around the world. At SUMO, we’re working hard to prepare for this and to ensure we’re ready to support users if they run into any problems.

However, some things will be a little different for us compared to how we’re supporting Firefox users. These Firefox OS phones will be sold in brick and mortar stores, and the user will have actually paid with real money for it. This raises the bar of the kind of support they expect for their device, and we need to be prepared for that.

Partner with carriers & OEMs

Luckily, we’re not the only ones who care deeply about Firefox OS users — since the phones will be sold in stores, we will rely on our partners for the first line of defense in supporting Firefox OS. This is a great start, but we still need to make sure that those who do come to our site get the best possible answers to their questions.

We also want to make sure that our partners have the best possible support material for our product so they can delight their customers just as much as we will. This means we’ll be working on delivering high-quality support documentation and training material as part of writing our knowledge base articles for users. In fact, we’ve already started and would love to see you join the efforts! Contributing to SUMO is a great way to influence the future of Firefox OS and to be a part of this brand new mobile phone experience.

Build localized support forums and communities and supply them with needed tools

Our support forum platform view from a mobile device.

For local communities who don’t already have a support forum and are ready to support Firefox OS users, we will be building the foundations to support localized forums on support.mozilla.org itself. This is actually something we’ve wanted to offer for a long time, so it’s very exciting that it will finally become a reality for the local communities who need it! Note that this foundation will also work for all of our other products like Firefox, but we’re building this primarily to support the Firefox OS v1 launch.

Another thing we did last year in preparation for the Firefox OS launch was to redesign the forum interface to look awesome on small screens. You can check this out today by navigating to support.mozilla.org/questions from your mobile phone.

Ensure excellent first impression by answering all user questions during our initial launch

You only have one chance to give a first impression, and we want ours to be an excellent one. We’ll be making sure that everyone gets an answer to their questions on SUMO, regardless of whether they found our site directly when searching online, or if they were sent our way by our partners.

We’re collaborating with our local communities such as Mozilla Hispano to ensure that we’re all ready for this big launch. Mozilla Hispano have done an amazing job already with preparing their community and website, and they’re just as excited about the launch as we are.

Expand our support offerings to include third-party Apps developers

UI Tests for Firefox OS (by tuuux)

The beauty of Firefox OS is that the platform used to run native apps on it is the web itself, completely unencumbered. This is huge for developers, because it means all they need to know in order to write apps for Firefox OS are the same skills they use to write websites: html5, javascript, and a bit of css. In fact, many developers already write mobile apps using these technologies on other proprietary mobile OS platforms like Android and iOS to make their apps work cross-platform. So the learning curve for developers to include support for Firefox OS will essentially be zero, because with Firefox OS, the web is the platform.

That doesn’t mean that no developer will ever need support, so we will be joining forces with the Developer Engagement team and implement a solution for those needs. This includes both administrative and purely development-related support.

That was an overview of what we’re working on this year around Firefox OS support. It’s all very exciting! In the next part of the series, I’ll present our goals for Firefox on the desktop. Stay tuned for more…

SUMO in 2013: Delight our users

In case you’re still hiding in that safety bunker and missed all the fireworks, it’s actually 2013 now and we all survived (well, most of us; that you’re reading this is a good sign that you’re likely still around). This is big news for Mozilla, because 2013 is the year of Firefox OS on the mobile! It’s also big news for SUMO, because we’re going to provide kick-ass support for this phone OS in ways the world has never seen before — while continuing to excel with Firefox desktop and Android, as well as exploring new opportunities with Apps & Marketplace.

This post marks the beginning of a mini-series outlining and explaining our SUMO high-level goals in 2013. I’ll start at the highest level and then I’ll drill down into the specifics for each product we’re supporting (or will begin to support this year) on support.mozilla.org.

  • Part 1: Delight our users — you’re reading this one right now!
  • Part 2: Firefox OS
  • Part 3: Firefox Desktop
  • Part 4: Firefox Android
  • Part 5: Summary

To kick this off, let’s start with our overarching mission this year:

Delight our users.

Delighting users means going above and beyond and delivering product support that is better than they expected. It means making sure everyone visiting our support will get an answer to their question. But it also means that they take something with them from the experience of getting helped that they didn’t expect — something that delights them. For example, learning about a neat trick with the product that enhances their experience with the product, or just being pleasantly surprised with the speed and accuracy of the answer, or maybe that our support community was the best and most friendly community they’ve ever experienced.

Michael and Michelle helping a Firefox user.

Let’s look at our 2013 goals that apply to all of our known products: Firefox desktop, Firefox for Android, Firefox OS, and Apps & Marketplace.

