Emerging Needs in Thailand & Indonesia

Gemma Petrie


Mobile Phone Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Mobile Phone Market in Bangkok, Thailand

This research was led by Bill Selman & Gemma Petrie.

In Fall 2013, the Mozilla User Experience Research Team visited Thailand and Indonesia to conduct Firefox qualitative research. In addition to our team of Mozillians, we partnered with SonicRim, a global design research firm, on this research project. If you would like to learn more about the project planning phase of this study, please read the first post in this series. You can also read about our initial observations in Thailand and our initial observations in Indonesia in previous posts. Finally, you can also checkout this follow-up post on ecommerce in Indonesia.

Study Goals

The goal of this research project was to understand how people in Thailand and Indonesia experience the Internet and to learn about emerging trends that will provide insight into new and current product features for Firefox.

Home in Bandung, Indonesia

Home in Bandung, Indonesia

Research Activities

The Mozilla User Research team believes it is important to experience in-context research with a wide variety of staff members. We brought a diverse set of talents into the field with us and gave each person the opportunity to engage in cultural immersion activities and two or more qualitative interviews in Bangkok & Chiang Mai, Thailand or Jakarta & Bandung,  Indonesia. Our field teams were comprised of: Bill Selman (User Research), Gemma Petrie (User Research), Uday Dandavate (SonicRim Researcher), Larissa Co (UX Design), Zhenshuo Fang (UX Design), Holly Habstritt (UX Design), Bram Pitoyo (UX Design), Margaret Schroeder (Market Research), Gavin Sharp (Firefox Engineering), and Yuan Wang (UX Design).

We engaged in a variety of contextual inquiry and ethnographic research activities including:

  • Semi-structured interviews with 44 participants (22 buddy pairs) in their homes and offices.
  • We observed public, commercial, and educational environments.
  • We connected with local Mozilla community members and hosted community dinners in Bangkok, Thailand and Bandung, Indonesia.
  • We collected over 60 hours of audio and video and nearly 2,500 photographs.
  • Finally, we engaged in an extended analysis period with both field teams in our Portland, Oregon office.
Interview Participant in Bangkok, Thailand

Interview Participant in Bangkok, Thailand


In Indonesia and Thailand, changes are taking place with respect to how (and how many) people are accessing the Internet. Rapid technological and socioeconomic development has influenced technology adoption curves and technology-centric behaviors. Our research identified various themes that will help inform the future development of our products. Here are a few of them:


Key pieces of critical infrastructure are lagging, especially in Indonesia.1-5

  • Reliable telecom is unevenly distributed in both markets. Urban dwellers can’t easily connect with their rural relations (and vice versa).
  • Telecom infrastructure is generally lacking (though improving); Limited bandwidth is shared between a very large subscriber base.
  • In Thailand, data is cheap (less so, proportionally, in Indonesia). Certain kinds of data usage (like social networking) may be unlimited, while others are metered. People in both markets use multiple devices/telecom providers to maximize coverage/minimize costs.

This lack of stable infrastructure inhibits what can be done with technology and influences software adoption and software updates due to poor or nonexistent download speeds.

Software Market in Indonesia

Software Market in Indonesia

OS/Software Distribution:

Due to poor connectivity, downloading is often not the only software distribution channel in this region. Physical media such as DVDs and USB thumb drives still play a significant role in how software is distributed and installed. As a result, software packages are frequently installed in a shop, rather than at home. These packages can include everything from the OS, to multiple browsers, productivity tools, and games. In Indonesia, software being sold
 is often several versions behind the current version and may be compromised with malware.

Search & Navigation:

Participants have difficulty searching the Internet, because they don’t understand the pieces of the browser and the relationship of the browser to the Internet. This resulted in several beliefs:

  • The belief that Chrome is better for searching Google, because both are Google products.
  • The belief that search results are generated within the browser, thus searching in a different browser will produce different results.
  • Navigating to Google.com in order to enter Facebook.com in the Google search box.
  • Limited awareness that software can be customized or modified with add-ons.
  • Acquiring software based on popularity in their social circles rather than functionality or performance.
  • “It doesn’t work anymore” — There is limited knowledge of malware, malicious add-ons, etc., that may be severely impacting browsing experience
Restaurant Menu in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Restaurant Menu in Chiang Mai, Thailand


Internet users in both markets rely on a blend of English and local language sources in order to find information they need. Users often, but not always, use English language menus on their devices (especially among Thai users trying to save screen real estate). Yet, while many users can navigate effectively in English, translation is still critical to their browsing experience. People want content in a context appropriate language: Local content in the local language and international content In English. Overall, there was a distrust of machine translations and a desire for improved content translation that provided additional cultural context.

