Bogotá Travel Notes From Our Summer Intern

Mary Trombley


(Editor’s note: Stella Zubeck was a User Experience Research intern at Mozilla during the summer of 2013. The following blog post is her personal recollection of her travels.)

I aided with logistics for the UX Research team’s expedition to Bogotá, Colombia in August, 2013. Simply put, it’s no small task to build a three-week-long field study. In addition to designing the study, the UXR team had to order, receive, and hand-carry many Firefox OS cell phones into a another country (we needed to make sure that the phones were available on our tight timeframe). The team ran like a well-oiled, enthusiastic user research machine, and, in concert with great work from a team at Sylver Consulting, we launched a unique three-week study.

Watching our participants interact with Firefox OS was both fruitful and exciting. I spent eight days in Bogotá with the team, becoming familiar with how and where Colombian mobile phone users actually purchase and set up mobile phones. Most importantly, I learned exactly how our participants integrated a Firefox OS smartphone in their daily lives.

Here are some quick notes on the city and its people as I observed them during a week in the field. This was my first visit to Colombia and South America.

Bogotá is a teeming sprawl of a rapidly developing and evolving city, encircled by the steep ridges of dark green, mist-shrouded mountains. These mountains provide a striking backdrop to Bogotá’s seemingly endless miles of houses, mini-markets, street art, malls, and office buildings. The streets are constantly abuzz with people, packed in to private and public buses, walking and riding bikes, hawking goods in traffic, commuting and working to carve out their slice of Colombia’s promising future. The neighborhoods vary from graffiti-covered districts to antique colonial Spanish enclaves, and from quieter suburbs to bustling, urban city blocks lined with stores and elegant restaurants and bars.

Infrastructures and Systems
Things in Bogotá, like systems, processes and traffic, don’t move incredibly fast compared to what I am used to in the United States. Organizational efficiency wasn’t emphasized in customer experiences I had, such as a lunch our research team had at a fast food restaurant that took over an hour from order time to receipt of our food. The experience of buying and setting up SIM cards was lengthy and challenging for us.

The Arts Matter
Murals and great street art are everywhere in Bogotá, and punctuate the city streets with splashes of inspiring creativity and color. The street art I saw was often social commentary or political in nature. People in the city actively enjoy music, and access to it mattered to our research participants, some of whom were involved in the music industry. Many of the research participants discussed using the radio app, and some had commentary about the comfort and quality of their phones’ ear buds and speakers.

Friendly Celebrations
Celebration is important – and lively. During El Ciclovía, when the city closes down city streets to allow people walk and ride their bikes, people were out by the hundreds enjoying the city and spending time with each other, and gathered in city parks with friends by night. Nightlife in the city is busy and active.

Generally speaking, the people we interacted with in Bogotá were genuinely warm, welcoming, and open despite my own language limitations. Several of us had the opportunity to enjoy a big food festival in a park. It was a delicious event, filled with families, people of all ages, and friendly dogs. The festive atmosphere was undeterred by bouts of rain during which everyone huddled together under umbrellas. At all hours, people were out and about and dancing to music between the tables at restaurants and at clubs.

Class Structures
While the middle class is growing rapidly, I saw a variety of social classes in my short stay. I saw street vendors of all kinds, people aggressively selling goods between the cars at busy intersections, brand new malls, luxury shopping districts and bustling black market areas, and many of our research participants told us they work multiple jobs to make a living.

Physical Security and Cell Phones
Cell phone theft is a serious concern and was mentioned by many of our research participants.

Bogotá is a lively, unpredictable and exciting city, and it was a pleasure to see it in person.


Colombia Firefox OS Field Tests: Meeting Expectations in Bogotá

Mary Trombley

In August, 2013, I traveled to Bogotá, Colombia to observe how feature-phone users adapted to smartphones—in this case, our Firefox OS phone. I recently blogged about our study design in detail, but essentially we followed 24 new Firefox OS users for approximately 20 days, using interviews and surveys to track their engagement with the phone. Now that our analysis is complete, I’d like to share our findings over several blog posts.

Journey from feature phone to smartphone: Meeting Expectations
While smartphone penetration is low in Colombia (around 8%), our middle-class participants came to the study with expectations about smartphones.

Participants told us that their expectations for the Firefox OS phone were mainly influenced by:

  • Previous desktop Internet use, including internet cafes, personal laptops, and services like Facebook
  • Previous feature phone use
  • External messaging, including advertising, peers, and other media

Participants’ transition from feature phone to smartphone had three phases: Meeting Expectations, Exploration, and Intuitive Integration. This transition describes how a phone moves from “a phone” to “my phone” in the life of a participant. The timing of these phases varied among our participants.

FFOS User Journey

FFOS User Journey


Meeting Expectations
In the Meeting Expectations phase, participants explored familiar baseline features from their previous Internet and feature phone usage. For example, the most heavily used features in this phase included the phone, Facebook, mail, contacts, and the camera.

