About the New ‘About Firefox’ Window

Christopher Jung

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Earlier this year, Test Pilot ran a Menu Item Usage Study to better understand how users interact with the traditional menu bar as Firefox transitions to a more streamlined, single “application button.” We’ve already shared some analysis from this study: we answered which menu items are the most and least commonly used, explored the distribution of menu interactions, and learned that most users actually use very few commands from the menu bar.

We also examined the sequence of menu bar actions – specifically looking for common sequences in commands. The strongest connection was between the ‘About Firefox’ and ‘Check for Updates’ menu items; after clicking ‘About Firefox,’ 9% of users click ‘Check for Updates’ within 20 seconds.

From this data, we reasonably assume that many users go to “About Firefox” to check whether they should update. Accordingly, three minor changes to these menu items should improve user experience.

  1. Move ‘Check for Updates’ from the ‘Help’ header to the ‘Firefox’ header directly under ‘About Firefox’ so these related commands are logically grouped together (on Mac OSX).
  2. Add a ‘Check for Updates’ button directly to the ‘About Firefox’ window.
  3. If automatic updates are set, initialize a check for updates when ‘About Firefox’ opens, and give the user the option to update directly from the window (if any updates are available).

Luckily, we have some excellent engineers working on Firefox who came to the same conclusions.  Margaret Leibovic, one of these awesome engineers, recently blogged about her first month’s work here at Mozilla –  this work included implementing the first 2 of these changes.  Check out the new ‘About Firefox’ window below:

The relocation of ‘Check for Updates’ and this refreshed window have already landed in Minefield, and will be integrated into Firefox 4 from beta 7. Robert Strong, another Firefox Engineer, is working on a patch to implement the third improvement and initialize a check for update automatically when ‘About Firefox’ opens – look for this addition in the next beta!

Note: Google Chrome already does something similar with its about window.  While these data driven recommendations were reached independently,  Chrome should be given credit for identifying this connection early-on.

14 responses

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  1. larry seltzer wrote on ::

    It’s not exactly the same subject, but why not put a version number and “Updates Available” notifier somewhere on the main screen, like the title bar?

  2. Ferdinand wrote on :

    Firefox 1.0 had an icon in the titlebar to indicate updates but most users never noticed. I think most updates should be automatic and only if you want to inform the user or ask permission should you block an automatic update.

  3. Kroc Camen wrote on ::

    “From this data, we reasonably assume that many users go to “About Firefox” to check whether they should update”

    Or to find the user agent, as that’s the easiest way. Which you’ve now removed. You know what they say about assumptions.

  4. Tom wrote on :

    Nice.. but no close button? That’s bad.

  5. KWierso wrote on :

    “Nice.. but no close button? That’s bad.”
    … Yes?

  6. Tony Mechelynck wrote on ::

    What’s wrong with having “About” and “Check for Updates” together in the Help menu, where they used to be, and where everyone else has them? (ux-consistency)

  7. John Drinkwater wrote on ::

    What might be nice after moving the UserAgent out of About and into about:support, is either link About to about:support with a click on version number, or when you click on that it puts the UserAgent into your copy clipboard.

    I filed a bug about this because I hadn’t a clue where you’d moved things…

  8. Ken Saunders wrote on ::

    “I filed a bug about this because I hadn’t a clue where you’d moved things”

    LOL!

    That will be a common complaint/issue for users, even, if not, especially for long time ones.

    There should definitely be a Firefox 4 walk-through/guide/whatever linked from the firstrun page.

    I use nightly versions and have had to explore and guess my way through.
    Bug lists are too long to go through.

  9. wrote on :

    What do you need to know your user-agent for?

    If it’s for troubleshooting: there’s a menu entry specifically for that in the Help menu that has that along with much other information.

  10. Snap wrote on :

    > What do you need to know your user-agent for?

    > If it’s for troubleshooting: there’s a menu entry specifically for that in the Help menu that has that along with much other information.

    Sometimes you just want to check which version you have. You don’t have troubles to shoot and don’t think to click on “Troubleshooting info”.

    Plus, this opens a new tab, and nightly users like me already have lots of tabs. Tabs are for browsing. I don’t need a new tab to know which build I run (yes, I dislike the new addon manager/tab, too).

  11. Jenn wrote on :

    >> What do you need to know your user-agent for?

    >Sometimes you just want to check which version you have. You don’t have troubles to shoot and don’t think to click on “Troubleshooting info”.

    Especially if you’ve just updated and want to make sure that the patch really did update you correctly. I pretty much always do the steps listed above in reverse: Check for Updates, since I know I need to check at least once a day since I use nightlies, and then About Firefox after the update has finished, just to be on the safe side. So, now instead I go to About Firefox and then to about: to see my user-agent instead in Minefield, since I don’t think of going to Troubleshooting Information either and I stumbled into about: first when trying to find it. The actual purpose of About Firefox (to tell you the exact version) just isn’t there anymore.

  12. Nigelle wrote on :

    There is a big security problem in the present automatic update program (that is frequently advocated) : it needs that you have administrator right !
    The security sites recommend to surf with a LIMITED Windows account : doing this you divide by 4 or 5 the probability that a random chosen malware can install (it needs to use a vulnerability to escalate its privilege).
    Unfortunately the limited account cannot install the Firefox or Thunderbird updates (same problem for the malwware !)
    A 2 stages semi automatic program should be better :
    1) automatically download update with the normal limited account,
    2) disconnect from the net, and use administrator account to install the downloaded file.

  13. Nigelle wrote on :

    Promotion of ‘Check for Updates’ link
    The popularity of this link is perhaps due to users that are aware of the security problem cited in my previous post : they check for update, if one is available they download the complete installer using their limited Windows account then later install it with administrator account.
    An other useful solution is perhaps to add in the tools menu a command similar to the one for checking and updating add-on but that apply to main Firefox program : it should check for update, if one is available it download and install it immediately with very high priority : so the connection with administrator right has a very short duration that minimize the risk…

  14. Majken “Lucy” Connor wrote on :

    What about planned improvements for Windows? Or are mac users the only ones checking for updates?

    Before the unified bar it was help -> check for updates (2 steps)

    Now it’s Minefield -> help (oops wait clicking on help launches help, doesn’t open the menu, try again) Minefield -> the little arrow next to help -> about minefield -> check for updates (4 steps if you know what you’re doing).

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