The bonuses of really short videos

One of the nice things about using YouTube for videos on is that we get audience retention stats. Here’s what they look like for a minute-long video I made about two years ago.
video-drop-offThis video answers the “How do I set my home page?” question at about 23 seconds in. After that the audience really starts to drop off as the video goes into supplementary topics.

The newer videos I’ve made focus mainly on one thing. This video is only 21 seconds long so it gets right to the point. In this case the average viewer watches the entire thing. Pretty cool!

So shorter is better in this case. Tell me something I don’t already know. Well, my point is that a minute long video is generally considered pretty short. Turns out you might want to think about making videos WAY shorter.

And here’s another bonus for super short videos. They’re much easier to localize. I made this 29 second Firefox OS video as an experiment. After creating an English version, I was able to re-shoot it with the interface in Spanish and drop in localized narration (recorded while I re-shot the video) in about an hour. That’s so awesome. I want to do much more of that next year.

Building a new Firefox update experience

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

Last week I introduced the new Firefox update experience that we’re working on. Since then, we’ve had a few days together in San Francisco to work out a new version (the first version was done last summer). So check out the video above for a walk-though of our progress and the video below for a few scenes of us working together this last week.

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

Making the user manual disappear

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

Some fine morning next spring (or next fall for the other side of the earth), people will open Firefox and find that it has a whole new look. A gorgeous new tab strip that makes it easy to focus on what you’re doing. A bookmark star and bookmark menu sitting right next to each other and a new, visual Firefox menu that’s super easy to customize. And on that day, they’ll also see a message drop down from the new menu button, inviting them to take a tour of these new features. This week I’m super super excited to be in San Francisco to work with a bunch of great people (Zhenshou, Holly, Jen, Laura, Michael, Alex and Blair) on building that tour.

So let me tell you my version of how this came to be.

This is a slide from a Kathy Sierra presentation. It’s my favorite presentation slide ever. This is what I came to Mozilla to do. Actually, what I’d love is for people to not even realize they’re reading the manual. Have it so integrated into the whole Firefox experience ecosystem that it kind of disappears.

Over the last few years I’ve been working on that in a couple of different ways. One is that we re-purpose or link to support stuff everywhere. All over Firefox, the website, our blogs, Facebook and Twitter and even sometimes in the stories written about us by others. It’s become a whole thing now that just happens and I don’t always hear about it until after the fact. Like the time Facebook did it and sent millions to one article.

Another project I work on is the Firefox Reset. When I first started working on support, the last resort for helping someone was often creating a new profile and migrating their important data over. That is Wizard level stuff! So with the Reset we turned it into a super fast, one-click-easy thing that even a Busy Bee can love. And now if Firefox takes a long time to start or if you try it again after having given up on it for a couple of months we’ll suggest you use the reset to make Firefox brand new – but without loosing all the stuff you care about. How cool is that?

Ok. Still with me. Here’s the thing I’m getting at. This update experience, like those other projects, is part of my master plan to make the user manual disappear.

A little more than a year ago, knowing that this new version of Firefox was happening, I got a bunch of people together to start talking about what we could do to get users excited about it and make sure they saw the new features. So there will be a whole coordinated effort to talk about it before, during and after. Of course, as part of that there’s a ton of new support material that will need to be created – new articles, screenshots, videos. But the big new thing that I’m super excited about is this new update experience which is key part.

The idea is, when Firefox starts up after having updated, a message will drop down from the new menu button inviting you to take a tour. Of course you can dismiss it but in the process of doing that, you just learned about that new menu. You see what we did there? And if you choose to take the tour well show off few Firefox tricks. But check this out. Our web-based tour is able to interact with Firefox – like we can open that new menu and highlight stuff in there. I think it’s going to great.

So is it marketing? Is it support? A website? The product? The UI? The UX? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes! It’s all of that and more. Like getting chocolate in your peanut butter or peanut butter in your chocolate.

So check back next week for demo time! And then soon, hopefully for lots more – like a new, new user experience.

The importance of user education and onboarding

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

I’m at the Mozilla Summit in Brussels this weekend. This afternoon during the “Framing the Future” session, a question was asked about what we’re doing to help less technical users and what we’re doing to avoid alienating existing users. This video has David Ascher talking about what was learned from missing the opportunity to educate and onboard users for the Thunderbird 3 launch. He goes on to talk about how important it is that we get better at this and that he expects that we’ll be doing this with the introduction of Australis (Firefox redesign).

This is something that I’m deeply passionate about. I wrote about this last December just after I had begun organizing a cross-functional meeting to see what we could do to solve this very issue. I’m super excited to say that we are moving ahead with building an brand new update experience for Firefox users that we’ll use to help smooth the transition to Australis when it launches early next year. I’ll be sharing more about that soon.