Implement a cross-team proactive user education strategy

This will be a big part of our “delight our users” promise, because we’ll use this proactive type of support before the user even thought they needed help about something. You can do this in many different ways, for example when you’re on the support site and you’re trying to solve a problem, we can take the opportunity to teach about something else too. Or when you’re launching Firefox for the first time, we could feature an interactive walk-through of the components of the UI. Or if you like our Mozilla Firefox page on Facebook, we could seed it with useful tips to make the most out of your product experience.

Because of the many ways of educating users, this goal will be a coordinated approach lead by SUMO but involving aspects of marketing, engagement, support, and the product itself (UX, etc). The sky is the limit on this one, and that’s what’s making it so exciting! Michael shares some more thoughts on user education on his blog.

Ensure that users with problems know that SUMO exists

What good is our support if people don’t know how to find us, let alone that we exist? A survey that we conducted some time ago revealed that we still need to do more to ensure maximum visibility of our support offerings for those who need it. Our goal is that anyone that has a problem with our products should know where to go to get help.

Drive quality improvements to our products through powerful user advocacy

Part of what makes SUMO great is that we listen carefully to what our users are saying to us in our various channels. This leads to better support, since we continuously fine-tune our content to match user demand — but it also leads to better products, since we share our findings with the rest of the organization. We call this User Advocacy, and in 2013 we’ll ramp this up significantly to ensure that our products are meeting our users’ expectations since that will also reduce the need for support — a win-win-win situation (users, SUMO, Mozilla).

To learn more about how the SUMO group is organized, including the formation of the User Advocacy team, read the SUMO Staff Organization Changes blog post from last month.

Establish Firefox User Sentiment Report as a primary release-to-release product quality measurement for Desktop, Android, and Firefox OS

In December we piloted the first Firefox User Sentiment Report (or FUSR for short) for desktop Firefox, which is a real-time snapshot of our user’s joy and pain as reported from our user feedback channels. We got great feedback about it already, including of course rooms for improvements. Ultimately the goal of these reports is to make the products better by ensuring that our distilled user feedback is accessible, understandable, and above all actionable. Our vision is that teams like Engineering, Product, and UX — the awesome people that make our products — could look at our reports and quickly determine if there are any major issues to look for across our release channels.

The December installment of the report was just the beginning — as we generate more of these reports, we hope to include forecasting based on previous releases to ultimately give us the ability to predict the quality of a new version of Firefox before it leaves the Beta phase. And as we fine-tune the accuracy and visualization, we’ll make sure reports deliver on our promise of being actionable.

Push Recoverability features and user-demanded fixes into product roadmaps

In 2013, we’ll continue what we started last year with highlighting user-demanded fixes and getting them into our product roadmaps. We’ll also expand these efforts to all of our products, including of course Firefox OS, where the need for high quality user advocacy will be huge.

Make SUMO the primary entry-level community for Mozillians 

This is an area where we have a lot going for us already, but we can do even better, and in 2013 we will. By the end of this year, we will have made significant strides in this area, and we will have grown our community as a result!

The first contribution on SUMO should be a success, and it should be a fun and straightforward experience. There are lots of ways we can make this possible: better online tools on support.mozilla.org, better documentation, mentors and experts in our community who can help, etc.

And once you’ve joined our community, we want you to get more and more involved and engaged in our mission to delight our users. In many ways, being part of the SUMO community is a way to get closer to the products and the teams working on improving them. We love this part of SUMO and view it as a place to grow. This means that some will move on to contributing in other projects after a while, like QA, WebQA and web development — and that’s a great thing! Others (like myself) continue to contribute directly to SUMO, which is awesome.

That was a summary of the high-level SUMO goals in 2013 that apply to all of our products. In the next part, I’ll walk you through the goals we’ve outlined specifically for Firefox OS.

One awesomely designed support center and what makes it rock

Inspired by Desk.com’s article titled 12 Awesomely Designed Support Centers and What Makes Them Rock, I decided to take the opportunity to demonstrate why our very own help center, support.mozilla.org (SUMO) is way better than all of their twelve help centers combined. ;)

Although their article reads more as a showcase of some of the companies that happened to choose them as their support service provider (which we would never do, since our site is powered by our very own, superior and open-sourced CMS Kitsune), it’s still interesting to look at what they view as great design decisions in a help center to see how we compare.