What’s Next?

Mozilla is committed to providing the best user experience possible to our global community of users. It is important for us to understand the unique challenges and unmet needs that our users face around the world. We are grateful to all of the participants we were able to interview during this project and to the valuable support of our Thai and Indonesian communities. Over the last few months, our research team shared all of our Thailand and Indonesia study results with various teams at Mozilla. In addition to our observations, we suggested opportunities for addressing the unmet needs in this region. We look forward to incorporating design solutions to these challenges in our products. Stay tuned!


  1. Get ready for traffic jams & long commutes. (Bangkok Post)
  2. Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
  3. Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
  4. Indonesia Has 2nd Lowest Average Internet Speed, Reactions. (Indo Boom)
  5. New GSA Evolution to LTE report: 2013 ends with 260 LTE networks in service. (GSA)

UX Book Club SF: UX Team of One



As UX designer, even if you are working at a large company with dozens of other designers, you often find yourself as the only designer on a project. It’s a lot of responsibility advocating for users, fighting for time and resources for research, and pushing for beautiful UI details with engineers and product folks that may have little to no experience with design and research methods. How do you create great product experiences when you are, to use the title of Leah Buley’s book, a UX Team of One? For Buley who joined us to discuss the book on April 8th in Mozilla’s San Francisco office it’s about involving people in the process and acting as a facilitator within the team.

The book is divided into theory and practice. The first two chapters of the book are geared towards newbies with little to no training but who desire to move into user experience or apply some of the disciplines’ methods to their work. Since I’ve been in the UX field for some years I skipped to the practice chapters where Buley describes activities and deliverables for planning, research, design and evaluation. What differentiates her book from others is that she sets up each method or deliverable as a group activity. The activities are lightweight and practical,  perfect for involving non-designer types that maybe skeptical or time-crunched. One of the hard lessons I learned from transitioning from graduate school to being a designer in industry is that, while in an academic setting rigor is paramount, in the professionally world you can alienate your team if you are too rigid. You need to meet people where they are and be flexible.

For me reading the book was well-timed. I’m starting a new project with a new team. After months of being heads down on features I had forgotten some of the basics of kicking off new work. Starting this week I’ll be using activities like the Opportunity Workshop, Storyboarding and 2 x 2 Prioritization for our product workweek.

If you have anecdotes from working as a team of one I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments. For more information on the book club you can join our Facebook group or follow us on Twitter @uxbookclubsf.

Field notes from Hong Kong



As someone who’s spent his life divided between Hong Kong and Canada, I’ve seen and experienced some very interesting differences (and some similarities) between the two places. The differences that I’m talking about extend to conventions in design and user experience. Hong Kong’s compact geography combined with a diverse group of people makes for one concentrated melting pot of technology, geography, demography, and well, just about anything you can think of. While it would be fun to write about all the different dynamics, I’m going to focus on the conventions of design and user experience here.

Let’s start with the lowest common denominator: screens. The first thing I noticed was the size of these things. Sure, larger screens can be popular anywhere but there was an obvious preference for larger screens in Hong Kong. This creates some interesting use cases that we would be less likely to find here in North America. Streaming entire TV series and movies (sometimes while driving/working), extensive gaming, and even the use of a tablet as a phone come to mind. Yes, we can find these examples in North America too, but I would say it’s far more common there. I’ve also noticed a tendency to use larger screen devices for greater legibility, this of course would be more common amongst the older users but it does exist.


Next up, would be OS, and it can basically be broken down to iOS versus Android (there are some very intriguing extensions, but more on that later). In a place where everything comes in an infinite combination of colour and specifications, Android obviously has the upper hand here. Plus, they actually have a selection of phones with larger screens. Users also get apps (like movie streaming apps) that would either take a lot longer or just would not be allowed to make it onto the App store. In addition to this, many mid-sized companies in Hong Kong have their own apps and the Play store is just easier to deal with. When it comes to games, installing an .apk file is fairly straight forward as well and users seem to be ok with the process (with regards to hassle, privacy and security) as long as it’s a something they really want. Yet interestingly enough, there still doesn’t seem to be a clear cut winner between the two operating systems.

As I mentioned in the beginning, a great way to describe Hong Kong is compact. On a telecommunications level, it means getting cell service and coverage to everyone is fairly easy. Not only is the market price competitive, but coverage is available almost everywhere. Yes, that means the subway too (or MTR as it’s called over there), and a lot of time is spent underground in those tubes. While I wouldn’t say that everyone has a data plan, it’s definitely not as expensive and therefore much more common. I won’t ramble on here about the downside of having somewhat of an oligopoly in the telecommunications sector, but I hope I am painting a clearer picture of the situation. In summary, we have a densely populated area with widely accessible, relatively fast internet.


