Why People Don’t Install Firefox – Part I

Installing a piece of software can be a challenging process for the typical person to traverse.  For example, with Firefox, we know that each day there are more than 50,000 people who fall into the following group – they complete the download process (receive the full data/file), but don’t then complete their installation of Firefox.

We feel we have a moral imperative to figure out what’s going on here.  Doing so provides us an opportunity to both add to the general knowledge base of the software industry and make significant strides in the Firefox user experience (and to boot, improving Firefox adoption rates isn’t a bad auxiliary outcome).

So, let’s start by outlining the exact steps that a software user needs to traverse after a successful download:

  1. Does a user know they need to install?
  2. Does a user remember where he/she saved the file?
  3. Does the user open/run the file and avoid hitting “cancel” during extraction?
  4. Does the user make it through all steps (either 3 or 6 steps in the case of Firefox) of the installer without hitting “cancel”?

Thanks to an important initiative launched last week, we’re now able to put some framework and answers around these questions.  On Thursday of last week, we shipped a modified version of Firefox with a different installer (en-US*Windows only for a single day), allowing users to leave feedback when canceling out of the installer.


Based on the results (coming in a follow-up post), we know that of our original cohort of 50,000 people, approximately 10,000 users fall under category #4 outlined above (i.e., they click on that cancel button).  That means steps #1-3 describes the experience/actions of about 40,000 people.

Thinking in terms of big picture implications, there are some possible installer changes that we can consider to remedy the issues encountered via the installer itself.  Perhaps more paramount – what can we do to help users from steps #1-3?  Content and design of the Firefox download page?  Any other ideas?

To be sure, any action that we take here could be wildly impactful.  Improving the experience for just 2,000 or 3,000 people from our original cohort would translate into upwards of 2,000,000 additional Firefox users annually.

11 responses

  1. Anonymous wrote on :

    I think you can address steps 1 and 2 pretty easily. Try instructing the user to choose the option to run the setup program in place rather than saving it.

    As for step 3, just design an installer that doesn’t provide a “cancel” at that particular point. The user can always choose to cancel once the full installer comes up, and at that point they have the opportunity to provide feedback.

  2. Kurt wrote on :

    I know there will be a post on this but I’m itching to know the responses.

  3. Simon wrote on :

    Important as it is to gather information, try not to be too annoying about it. If I see a popup like that, my response will be an irritated “stuff off and let me get on with what I’m doing!”

  4. Dan wrote on :

    Can you remind us please how exactly it is that you know whether or not someone who has downloaded Firefox has installed it?

  5. Jostein wrote on :

    Why have so many steps in the first place? After the installer has been started it should just install the damn thing. 🙂 I’m actually serious. Ok, maybe 1 step: either click Install or Advanced. For those that wants to set where to put shortcuts etc. right away.

    So my thought: Just get rid of the whole install wizard thinking and just get on with it. 🙂

  6. Jostein wrote on :

    I think some people get a little frightened when they first click download, then open/save, then yes and ok etc, and then next, next, next, next. To some people I think it feels like the software they’re trying to install isn’t even really confident in itself. It’s like they get this “sign” something could be wrong. I also thing some people experience all this clicking really as “Are you sure?” questions. When there are too many it makes them uncomfortable.

    So make the Installer “know” that when it is started it is supposed to just get on with it – get rid of all the clicks.

  7. Jostein wrote on :

    Also, about the people you are talking about in the article: They almost never read anything on the screen that is more than a 3-word sentance. Even if they don’t want a shortcut on the desktop, most of them still get it because they didn’t bother reading the text on the installer.

    So why not just have a 1-click installer? One click is just enough to let those of us that cares click the Advanced button.

  8. hew wrote on :

    Some people might be downloading it on their computers to install on a friend’s or “client’s” computer (in computer repairs). I do this regularly enough – if I don’t have the latest version available already to me.

  9. Noah – SUMO staff wrote on :

    Hey Ken,

    Hoping you see this. I’m posting here to ask you to look at the other aspect: retention rates.

    I know we did a uninstall survey for a select group but if you browse the SUMO forums, there is much user discontent with Firefox 3.0.8 hanging, crashing & especially for Vista users. Lots of users dumping Firefox as a result & they are voicing that decision. We could blame this on a recent malware outbreak that we’ve been trying to debug that been causing crashes/hangs, but there’s the chance that Firefox doesn’t work well on Vista and could be improved.

    I couldn’t join the #metrics room btw, because you need a pass. So not sure where I can better organize my thoughts.

    Maybe email me @ mozsupport@gmail.com.

  10. TrueFire wrote on :

    I think systems like McAfee and Norton are a bit to blame as well. MS seems to get a free ride on downloads. FF downloads get something like a “are you sure sure you want to download this and risk destroying the human race till the end of time?” sounding message.

  11. Roman wrote on :

    Here’s what I think the installation process should look like to capture more of those users:

    1. Double-click the installer
    2. A screen comes up with a fancy pretty title saying “Firefox”, a huge big fat button saying “Install Firefox Now”, and a small button in the corner saying “advanced”.
    3. The user clicks “Install Firefox Now”. Half a minute later, Firefox starts, with not a single extra question whatsoever.

    Of course that small “advanced” button in the corner would enable power users to tweak their settings. But really, even an intro screen with a “Next” button is already a big turnoff for non-power-users. Make it as simple as it can possibly be!