The new face of Firefox

Madhava Enros

17

We shipped it!

Firefox 29 is winging its way to hundreds of millions of people as we speak, and it brings with it the set of changes we’ve been calling Australis: an interface streamlining, evolution, or complete overhaul, depending on who you talk to. It represents years of concepting, designing, building, testing, rebuilding and shipping. We’re extremely pleased and proud that it’s ready for you to use.

This is the most beautiful and detailed version of Firefox yet. Along with the immediately apparent visual improvements, I’m also really proud of the care and craft that’s gone into how the browser feels, especially the way controls respond as you use them.

Every bit of the new interface has been finely-tuned to be fast and simple. The forward button is only shown when it is relevant; the downloads button shows progress only when there is progress to show; the bookmarks button makes it clear where your bookmarks can be found.

I think I’m most proud of how simple and engaging it is now to spend time customizing the browser. The process of configuring a browser could easily have felt like a chore, but instead I think we’ve built it in a way that people will explore, enjoy, and revisit until they’ve really made Firefox their own.

This is also not a finish line so much as a new firmer foundation. Firefox’s new design provides a better more extensible interface model that will accommodate future features and additions. It’s a simpler presentation of add-ons as equals to built-in browser features. And it finally brings us a familiar look and feel across all our platforms so that Firefox feels like Firefox everywhere.

For those of you interested in how we got here, the Australis redesign was shaped and focused by our Firefox Design Values. While they all come into play, certain of them were particularly relevant here.

The You help make it and Balances power and simplicity principles flow into customization as a top-level priority. That balance is different for everyone, which is why we feel it is important to give you the choice to make Firefox yours.

The Finely crafted and High user performance principles come in the detail and care we put into the browser’s look and the efficiency with which you can use it.

The animation in interactions like bookmarking is an expression of our Exuberance value. There’s a liveliness to the way the controls respond and explain what’s happening, as in way that the browser resizes when you enter the new customization mode.

There’s a lot to say about the particulars of the design, but others are already doing this extremely well. Here’s a list of other design posts, which I’ll keep up to date.

Further design writing on Australis and Firefox 29

A huge heartfelt thank you to all the Mozillians who helped to make Australis real — we’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. And thank you, everyone, for using the new Firefox!

17 responses

  1. Aaron Alfred wrote on ::

    Congratulations on shipping! :)

  2. Anon wrote on :

    come on, it’s a huge improvement from the old orange firefox button. I didn’t like it and removed it every time. Everybody I know either removed it or didn’t know how and hated on firefox instead.

  3. John B wrote on ::

    I actually teach UI design in a college course. I think the new changes are bad in many ways and show something is wrong with the design process as well. As far as image and marketing you look like a Chrome copycat. Even if the community had the ideas before Chrome did.

    I am a power user and one thing Apple historically did right is to study their users but not give into statistics and simple metrics (they appear to be changing in this regard.) Understanding most your users is not the same as polling their behavior and using simple metrics to decide things. It is far harder and wiser to find compromises between what novices who “don’t want to think” and experienced users who “don’t want to change/think” (who are all swearing at you now) and advanced users who are not afraid of relative complexity (as compared to novices.) The problem is like that of a direct democracy vs a representative democracy. Most users may not use the menubar or most the items in the menu – but that does not mean it should be removed or hidden away to be difficult to find and use.

  4. Craig wrote on :

    The translucent tabs on Windows 7 Aero Glass are bad for legibility. You guys knew about it in 2012 and never bothered to fix it: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=738491

    I guess I’ll go find a theme.

  5. MaxFrames wrote on :

    Did you absolutely have to remove the bookmarks and history sidebar buttons?
    What wrong did they ever do to humanity to deserve this?
    What about at least letting users choose to reinstate them?
    I _need_ those buttons. Without them, I may just switch to another browser.
    There is no way two clicks and a painful browse through a long list of bookmarks can replace the old sidebar. Which is still there by the way (ctrl+b) so why kill the poor toggle button?
    Why messing with what just works? What’s the ultimate goal? It just forces users to forget old habits without any appreciable advantage.
    Respectfully but disagree-fully,
    MaxFrames

    1. Stephen Horlander wrote on :

      You can find “View Bookmarks/History Sidebar” under the Bookmarks and History menus. Firefox 30 will also have a Sidebars item you can customize in.

  6. Nate wrote on :

    Is Mozilla planning any additional interface changes anytime soon?

    The reason I ask is that I’m a longtime user and I now hate the interface, especially the lack of customization that is now present, so I’m kind of hoping Mozilla is open to making regular improvements to the layout. You see, I keep hearing that people like me are not open to change, which is entirely untrue. I love when new things come out, and I would love to see this interface receive some much needed tweaks that make it actually better than any other browser.

  7. Blake wrote on :

    I’m wondering if it would be possible to reinstate a separate bookmark and favorite button. In all honesty, the biggest factor that’s kept me from moving to Chrome has been Firefox letting me quickly toggle the bookmark sidebar. I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. That one extra click will eventually become second nature, but at the moment it grates on my nerves.