During this phase, our participants found real value and delight in these basic features, including email, camera, and Facebook/Twitter. They loved the video functionality. For example, Monica said: “For his birthday, I recorded a video. It worked at night. I wanted to record the moment because we were celebrating his bday. It was a circus night… I was able to record it and the video was pretty cool.”

Participants also enjoyed the constant Internet connectivity the phone offered—it made their in-between times, like time on transit or in line, more useful.

Wallpaper from a participant's Firefox OS phone

Wallpaper from a participant’s Firefox OS phone












How can we help at this stage of the Firefox OS journey?
At this stage of the journey, we can help users by making these baseline features easy to find and use. Here are some areas for improvement, many of which we are already working on:
Keyboard quality: This might mean improving the way touch registers on the phone itself or improving the design of the keyboard.

  • Camera quality: Though camera quality can vary depending on phone model, participants wanted more pixels, a flash, and zoom.
  • Connectivity: Ensure that connectivity is as constant and as fast as possible. We did hear feedback that Internet connections were slow or unstable. There may have been a variety of reasons that participants’ connections weren’t optimal; however, the participants generally weren’t able to parse out the differences between mobile operator, phone, and phone operating system (and neither can I, when I can’t connect on my mobile phone).
  • Market-specific features: For example, many of our Colombian participants downloaded calculators. Should we consider making calculators part of our base set of apps?

Overall, we can look at the Meeting Expectations stage of the phone journey as an on-ramp to the mobile digital world. Mozilla should strive to make these initial experiences as smooth as possible. We will need to think about the markets we are entering, how baseline expectations will vary from market to market, and how we can meet them.

My next blog posts will focus on the next two phases of the Firefox OS user journey, Exploration and Intuitive Integration.

Thanks to our research partner, Sylver Consulting, and the many Mozillians who supported this project.

Communication touchpoints: how can Mozilla improve?

Mary Trombley

(Editor’s note: Stella Zubeck was a User Experience Research intern at Mozilla during the summer of 2013. The following blog post is her summary of her main research project.)


Mozilla has more products and user touchpoints than ever before (e.g., Firefox OS, Facebook, Twitter, Firefox web browser, Firefox for Android, Mozilla Developer Network, etc.). Mozilla’s users, developers, and contributors can and may interact with any of Mozilla’s products, whether one at a time or together across different platforms. The harmony and quality of their experience across all these services and products matters.

As is the case in many growing organizations, it is rare that busy Mozillians have the time to pause, step back, and take stock of all the changes going on around them. It’s difficult simply to *see* all these touchpoints at once, and how they relate to one another across departments, teams, and products.

As part of my intern project, I wanted to answer some of the following questions:

  • What are the main communication touchpoints for Mozilla?
  • How do Mozillians think users reach out to Mozilla?
  • Why do we think our users reach out?
  • What do we think their experiences are like when they do?
  •  What don’t we know, and what merits future research?

A touchpoint inventory can act as a jumping off point for further research and to help an organization identify its own blind spots.


The first step in building a touchpoint inventory is to examine a company’s own assumptions about itself and how it interacts with its users.  To do this, I turned to Mozillians themselves. I interviewed twelve people on many different teams across the company, which included SUMO (support), UX Design, UX Research, Product Management, Operations, Engineering, Engagement, Community Engagement, and Web Developer Engagement.

I developed a 60-minute interview designed to catalog communication touchpoints and to probe employees on their perceptions of Mozilla. I wanted to understand the following:

  • how we interact with our users
  • how and why we think Mozilla’s product users reach out to us
  • why they use our products
  • what we do well in our user interactions as an organization, and
  • what we might not be doing well (yet!).

As this project continues, Mozilla should extend these interviews to include the larger Mozilla community, including users and contributors.


I developed the following map to illustrate the full inventory of Mozilla’s possible formal, informal, real-world, and virtual product user touchpoints and communication channels. Please click on this image to view it in detail.

Intern Stella Zubeck's Mozilla Communication Touchpoints Inventory


Common themes gathered from my interviews

During my interviews, Mozillians told me that they believe:

  • There is a general lack of consensus on what users consider the unique value of Mozilla’s products – for instance; is it browsing speed, open-web advocacy, data privacy?
  • The value of the Mozilla mission as a non-profit organization with contributors and communities worldwide could be communicated better to our users.
  • Goals for long-term end user engagement are not well defined. What does it mean to be a happy product user over the long term? Does this mean product advocacy, contribution, or simply using the products?
  • Getting users to the correct channels can be challenging (e.g., directing user questions to support forums, or connecting developers and contributors to the right people).
  •  We could work on providing more customized support for less tech-savvy users.

Based on my interviews, I suggest that Mozilla should consider improving the following areas:

  • User outreach (Mozilla community and real-world events, developing a shared vision for long-term user engagement).
  • Internal messaging (developing a common voice across communication channels, teams, and the organization itself)
  • User education (providing more information about the Mozilla mission, empowering users with fewer technical skills, and making technology friendly)
  • User support (making user and product support live and built-in to products, or even partially automated)

Finally, I’ll conclude with some recommendations for future research.