For designers, device type, screen resolution, connectivity, bandwidth, and battery life are all interconnected and affect the design choices we make. What’s interesting is that Hong Kong offers a very different landscape of restrictions than the North American norm. In many ways, it is less restrictive and allows for more “intricate” user experiences. This is where an interesting gap begins to form. For example, mobile apps like Foursquare or Car2go that requires your geolocation via some sort of internet connection would be a lot less fun if you weren’t connected.

The flip side to this is battery life. If everyone is connected all the time, streaming videos, updating apps and gaming online, you would think that battery life would be an issue. Since work hours are longer, I assumed that most devices would simply charge throughout the day. I found that it didn’t necessarily hold true because the day itself was longer, and people were using their devices proportionally more. Enter the external lithium batteries. These also come in about 10 thousand different colours and combinations (approximately).

My external battery

The different people and cultures that make Hong Kong what it is also makes it one difficult audience to design for. Of course, assuming that there is only “one” audience is always a bold assumption. But the level of competition is really high and I think this can be attributed in part to the population density but also to the culture. One of the reasons why there are so many different variations of the same product is because a lot of it isn’t actually produced by the same manufacturer but instead available as “knock offs” in the aftermarket.

Let’s take a look at Xiaomi. I noticed that their presence was a lot greater than when I last visited in early 2013. Back then, I had heard of them but didn’t really pay much attention to it. This time around, they’re being called the “Apple of China”, their extension of Android’s OS (MIUI) is gaining momentum, and their products are in high demand. Their website is a great example of the per-audience differences I’m talking about. The first thing I noticed when I landed on the page was obviously the design of the page: simple, lots of white space, large HD photos, with a generally modern feel to it. Then, I noticed the language drop down.

Copy aside, there are clear visual/design differences between the English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese versions of the site, to the point that they are essentially different sites.

What’s also interesting here are the behaviour of links: no matter what version of the site you’re viewing, all links open in new tabs. This was something that I noticed when I worked in Shanghai and when I visited Chinese sites. I think the use of browser tabs as a natural navigational bread crumb stems from older Chinese sites that typically have a lot more links on a given page compared to the typical website designs we see over here in North America. I think it actually works quite well in some cases. I know this may seem minimal at first, but to me it feels like this may be the start of a trail and I’m interested to see what it may lead me to.

To some extent, I feel like Hong Kong today is a physical manifestation of the open web; in fact, it offers a natural depiction of why silos don’t work. With so many people so close to each other, ideas and products can develop really fast but also burn out just as fast. This makes sustained growth and continuity even harder to achieve. Trying to keep users confined without a reasonable alternative just doesn’t seem to work in the long run.

These different conventions to UX and design are very interesting to say the least. Personally, these types of things are compelling to think about. But, as a designer I feel obligated to be aware of as much as I can and when it’s a whole third of the world, it’s just nice to know.

Indonesia Follow-up: Ecommerce

Bill Selman


Following up on our research that we conducted last year on Internet usage in Indonesia, The Financial Times published an article (Note: Paywall) on Indonesia’s challenges to developing ecommerce. Their observations and interviews confirm our observations about infrastructure hindering the development of ecommerce.

It will be interesting to see how ecommerce develops over the coming years in Indonesia. Based on the field work we conducted, infrastructural change is unlikely to follow the path of western countries in terms of their development.  Instead, Indonesians are already employing alternative approaches to western business and logistics models in order to work with their current infrastructure. In the near future, some of these logistical alternatives will likely be replaced by a better technology. However, just as likely in some cases, these alternatives may become entrenched as institutions that are the local, accepted way of completing tasks and conducting business.

An example of the former are the app kiosks provided by some mobile OEMs in their branded stores or by operators that allow smartphone owners to plug in their phones and download apps and video. These kiosks allow users to bypass the annoyance of unstable and slow 3G networks in order to download apps and video more easily and efficiently. Further, the kiosks conserve customers’ expensive bandwidth. Nevertheless, as bandwidth improves and becomes more stable with the adoption of LTE networks over the coming years, the utility of the kiosks is likely to fade.

Galaxy Station at a Samsung store.

Galaxy Station at a Samsung store.