Here are the main themes of their feedback that I distilled:

1. “The site looks great on all devices from mobile to desktop … The layout of the site is clean and makes it easy to navigate on any device”

We’re mighty proud of the mobile-optimized view of SUMO. It’s one of the most beautifully designed mozilla.org web properties ever made and it works across all mobile platforms. Bram did a fantastic job with the design, and it will fit our future Firefox OS support site like a glove:

          

You can try this out right away by navigating to support.mozilla.org with your Android or iPhone device. And if you’re one of the lucky few with a Firefox OS testing device, our site obviously works just as well there. :)

2. “The uncluttered design and iconography makes it easy to find information … The iconography makes topics easy to identify and stand out”

Our design uses beautiful icons to organize the content into help topics based on what users most commonly look for on our website. We tested this with paper prototyping before implementing it to make sure that the taxonomy and overall design was ideal for our unique product portfolio.

Our help topics area has beautiful icons

3. “The ability to view support center by topics or by articles is a great way to organize content … The organization of content makes it simple to find the exact answers you need”

We really went the extra mile on this one. In our user studies, we noticed that users have different behaviors when it comes to navigating to the answer to their question. Some people want to start by picking a general topic, while others prefer to pick the product they want support for first. As a result, we made sure that both of these orders work just as well on SUMO.

products and services

You can pick a topic and a product, and then we’ll show you a list of articles that matches that query. From that point, you can even filter that list down even further with the Refine and Focus feature, which allows you to pick from a more granular list of topics:

Our Refine and Focus lets you pick exactly the topic you need help with.

4. “The design is simple, clean and easy to navigate … The colors and typography are solid, strong and consistent with branding … The design is simple and clean and doesn’t distract from the important content”

The look and feel of SUMO is consistent with the overall design language of mozilla.org. This was a specific design requirement since support is an extension of the product experience. Also notice the language selector on the right — our site is available in multiple languages, and the localization is done by our amazing community of SUMO volunteers: people like our new Spanish locale leader Avelper, or my great friends and veteran Italian localizers Michele Rodaro and Underpass.

The typography and navigation elements are consistent throughout our web properties.

5. “The support center articles are well written and easy to understand”

We took great care to make sure that our articles are engaging, easy to understand and that they have a friendly tone. We also really considered the target audience and even the mood that they might be in when visiting our site (e.g. frustrated because they’re trying to figure out a solution to a problem). Great support is an important extension of the Firefox brand and the values that Mozilla stands for, so it’s important that we get this right. Our awesome content manager Michael played a huge role in making this a reality. Here are some of the support articles that capture these aspects well:

6. “There’s a ton of helpful information from community questions to how-to videos”

Videos are very powerful because they can convey lots of information very quickly and demonstrate features in ways that no texts or screenshots can ever come close to. It’s a bit like the difference between reading an article about how to play barre chords and just watching someone do it.

A video showing how to restore your previous Firefox session.

So there you have it! I love reading articles like the one on Desk.com because they make me realize just how far we’ve come at Mozilla with SUMO. Our support site is the result of lots of hard work by several teams, including of course the SUMO team, the SUMO dev team, and the UX team. And this year we’ll get even better — I’ll blog more about our plans for 2013 soon.

My mobile and desktop browsing habits are very different things

Browsing habits are the kind of things that gradually change over time without you even realizing it. If you look back a year ago, I’m sure some of the most visited websites today weren’t even on the top 20 list then. An obvious example is that quarterly goals page from Q3 2011 that you visited every day for a full quarter, and then suddenly never looked at again.

What’s even more interesting for me is how my mobile browsing habits have gradually changed into something very different from my desktop browsing habits. A couple of years ago, I used to visit roughly the same sites on both devices, but over time I found myself visiting some websites more from my mobile, and other websites more from my desktop computer.

Today, the separation is very clear: I almost exclusively use my desktop computer for work-related browsing (wikis, Etherpads, calendars, reports, etc), and I use my mobile phone mostly for casual browsing (news, social media, tech, blogs, etc). Another separation along the same lines is that I mostly use my desktop computer to write, and I use my mobile phone to read.

This actually makes me a little torn about the Firefox Sync implementation on Android today. On the one hand, I absolutely love the fact that I can have convenient access to all pages I visit on the desktop, and I simply can’t live without the pre-filled passwords. But on the other hand, I’m not sure I’m too crazy about the fact that all of those “Top Sites” are mixed together the way they are on the Awesome Screen. At the end of the day, I find it distracting to see ten different flavors of https://mail.mozilla.com/zimbra/#%5Binsert number here], or twenty different Etherpads or wiki pages all mixed up with the handful of sites that I actually do want to visit from my phone.

This is one of the things that I like about the stock Android browser on my Samsung Galaxy Note: it allows me to define exactly how I want the top bookmarks to look like, even in which order they should appear in the thumbnail grid.

