More Changes Coming to the Firefox Installer

As mentioned a few days ago, we saw a massive impact to the Firefox new user experience with a recently implemented change to the Firefox installer.  A problem previously encountered daily by thousands of new Firefox users completely vanished with a single change.  We now want to share a few more details and suggest one or two additional changes moving forward.

First up, let’s look at the distribution of users’ comments — by step — in the Firefox installation process, i.e., on what step were they on when hitting the “cancel” button (a visualization of these steps is shown here).  The screenshots below come courtesy of Kampyle, the start-up who helped us with this initiative.

THEN (late March):


NOW (last week):


The difference between these two pictures is night and day.  A couple things stand out:

  • As mentioned above, our fix successfully resolved the directory problem that users were primary encountering in Step #3 of our installer (“Choose Install Location”)
  • There is now a very high concentration of people canceling out of the installer at the final step in the process (Step #6, aka “Summary”)

Looking at the actual comments from users canceling out of the final step, about 75% are related to the zombie process problem (a workaround solution is in the works), about 20% are people expressing their unhappiness over Firefox becoming their default browser, and about 5% fall into an “other” category.  You’ll recall that those two issues were the top issues highlighted by users overall.

What’s up with people commenting on Firefox becoming their default?

It’s a simple option to check or uncheck as desired, right?


Diving into the comments reveals something critical.  All of the people making this comment are doing so on the “Summary” step (or final step, below), not on the earlier “Setup” step (above).  Clearly, many new users are overlooking the checkbox, and just seconds later, are unsure as to how to install Firefox as their non-default browser.  And the outcome here is poor – the person is frustrated and refuses to install Firefox.


What fix should we consider here?  Should we make the checkbox more prominent on the “Setup Type” step?  Should we include instructions (e.g., “simply hit the back button to change”) on the “Summary” step?

Thanks to Rob Strong, the Funnelcake team, and the folks at Kampyle, among many others, for making this ongoing initiative a success.

21 responses

  1. Jesper Kristensen wrote on :

    This reminds me of another blog post…

  2. Havvy wrote on :

    I would make the summary options link to the step that you can change the option on. Not only for that option, but for all options.

  3. Shawn Wilsher wrote on :

    I agree with Havvy – you could provide a link or a button taking you back to that step to make the change (and ideally highlight the area that you’d need to change to change that setting).

  4. mw wrote on :

    Put the check box on the summary step instead.

  5. Jesse Ruderman wrote on :

    Can we get rid of the summary page, or move the default-browser checkbox to the summary page? No point asking things twice, IMO.

  6. Ken Saunders wrote on :

    “move the default-browser checkbox to the summary page?” Agreed, and place it higher than it’s current location.

  7. Dan wrote on :

    Don’t have it checked by default. The default behavior should not be to hijack your default associations… people who click through installers shouldn’t have their web browser changed.

    Firefox should ask the first time it is run if it isn’t already the default, with the default action being no change to the user’s settings.

    Use the infobar. I’m not sure if Firefox does this already, last I checked it used the dialog box which was in-your-face and annoying.

  8. Donnie Berkholz wrote on :

    2 suggestions:

    1) Keep related things together. Having the checkbox on one page and telling people how it will be on another page that has very little other info seems prone to producing dissonance.

    2) Keep separate things different. Why are install types and default browser choices on the same screen, with one hidden down in the corner? It seems almost designed to be missed with its placement near the edge.

  9. Karel Koubek wrote on :

    The problem is that the checkbox is buried down on the page so it is easily overlooked. Move it up, right under the radio buttons and it will be much more visible.

  10. Brian King wrote on :

    Move the checkbox to the Summary screen, and have it unchecked by default.

  11. jordan gold wrote on :

    I think you should make the check box bigger and have in 2 places so you dont miss it. Not bad that you picked up on this 🙂

  12. rachel wrote on :

    i had this problem i missed the checkbox once, quite frustrating to find it again.

  13. NTP wrote on :

    Are no one even noticing that there’s an abundance of empty space wasted on the “summary” page?

    “Firefox should ask the first time it is run if it isn’t already the default”

    This is already happening, isn’t it?

  14. tomy paul wrote on :

    such a minor problem cant believe they could notice this, cheers

  15. Mark wrote on :

    “Click the Back button to change this.”

  16. Jorge wrote on :

    Move it to the summary page, unchecked by default. Users can eventually set it as a default when they see the dialog.

    Good work!

  17. David wrote on :

    Instead of a checkbox, which is modal, the ‘Install’ button could be split into two: ‘Install and set default browser’ and ‘Install’, with the former selected by default. When Firefox is already the default, the former would not appear. Also, the “wizard” installer should have the number of steps severely reduced already to two—or even one.

  18. Dan wrote on :

    Get rid of the checkbox. Firefox asks on startup anyway, ignoring your choice in the installer if your choice was “no”.

  19. Cornelius wrote on :

    Why not review the whole reasoning w/ Beltzner for hiding the “make default” checkbox as far out of the user’s perception as possible? The checkbox was only added to FF3’s setup in the RC1 build, indicating that it was specifically moved so that people trying Firefox wouldn’t notice FF3 was about to become the default browser. The fact that Firefox was the 1st browser to put this “default browser” option in Setup amongst all major browsers (including IE, Chrome, Opera, and Safari) clearly suggests deception is not beneath Mozilla to gain browser share “by hook or by crook”.

  20. Stu wrote on :

    I agree with Dan (18). Seeing as Firefox asks you on the first launch whether to make it the default browser or not isn’t this checkbox redundant anyway?

  21. Snow White wrote on :

    what is the difference between using the tickbox when installing and when it asks you?? does the installer make it the default for everyone??