  8. Surya wrote on :

    I’ve been using the new interface for a while now in the Nightly builds, and I’ve enjoyed the changes a lot

  9. Thomas wrote on :

    Hi! Remember me?

    https://blog.mozilla.org/ux/2014/02/measuring-australis/comment-page-1/#comment-40375

    Now that Australis has gone mainstream, Classic Theme Restorer has shot up from 1,609 users to 145,856 users. My question is: What percentage of Australis users are using the add-on now that the new UI is live?

    1. Paul wrote on :

      Thank’s for linking that so much! I have my precious screen real estate back! The new tabs and URL bar were so much taller I lost a huge chunk of precious screen real estate. Not to mention I lost my status bar for some reason which not only provided a thin buffer to prevent accidental misclicking on the Windows taskbar but also meant I had a place for my addon controls (thinks like Greasemonkey) that wasn’t pinching my URL bar to oblivion.

      Whilst I’m sure Australis looks great on a large screen, on smaller resolutions, I found it the amount of extra space it took up on screen was pretty much a death sentence for Firefox usability on a netbook.

      1. Paul wrote on :

        Urgh, sorry for those typos. That’s actually painful to read.

  10. fvsch wrote on :

    Good work everyone. Australis is a really sensible—and beautiful—design.

    I hope we will see nice design work on other parts of Firefox now, such as the add-on manager, perhaps the preferences-in-a-tab view, a Panorama overhaul (and/or a built-in Showcase view), etc. With a common design language between the New Tab page, Panorama, the Add-on manager etc., that would be great.

  11. Anonymous wrote on :

    Firefox peaked at 28. 29 is horrendous. And this is coming from a guy who liked Firebird, 4.0 and even Windows 8.1. Australis is just that bad. Those years of concepting, designing, building, testing, rebuilding and shipping Australis were a complete waste. It’s change for the sake of change, stripping away functionality for the sake of beauty and all without any benefit for those who’ve been using web browsers since before Chrome popped up.

    Ultimately, the design is only a looker out of the box. Throw in some addon icons and the navigation bar becomes a fugly, jumbled mess. Spaces and separators helped mitigate this in earlier versions. In fact, the greater customization in 28 (compared to 29) allowed one to make the best of Firefox no matter the icon situation while 29 looks best at the beginning and gets progressively worse. Just like Chrome.

    Unfortunately and obviously, copying the worst aspect of Chrome is hardly an improvement upon anything. Making “default purity” the aesthetic ideal of a browser whose main draw was customization is at best an egregious oversight and at worst a betrayal of what the browser is actually supposed to be. The force feeding of Australis to users who never wanted any part of it to begin with doesn’t help, either. It should’ve stayed on the betas/nightlies/whatever.

    It’s a real shame devs are now treating Firefox more like an art project than a browser now. At least it had a good run.

  12. BethM wrote on :

    After two days of searching, I finally found way to get the old design back pretty much. Firefox seems to have utterly lost touch with its users. If we wanted Chrome, we would use Chrome. This redesign is worse than chrome. Useful extensions are broken, functions are scattered all over the screen making them hard to find and use. Just a hot mess. And launched unsuspecting users without warning.

    Must be a new pointy head manager with the design sense of a flea trying to make changes for change sake. See through tabs and toolbars–and text are just TERRIBLE user design anywhere, anytime, by anyone. I have used Firefox and supported it financially, but if they are are going the way stick-this-design-in-your-ear-cause-we-don’t-care route, it will be the death of it.

  13. Shelle wrote on ::

    Congratulations on shipping… And more congratulations on posting a self congratulatory PR piece boasting that you shipped it…

    What a shame you seem to be out of touch with what your users actually want or like.

    Take a good hard look at your own feedback pages https://input.mozilla.org and then think things through folks.

    Far from adding customisation ability, you have removed it. Many users had very unique layouts that they cannot reproduce with the new version.
    It now requires even more addons to get a usable interface, and even then, it’s not quite right…

    If this is the future of Firefox, then the future looks bad. You’ve made a poor clone of Chromium, and that’s all.

    Irony: I have posted this using SRWare Iron, because Firefox is no longer a usable browser.

  14. Former Firefox User wrote on :

    I really tried to give the new UI a chance, but in the end I just couldn’t stand it. If I wanted to use Google’s browser, I would. What you call “simplified and beautiful” I call “Ugly as sin and lacking basic features, like the add-on bar”. That was the final straw for me. A s someone who uses quite a few add-ons the lack of an add-on bar meant that all of my add-ons were now shoved into the address bar, making an already terrible UI even more cramped and unusable. I was a loyal Firefox user since 2005, but Australis is what finally made me start looking for another browser. I found and installed Pale Moon, thus getting the real Firefox back, and I’m never looking back.