Stock browser's bookmarks grid -- pardon the Swedish and poor reading taste.

Some things that would make my use of Firefox on Android feel more awesome:

  • An intuitive, quick way of arranging my top sites and bookmarks and ensure duplicates aren’t bubbling up at the top.
  • An option to view the top sites as a thumbnail grid instead of a list.
  • An option (or simply changed default) to not show the soft keyboard until you hit the text field again — I just want to click the top site rather than type on the keyboard.

Firefox Awesome Screen

All this said, I don’t know what I’d do without Firefox Sync. It really enables me to accomplish stuff on my phone that I previously had to use my desktop computer for. The only downside, I suppose, is that it also makes it that much easier to switch your mind back into work mode after stumbling on that interesting report, or Etherpad, or wiki page that you’re not supposed to read when trying to wind down after a long workday… :)

Firefox for Android finally ready for prime time!

If you’ve tried Firefox for Android in the past and weren’t impressed, try again today. With a revamped interface built entire from scratch, it’s infinitely faster, renders websites beautifully, and supports Flash (for those who happen to like that).

Promotional Graphic (2)

Sync your mobile and desktop Firefox

If you’re using Firefox on your desktop computer, the first thing you will want to do is to set up Sync so you can synchronize bookmarks, passwords, form data and other settings across your devices. Simply follow the on-screen instructions or check out this step-by-step guide.

Already hungry for more? Get Aurora!

What if you’re already using Firefox and want to get a sneak peek at what’s coming up in the future? Then install Firefox Aurora and use that instead of plain Firefox! Aurora is an experimental branch of Firefox that represents what will eventually appear in a future Firefox release. So by using Aurora, you get to see what awesome things are coming up before mere mortals will benefit from them. They’re generally stable enough that you can use it without any major issues. Besides, if something does go wrong, you can always just switch back to normal Firefox again — you can keep both versions installed on both your computer and phone (though you can’t run them both at the same time, so Quit one before starting the other).

Keep in mind that by using Aurora, you are also encouraged to provide feedback about the experience. If you’re a bit more technical and used to filing bug reports, you can go straight to Bugzilla and submit your feedback that way.

Firefox tip: Getting past the Wikipedia blackout

Wikipedia is joining the movement of protests against the SOPA/PIPA bills. Quoting their page linked to from every article today (Wednesday January 18):

What are SOPA and PIPA?

SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and PIPA is an acronym for the “Protect IP Act.” (“IP” stands for “intellectual property.”) In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. […]

Wikipedians have chosen to black out the English Wikipedia for the first time ever, because we are concerned that SOPA and PIPA will severely inhibit people’s access to online information. This is not a problem that will solely affect people in the United States: it will affect everyone around the world.

For the record, I fully support Wikipedia’s protest — and so does Mozilla. However, this blog post isn’t really about that.

What if you really, really need to read that particular Wikipedia article today and you don’t have your mobile phone nearby, and you’d rather not disable Javascript of the entire browser? I thought I’d share this simple method that will allow you to quickly get access to the content:

Update: Asa Dotzler pointed out that there’s an even easier method than what I explain below: just replace the “en” part of the address of the article you’re visiting to “m” and you’re done — that will take you to the mobile-optimized version of the Wikipedia article. Example: change http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_paper_orientation to m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_paper_orientation. That’s it!

The original instructions were:

  1. In Firefox, navigate to the Wikipedia article you want to read. You’ll see something like this:
  2. Press Alt on your keyboard to reveal the classic menu of Firefox:
  3. Click View > Page Style > No Style. You’ll then see a somewhat crudely formatted version of the original article:

This setting is not remembered in Firefox, so when you’re done reading the article, just close the tab and things will go back to normal when you open it the next time. (Wikipedia itself will also go back to normal, tomorrow. In the meantime, take action!)

The next browser war: Users vs Web Content

Browser wars is a popular (and retro!) topic these days. In this post I’ll discuss another kind of browser war that I’m afraid all browsers are at risk of losing.

One side-effect of a richer web experience with html5, Javascript and CSS is that it becomes increasingly harder for web browsers to stop bad web design practices for the benefit of the user. Firefox is known for putting the user’s needs first and pioneered mainstream use of features designed to make the web experience better for users – the pop-up blocker is perhaps the most notable example.

Features like the pop-up blocker were not designed for web developers — they were designed completely in the interest of users, who were fed up with annoying ads that popped up over and under the web page you were currently visiting. This effectively forced web designers to adjust their practices and keep the users’ interests more prominently in mind. I think this is a wonderful example of how web browsers can change the web for the better. Before the pop-up blocker, web designers were dictating how their web sites should behave, and users had no other choice but to put up with it.