Recommendations for future research

Mozilla should:

  • Map out real user task flows through common product and service use scenarios to identify and eliminate pain points
  • Explore why and how users use social media, and how those interactions have value to Mozilla
  • Develop a unified and effective tone for Mozilla communications across social media, Mozilla websites, and support
  • Create an inventory of the many new user touchpoints introduced by Firefox OS, and clarify how these fit in to the current product ecosystem

If you’d like to watch the video of my full presentation of my research, here’s the link:

Mozilla Quarterly Newspaper 

Crystal Beasley

UX Quarterly masthead

The special Summit edition of the newspaper [pdf] will go out tomorrow! Come by the design tables and grab a copy or ten to give to friends.  Here’s a link roll up of all the great articles:

The Phone is in My Life, not My Life is in the Phone Part 1 and Part 2 by Dominik Strohmeier & Lindsay Kenzig

Webmaker User Testing: A Unifying Force Across Teams and Communities by Cassie McDaniel

(Re)building a Simplified Firefox Logo by Sean Martell

Where and Firefox Intersect by Holly Habstritt Gaal

User Reactions to the Marketplace: First Release, Feed, and Payments by Maria Sandberg

Designing Firefox Health Report for Mobile by Arun Balachandran Ganesan

Firefox Marketplace in the Future: Customized App Store Experience by Liu Liu

Firefox and Emerging Trends: UX Research in Southeast Asia Part 1 and Part 2 by Gemma Petrie

The Internet and Browsing in Indonesia: Initial Findings from the Field by Bill Selman

Firefox OS Field Research in Colombia by Mary Trombley

Poland & Hungary Series #2: The Phone is in My Life, not My Life is in the Phone

Lindsay Kenzig

Co-written with Dominik Strohmeier

This past spring, we interviewed 17 feature phone or newbie smart phone users in Poland and Hungary (prior to launch). Most of these users had been exposed to smart phones through their friends or at electronic stores. Many were aware about brands and models and each user had an idea of which phone he/she wanted to have. However, the common theme across all people that surprised us was:

My phone is in my life - not the other way around.

My phone is in my life… not the other way round.

This means that no matter the type of phone (smart or feature), the phone should mold to them, rather than them needing to mold to it. Participants are not always looking for the latest and greatest. They are aware that these phones are out there, but it’s not what they are looking for. They want a phone which fulfills their basic needs – and these needs differ for each user. So, for Firefox OS phones, there won’t be just one list of features which will satisfy them all. Rather we need to learn how our phones can provide compelling features to adapt to their specific needs.

More specifically, we identified three categories of needs from the main theme to describe what their phone is about in their lives.

1. My phone is mainly about Status

“So many people are praising it that it’s such a good phone, and that it’s the best of all, so I’m like if so many people are happy with it then there must be some truth about it.” [Hungarian participant]

For these users, their phone is about showing success and good taste. Being heavily swayed by marketing, brands, and peers, their phone would be modern and likely be more expensive. Here is what they need:

Needs for status (Photo by RonInMcR)

Needs for Status (Photo by RonInMcR)

Thinking about what we can offer them through our Firefox OS phones is:

  • Camera + Social Networking Integration
  • High quality hardware and accessories
  • Cloud Services
  • Discovery Engine for Content

2. My phone is mainly about Utility

“The purpose of a phone is to make phone calls.” [Polish participant]

Another needs group is mainly interested in practical and affordable phones. Brands and advertisement don’t influence them much. For them, having older, but long-lasting technology is okay. Sometimes, they don’t trust the technological progress.

Users needs for the Utility group of users in Poland and Hungary

Needs for Utility

Offering them a phone which will seamlessly integrate into their life, here is what it must provide:

  • Basic, Reliable OS Functions
  • Brand Trust
  • Security Solutions
  • Low Hardware Cost
  • Plan Flexibility Based on Life Events

3. My phone is mainly about Relationships

“If I’m out with my friends, we have a rule that everyone puts the phones on the table and whoever touches the phone first, pays for the next drink.” [Hungarian participant]

These users are not interested in being tech-savvy. They want to have a phone which easily fits in their life and does not require a huge “step up”. However, they are open to new, untested technology. Their choice of phone is mainly based on enjoyment.

Relationship group user needs.

Needs for Relationship (photo by w00kie)

What we need to offer these users are co-experience opportunities:

  • Social Networks that help me deepen my relationships
  • High quality camera and flash
  • Options for Hardware and Software Personalization
  • Apps and Content that Cross Devices
  • Content that Crosses Apps

What’s next?

As different these groups are, they all share an additional set of common, universal needs which we think will offer a basic opportunity for each of them. Before considering where to focus, this set of needs must be addressed by basic features so that users will consider Firefox OS phones as the phone in their life:

Universal needs and Opportunities across user groups

Universal Needs and Opportunities Across User Groups

Beyond these common needs, we think that Firefox OS has the potential to answer needs for all of the three groups and provide appealing mobile devices for them that they can integrate into their life. But, do we, as Mozilla, want to provide a solution for every user? Stay tuned…