Introducing new Colorways for Firefox 94
Today, Firefox is launching Colorways, a new feature that allows our users to express their most authentic selves and to bring them joy while browsing the web. As we challenge what the browser has been, and expand and define the vision of what Firefox browser is and can be, part of that challenge is to ask ourselves “who is it for and who can use it easily and feel included in the experience?”
We caught up with Mikal Lewis, Senior Director, Product Management for Firefox, to hear more about his vision for Firefox and the impetus for launching Colorways.
Can you speak more to your vision for Firefox — what’s happening now, and what’s exciting about where it is headed?
Privacy has been part of our vision from day one and is always going to be part of what we deliver on in our product. We’re making the connection that a safe and joyful internet is a colorful one, and ultimately we want to connect with the people that make the internet a colorful place. We know Firefox users are aware that other browsers and tools exist that they could use for being online, leveraging the internet and getting things done. But they come to rely on Firefox in many ways as their personal browser of choice in large part because of the experience our privacy features offer, but now also because of the joy we can help provide in different ways. So our vision of Firefox is to help those customers continue to have a world-class experience and get more from the internet every day with less compromises that come with the internet.
Why make color-based customization a top priority for a product like a web browser?
We know that we are spending more time in this digital ecosystem — not the concrete jungle, but the digital jungle. So much more of our life is flowing through what have historically been these gray boxes. And we don’t really tolerate this type of what I would say are one-size-fits-all tools anywhere else in our lives. And so, it just feels like a natural extension to allow people to make this tool that they’re leveraging every day feel more of their own, to feel fresh, to be exciting, to just bring in that small moment of delight to their day.
We identified that color is a way to connect with people across all divides (and we have research that people respond positively to it) — it is a universal language that transcends the boundaries of our diverse verbal languages. And we chose “Colorways” rather than “themes” to show we are branching out from our language of “browser” to speak the language of everyday life and everyday users. This is about more than just installing a new “theme,” which really doesn’t have much meaning to most people.
Why is it important for you that people who use Firefox should have these customizable choices?
Using the web is fun! The web is fun, it should be fun. The only way you get on the web should not be by choosing your different colored gray box. The web is a rich tapestry. Why does it only have to be one way? Why can’t you have this delight and joy that you bring to the experience? And specifically with how much we use the web and rely on it every day. That is the core story and a big grounding reason for this: because it’s fun.
What body of research guided you to developing these color-based customizations in a browser? What have you learned from early conversations with users?
I think it was a hypothesis that I had early on. Coming from the fashion industry, the limited edition drop, to those outside the industry, could really feel like this money grab where you’re like, “Doing this one special…” But for people who love fashion and people who love expression, it’s so special and it has so much evocative meaning to people. You’ll hear customers talk about a shirt like, “That color is just… If this was a slightly darker shade of blue, I’d be okay with it,” or, “If this yellow was a little bit more subdued, I’d be okay with it.” Knowing we select our fashion as well as the tools to navigate our days, we’ve begun to hypothesize about how we can bring more expression into Firefox, more things to choose from that delight. It’s the same brain to evaluate our tools, choose an outfit, and navigate our day, so I’ve had the hypothesis that people are interested in customizing their tools and making it more of their own, potentially the same way they choose an outfit.
But what really guided this specific release was that it’s just what we learned when we did our redesign in June. When we gave people the opportunity to choose a new way to express themselves with color in their browsing experience, their engagement shot through the roof. I mean, the adoption of certain themes increased by more than 200%. We came up with the question, what if we really lean into this? What would that experience look like, and what is the experience that we can give our customers? Those all came together and have formed the basis for this release, which we think is really just the beginning of making sure that the experience of using Firefox is your expression of Firefox.
When we gave people the opportunity to choose a new way to express themselves with color in their browsing experience, their engagement shot through the roof. I mean, the adoption of certain themes increased by more than 200%.Mikal Lewis on the impetus for creating new Colorways for Firefox 94
What inspired you to make the jump from fashion and retail into a tech company, which is best known for their web browser?
Mozilla most reminds me, through my career, of my time at Nordstrom, which is another purpose-driven company. At Nordstrom, I helped people express their best selves every day. And as I think about tech more broadly and what I wanted to do next, I felt like there was a gap in both purpose-driven companies, but also there was also a need for our tools to address the whole body experience of what it means to be a person. What I mean is: the tools are usable and provide functionality, but especially ones that we use every day like the browser, actually become extensions of ourselves. I have felt like there were some really great parallels in terms of how the retail environment and shopping experience is both a task and something that brings people joy.
Tell us about your personal style.
I was always really into fashion and relatively on the cutting edge, and joining Nordstrom actually forced me to be a little bit more reflective about my style. I’ve leaned more into normcore, which for me focuses on quality fashion products, and specifically a lot of textures. And while my wardrobe may be monochromatic, that has actually made fashion a little bit more fun and almost challenging for me because it really has to be the right piece to really be a tool of expression, while also being monochrome. I was told that I would not survive the heat in an all-black wardrobe when I moved to Texas, but it has stuck around.
Which fashion designers or artists do you admire and why?
Two fashion designers that have caught my eye for their attention to detail and use of color are Christopher John Rogers, Vince, as well as visual artist Felipe Pantone. You saw CJR all over the Met Gala, and now at a major retailer like Target, which brings runway fashion to the masses and makes it accessible to everyone. A company like Vince has caught my eye for a while because of what they’re doing with really, really simple fashion garments. They are creating interest in high-quality fashion products that are actually really fashion-forward, but at the same time, sticking with a relatively subdued set of constraints. Felipe Pantone is an artist, not a fashion designer, and I love his work because it feels like a collision between an analog past and a digitized future. That resonates with me and others who grew up with tech and the internet. He also has a wonderful quote that ties really well to our Colorways update: “Color only happens because of light, and light is the only reason why life happens. Light and color are the very essence of visual art. Thanks to television, computers, and modern lighting, our perception of light and color has changed completely.”
Is there a parallel between designing products for tech companies and those within the fashion industry? If so, what is it to you?
One thing about the Firefox experience that is the same with fashion is that our experience is always going to be fresh. We’re never going to be static. And so whether it’s Colorways or other exciting experiences we unlock for our Firefox customers, you should expect that there’s always going to be a fresh way of expressing yourself with Firefox.
What experience do you want to create for users?
As we expand and define the vision of what a browser is and can be and challenge what it has been, part of that challenge is who it is for and who can use it easily and feel included in the experience. It’s not just for highly technical people. From the perspective of the Firefox product we believe that the internet must enrich lives, and we seek to do this in all of our core product planning in various ways. One way is to seek to bring more of a visceral, felt, emotive level to the browser experience that feels more connected to all people, more inclusive in general and more inclusive of experiences in the real world…we want to bring more of the external felt world to the digital experience.
How many more themes and Colorways are there?
In this release, there are 18 themes based on six Colorways with three experiences of each color — soft, balanced and bold. These Colorways are here for the next two product releases (they won’t go away if you’ve selected it). This is a limited-time release which is intended to embrace the “now moment.” We know colors trends are always changing to offer delight and excitement seasonally. So these will be spotlighted for two cycles of release in Firefox onboarding as limited time play to enjoy to spark more engagement and interest.
What’s next for Firefox colorways?
We’ll see. We’ll go where our customers take us. Colorways are just the start of a dialogue of our expression of Firefox, what we believe the experience of using the independent browser should be and could be. And we really look forward to hearing how our customers engage with it and where they’re interested in taking these Colorways experiences next.
You can download the latest version of Firefox here to experience the all new Colorways yourself!