An example of an institution that will not change soon is the lack of consistent and stable addresses for deliveries. However, as the FT story points out, courier services have emerged as the means to deliver ecommerce items. Barring wholesale government or private investment, these services will likely evolve beyond logistical alternatives to become the accepted means of delivery of goods bought via ecommerce. Apart from a few specialized services, couriers are no longer the western approach to delivery. Technology companies that wish to succeed will need to adjust their logistical models and technological assumptions (or make large-scale investments) in order to meet the requirements and customs of some locales.

A typical middle class street in Jakarta

A typical upper middle class street on the outskirts of Jakarta



Introducing the update experience for Australis

Zhenshuo Fang


This post focuses on design principles and solutions that accompanies our other post about design process for the Australis update experience. - Zhenshuo Fang and Holly Habstritt Gaal, Mozilla UX

Introducing change is always hard, especially for software like Firefox that has been around for 10 years, and has technical legacy as well as UI legacy. The Firefox design and engineering teams recently introduced a redesign of Firefox we call Australis, that includes several visual improvements as well as new features that we believe benefit our users. Even though we blogged, tweeted and talked about it in various places, the majority of our users will find out about the new design the moment they update Firefox. While the interface is intuitive for new users, it still represents change for users who have learned and gotten used to the existing UI.

To introduce Australis to our existing Firefox users, a group from different teams started a project called “onboarding” to create an update experience along side Australis. The goal of this update experience is to help existing users get familiar with the new interface faster, gain interest in using more features, and answer their questions about the “why” behind the design. Here I will share with you some design principles and lessons we learned through the process of designing the update experience for Australis.

1. If you don’t want people to skip it, don’t design it like a webpage

The Banner Blindness study shows that people ignore what looks like an advertisement on a web page. We found through usability testing that the same holds true when users update their browser: they will ignore and not interact with what looks like a typical landing page. Since existing users have seen the update page so many times and the information on that page is not always relevant to their current task, ignoring the page has become a habit no matter whether the information on the page is interesting or not. Therefore in this new version of the update experience, we designed the web page so that it is minimal and only contains one welcome message to reassure that the user has updated to a new version of Firefox. This allows users to focus on the other key information we want to deliver in a “door hanger” information bubble.

The web page users see when they update Firefox

The web page users see when they update Firefox

2. Minimal Interruption for users

In contrast to new users who just downloaded Firefox, the challenge of designing an update experience for existing users is that they already have a task in mind when opening the browser and do not want to be interrupted. Instead of making every user go through a tour upon update, we decided to use a door hanger information bubble as a minimal barrier to tell existing users only one key thing about the new design: the location of the newly redesigned menu button. For users who are interested in learning more, the ”Let’s go” button will take them through an interactive tour of the new interface. For users who do not have time at the moment, they can choose “Not Now”, but by then, they should already know about the new menu and where to find it.

The door hanger

The door hanger bubble hanging off the menu button

3. Show, don’t tell

Show, don’t tell is a writing technique as well as an important design principle. The traditional way of introducing features in a product is using a web page with screenshots or pointing arrows that point out where a feature is. But if the browser is already open, why show yet another screenshot of the browser to talk about it? The most interesting and challenging thing about the update experience from both a design and technical perspective is that the website and browser can now talk to each other to provide a connected and immersive experience. This means that when talking about a specific feature or task in the web page, we can now highlight directly the controls in the browser interface to show users where that feature is. Users can also interact with the feature while learning about it. Through usability testing, we found that showing a feature in the browser also help users recall it afterwards, which resulted in more feature use after taking the tour.

First step of tour

The step showcasing Add-ons in the tour

4. Serendipity

“Exuberant” and “Finely Crafted” are two key Firefox Design Values we always refer to when designing for Firefox. Other than making the update experience interactive, We also tried to add a little bit fun into it. After all, the tour should not feel like a dry lecture but a fun journey. For example, the highlight of a feature can change randomly every time you open the tour. Or if you close the panel in the middle of the tour, the “next” arrow will rotate into an “up” arrow and dock the tour at the bottom of the window. We are also experimenting different visual design and tone of the copy to make the experience as human and joyful as possible.

Dock the tour at the bottom of the page

Docking the tour at the bottom of the page

5. ABT (always be testing)

Just like any other design, no one can get it right at the first time. That’s why we need to always be testing and keep improving. For this particular project, we used various methods to validate our assumptions and evaluate the design throughout the process. We gathered qualitative data early on through in-person interview and remote usability testing, as well as quantitative data in different release channels to measure our success.

The update experience landed in Firefox Aurora with Australis and an improved version of Sync. While we keep iterating on the design as well as other features in Aurora, try it out and let us know if you have any suggestions. The onboarding team is also working on an “unboxing” experience for new users who just downloaded Firefox. Stay tuned for more awesomeness!