There are of course many other examples of when browser features have helped tame annoying web design practices, such as scrolling text in status bars, disabling the context menu when right-clicking, and blocking third-party cookies — the general theme is that the browser balances the sometimes bad urges of web developers and designers with the actual needs of the user. And as a result, the web becomes a better place. Mozilla has its own spin on this that captures the essence of Firefox: Firefox answers to no one but you.

The yellow pop-up blocker info bar in Firefox. A rare sight these days.

Today, however, you don’t see the little pop-up icon  in the location bar of Firefox very often anymore. This is because “true” pop-ups, (in the traditional/technical sense) are no longer common. It used to be that, in order to display a pop-up, web developers had to use Javascript methods like window.open to tell the browser that it wants a new window to be open so the (usually annoying) ad could be shown.

Back in 2004, when Firefox was first launched, window.open was the way of displaying pop-ups. These kinds of pop-ups are trivial for Firefox to detect, since the web page creates a separate browser window for the ad (this usually happens when a page loads, or at some other event which is straightforward enough for a browser to determine that it isn’t explicitly requested by the user).

Today, most modern web sites have become smarter and use more sophisticated technologies to display pop-up ads embedded within the web page triggering the ad. In fact, a quick anecdotal survey shows that most large, international websites have completely stopped using the traditional pop-ups. You can still find them on smaller or more local websites though (for example, Swedish news sites like aftonbladet.se are typically a year or two behind the more recent web page practices used on websites from the US in general, and the Valley in particular). The original pop-up blocking implementation certainly still matters, but its relevance is decreasing.

New websites use all sorts of clever (and highly annoying) tricks to make sure their ads are not missed by anyone:

  • Inline pop-ups — these behave similar to the traditional pop-ups, but the ad content isn’t actually displayed in a separate window. Instead, the ad is embedded in the web page itself. From a technological point of view, a browser is then unable to distinguish the ad from the rest of the web page, so it can’t block it.
  • Hover ads — this is similar to inline pop-ups, but taken to an increasingly more annoying level: here, the ad doesn’t just block a particular area of the web page, it follows along on your screen as you scroll down on the page — often with a smooth movement to give the impression that it’s actually hovering over the page. It’s like the ad is trying to say “I’m here! Look, I’m still here!”
  • Splash screen ads (I just made this term up) —  these are by far the most annoying ads and are commonly seen on sites like di.se and e24.se (two popular finance websites in Sweden). This is like an ad saying: “Look, I’m not going to let you read the web page until you’ve paid attention to ME!” Web designers do this by overlaying the ad so it completely covers the content of the page (alternatively, it redirects you to a separate page). If you pay close attention, you will see a tiny link to get to the page you actually wanted to visit, but the web designer has usually made it the smallest link on the entire page — despite the fact it’s the link you are most likely going to want to click. These type of web pages clearly answer to no one but the ad provider — certainly not to you.
  • Video ads — as videos are getting more and more mainstream, the most common practice today by content providers is to show an ad before playing the video clip you actually requested. This is similar to those “important messages” you see when inserting some DVDs, and just like those messages, you can’t skip these ads. You simply have no choice but to watch the entire thing. (Some content providers add a small clock countdown in the corner to at least let you know how long you have to put up with watching the ad — it’s clear that they’re aware of the inconvenience for the user here.)

All of these types of web ads have one thing in common: it’s next to impossible for web browsers to block them. These ads are, from a technical point of view, integral parts of the web page itself, and as such they’re indistinguishable from the “good” content on the page.

Where do we go from here?

Web browsers make at least a bit of an effort to block advertisement today with their aged pop-up blocker feature, but it’s also clear that they are not able to block all attempts of displaying advertisement on the web. (And should they? Unless we can create a world where advertisement is not just generally unwanted, but also not necessary to make the online economy spin, I would say we probably shouldn’t try to block them all. But that’s a much deeper discussion than I’m aiming for in this blog post.)

More importantly, however, web browsers are no longer stopping bad design practices. Showing an ad as a splash overlay covering the entire page and blocking the user from seeing the actual content of the page is exactly the kind of thing that Firefox effectively stopped in 2004 — but so far there is no solution in place in any web browser on the market to stop the new pop-up behavior that is at least as bad as the traditional pop-ups.

Taking a step back, what is the role of the browser in this new world where web pages are becoming more like web applications that live a life on their own terms? How can we ensure that the browser still acts as a balance that puts the user first? Of course, I don’t have the answers to these broad questions, but it’s definitely something I think must be discussed.