Add-ons are core to the Firefox User Experience

Sinchan Banerjee is an intern from Mozilla’s User Experience team and one of his projects involves ensuring add-ons get the user experience they deserve. The following is a guest post by Sinchan.

Firefox can complete a lot of tasks. It comes with the functionality to accomplish the tasks we believe most people want to finish, but everyone uses the Web differently. They often want to do tasks that we don’t enable Firefox to accomplish right out of the box. Add-ons tackle this issue — they enable everyone to get the functionality they want out of Firefox. Out-of-box functionality and add-on functionality come together to make Firefox.

The current add-ons installation and customization user experience does not reflect this:

Right now, add-ons feel like they were literally added on top of Firefox’s User Experience. The user experience shouldn’t make add-ons feel like they are awkwardly layered over our Firefox’s default UI — they should be fundamentally integrated into the UI so that Firefox fits your specific needs.

That’s why Firefox’s User Experience team is designing a new experience that reflects the fact that add-ons make up an integral part of Firefox Functionality:

Out-of-box functionality and functionality that comes from add-ons shouldn’t be treated differently because at the end of the day, to the user, there should be just Firefox functionality.

We will send out another post soon highlighting the ideas we have for this new user experience.

8 responses

  1. Tiago wrote on :

    This is all well and good, but what about add-ons that are about erasing parts of Firefox’s “out-of-box functionality”?

  2. Ken Saunders wrote on :

    “That’s why Firefox’s User Experience team is designing a new experience that reflects the fact that add-ons make up an integral part of Firefox Functionality”

    Just a suggest, but a wise one. I’d be very careful with this kind of messaging because the greater majority of average/casual Firefox users who are probably the majority of Firefox’s base now, blames Firefox/Mozilla for add-on compatibility issues with each new release/update.
    Well, that’s pretty much always been the case, but it is more pronounced and frequent due to the rapid release cycle.
    As a matter of fact, I’d run away fast from statements even remotely close to the one that I quoted.

    Mozilla Firefox page on Facebook (official)
    4,860,921 (fans)
    Tuesday 8/16, 6.0 release date

    “great webrowser. ps: many of my fav extns – fast dial, IE tab plus, 1-click video downloader – aren’t compatible v 5.x or later. pl do something about this.”

    “I started to feel annoyed.. by the frequent updates.. On March 22 we have FF4.0 and today we are upgrading to FF6. And the upgrade breaks some of my add-ons.”

    “I think, the Winamp-User with their versions 5.62/5.621 will not be very glad, because maybe the Winamp-Toolbar will not be compatible with Firefox 6 (I myself have kept Winamp 5.581). The YouTube-Player and the (finally) new FoxyTunes are also not compatible with Firefox 6”

    “developers MUST keep updated with the add-ons plz”

    “Ryan Vermeys You seriously need to change how updates are handled in relation to versions. Every time you Highly Recommend an update, you break my add-ons and it’s starting to get old.”

    “Ken Saunders …Developers are responsible for keeping their add-ons compatible with Firefox, not the other way around.”
    Tuesday at 12:38pm · Like · 1 person (Mozilla Firefox likes this).

    I’m just one man you know?

    You hear the same complaints on SUMO and all around the web.

  3. Ken Saunders wrote on :


  4. Sinchan Banerjee wrote on :

    Thanks for the suggestion. I definitely understand that and that is why we are blogging at every stage of the design process for this new experience. We are still in the phase of figuring out what the new experience should be like. We want to keep add-on developers up to date on where we are going with the experience and give them enough time to update their add-ons to fit the new experience whatever it turns out to be 🙂

  5. FoxFireGuy wrote on :

    I think a better set of options for dealing with .asp pages would benefit for SaaS administrators like myself. We need a degree of flexibility to prevent database timeouts for large reports, better ftp file browsing within a browser window, that sort of thing. I would like to see an add-on that would actually launch pages with special properties to handle large data feeds via the browser, set the properties of the file to determine how it opens, etc. Have a separate tab type to handle ftp sites for special ftp browsing, authentication and log requests, etc.

  6. Cattleya wrote on :

    Like this article, that is why I said “Do not built-in so much add-on to Firefox”
    Why ? Built-in a add-on make a add-on discontinue, like BarTab, Locationbar2(Firefox 6.0 highlight url).

    And can Mozilla will drop trim url, Electrolysis support, Firefox shouldn’t copy these feature from Chrome, do something different or just improve Firefox performance, leave and to add-on, Firefox can’t lack add-on, remember that.

    Firefox 9 with new theme Australis is a bad idea, why ? Because change theme will make older theme for Firefox 4-5-6 stop working, maybe make some Stylish code, add-ón top working also, Mozilla developer never think about that ?

    Hope Mozilla developer will think of it, thank.
    I just want Firefox better and better. That is all.

  7. Stephan Matthiesen wrote on :

    I don’t mean to be negative, but right now one of the main add-on experiences seems to be every few weeks some of them stop working due to a Firefox update (the same in Thunderbird). This is really quite distractive when you’ve installed addons to optimize your workflow. This would be acceptable of it happened every half year or so, but at the moment it’s just too frequent.

    I understand that formally that’s the responsibility of the addon developers and not Mozilla’s, but it also seems to me that you are not making it easy for the addon developers with your rapid version cycle. I’m worried to see that some of developers of addons have stated in their forum that they consider discontinuing now, because they just can’t keep up.

    A partial workaround is the ‘Add-on compatibility reporter’, but incompatible add-ons remain incompatible. Also there is no way how I could convince my non-techie colleagues to use it.

    A absolutely agree with your statement that “Add-ons are the core of the Firefox experience”. So could I kindly ask to think about how to make it easier for the add-on developers to provide compatible add-ons, and solve this issue soon? Thank you.

  8. Gautam wrote on :

    Dear Sinchan Banerjee,

    I am an ignoramus, a minimalist user of the Internet. Every time Firefox updates itself, something nasty happens, e.g. my losing audio. Some say this is because the drivers have not been upgraded at the same time.

    I have no knowledge about how to rectify such problems, download drivers, install them and such. I had a working system until an “improvement” enforced from without took away one of my major uses for the computer, listening to Indian music on the Youtube.

    This is a huge issue with Firefox upgrades. Kindly note, and advise.

    Thank you.