Support is more than just the right answer

In conversations with other people on the support team, I’m always going on about how I believe that how we give people the right answer is maybe as important as the answer itself. I also say to myself that I should blog great examples of this when I see them, so here’s one.


This is a San Francisco company that makes great bags. I’ve owned two of them and just the other day I ordered my third. This is the order confirmation that I received. There are little touches to the copy that just make me smile – something I’m sure I’ll remember in the event that a problem pops up. I’ve highlighted my favorite parts:

Dear Michael,
Thanks for picking us. Get ready to ROCK!

Here is your order summary email.

We suggest that you actually read it and like it because this is what you are getting and the Lucky One’s address below is where we are going to send it.

Your order number is XXXXXX

Michael Verdi

Michael Verdi

Custom Laptop Messenger Bag


Now here’s the part you really want to read.

When will my order ship?
Your order is being sent to the warehouse right now. Orders shipped US ground or international are shipped 2 – 4 days after the order is placed. It all depends on how many orders are in line in front of yours. If you selected an expedited shipping method like Second Day or Next Day Air, your order will ship within 1 to 2 business days. Business means Monday through Friday and excludes most US holidays, just in case you didn’t know. Now you do. FYI custom bags do not require any additional processing time.

Certain Timbuk2 parts sold on our website are sent via the good ole US Postal Service in their own separate shipment. Unfortunately USPS shipments of Timbuk2 parts are not trackable but usually arrive within 7-10 days from the day the order is placed.

How long will it take my order to get to my loving, waiting arms?
Once your order ships via UPS it will take 3 to 7 business days to arrive depending on where you call home. You can track your order on our website using your order number and clicking or you can be patient and wait for UPS to send you a notification of shipment indicating that your order has left the building. Please note that your item must ship before anyone can track it and it can take up to 48 hours for your tracking information to trickle down from UPS to our systems.

What if I live across the pond?
International orders are shipped via UPS International Express. Transit times average 3-5 business days for delivery.
**International Express price does not include Duty, Customs Adjustment or VAT. Up to $75 additional charges in VAT and duties may apply upon delivery of the product.

What if I entered my email address in wrong?

Our deepest sympathies are being sent to you via UPS because you haven’t read any of this.

Much Love,


Getting people to the right place is half the work

A while back I wrote about how much better some of our articles perform when they are linked to from some external place (in context of course). Here’s another example. Back on May 14th, we released Firefox 21 with a new feature called the Firefox Health Report. The FHR includes a graph of startup times. If you have some particularly long startup times we display a tip that suggests you reset Firefox and links to the help article on how to do that.

Before Firefox 21 and the health report, the reset article was getting rated helpful 60% – 65% of the time. Now that we’re showing the article to thousands of people each day who have a Firefox issue that the reset might be able to fix, the article is being rated helpful upwards of 82%. That’s huge — about a 25% improvement.

Update: The source of traffic in this case was not the health report. It was actually from another article. Coincidentally, Firefox 21 also included another feature that tries to help people with slow startup times. In that case it actually points to this article, which in turn points to the reset article. Beginning with Firefox 24 we’ll now point directly to the reset article.


User Education

When I started working on our support documentation back in 2010, our users found it helpful about 50% of the time. So we went to work on creating a better manual. That involved a lot of things including changing they way we wrote and the way we organized things. Today users say our articles are helpful 75% of the time.

That’s a pretty great improvement (we think we can do even better) but one thing I noticed was that there was another important factor at work – where and when someone is pointed to an article. By far, the biggest spikes in our helpfulness rating come when someone points a reader to one of our articles. When you already have a person engaged in a topic and then say, “you should look at this because it will help” they not only do, they often find those articles helpful 90% or more of the time. These are classic teachable moments and I think it’s incredibly important to make use of them whenever possible.

Here are two examples of things that people hadn’t gone out of their way to learn about but when they were pointed to the articles in another context, they responded enthusiastically. Back in February, The Den blog pointed to an article about choosing passwords. Now people don’t really ever look for this article on our support site. But when they read about it in this one blog post, 88,000 people clicked though and rated it helpful 95% of the time.

And more recently, Facebook started linking Firefox 3.6 users to this article in an effort to get them to upgrade. Over the last two months more than 1.1 million people have visited and rated that article helpful 95% of the time. We’ve also seen this kind of response when linking to articles about new features on the page that Firefox shows you after updating.

It’s important to have a great user manual. Kathy Sierra made the point over and over again that the way to create passionate users is to teach them how to kick ass. And, especially for something like a web browser that people expect to open up and have it just work, it’s critical to incorporate that teaching (in the browser or externally) in the right context – at the moment someone wants or needs it. That’s a much better experience than stopping what you are doing and trying to sift though an entire internet full of information. Who has time for that?

This is something that I’m extremely excited to be working on over the next year as part of the Support Team’s goal of creating an amazing support experience for all of our products.