Customizing Firefox

psackl

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Customizing Firefox from Philipp Sackl on Vimeo.

One of the ideas behind the Australis redesign of Firefox was to allow more people to customize their browser. The all-new customization mode gives you control over almost all parts of the user interface.

This video explains how to use customization mode and what it can do for you.

UXIM 2014 Recap

Yuan Wang

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Two weeks ago, I attended User Experience Immersion Mobile(UXIM) for the first time in Denver, CO. This is a conference organized by UIE (User Interface Engineering). Unlike other popular UX conferences, for example IxDA and UX week, UXIM has a strong and practical focus on tools and techniques to create great mobile experience, which I found to be quite useful and relevant to my daily practice.

My colleague Ian Barlow has put together a well summarized note of a majority of the talks. In this post, I will focus on a few that he has not covered.

 

Cyd Harrell, Conducting Usability Research for Mobile Apps

In this full-day workshop, Cyd Harrell introduced many latest mobile research techniques for intreviewing, gathering data, and involving the entire team.

Mobile Research Tools

And more importantly: Remember be graceful when all your technology breaks.

Designing a mobile-specific research plan

  • Come up with a script that is flexible for customization, for example “Please look for a gift you would like to buy for one of your family member”
  • New recruiting channel: Use Twitter and edit your profile to mention “UX Researcher” and “Current study: ______”
  • Use SMS to send out a mobile surveys. Keep it short(5 questions). Ask a pithy open-ended question.
  • Filling in the gaps: Test on mob4hire.com, mobtest, usertesting.com

Collecting user data with mobile devices

To gather user data, usually there are two approaches: use a lab device, or use the user’s own device. Using the user’s mobile device can provide a better context and make the user feel comfortable. In comparison, use a lab device will lose the personal context, but it will reduce installation time and enable more control for the researcher.

Tips for working with users’ own mobile devices:

  • Have a backup iPhone and Android device on hand
  • Make a power strip part of your testing station
  • Have chargers for all the phones you are expecting
  • Instruct participants to install necessary apps in advance, but leave time in case they don’t
  • Adjust the screen brightness before you start each session

Tips for offering lab devices:

  • Have a backup iPhone and Android device on hand
  • Charge devices between every session
  • Remove passwords, lock screens, etc
  • Dry-run every aspect of the test

For physical lab setup, Cyd mentioned this “Hug your laptop” approach for remote mobile testing. This was first adopted by firstly Mailchimp UX and then Mozilla UX team. I’ve personally participated in the testing session by our former researcher Diane, and it worked extremely smoothly.

Cyd's slide 1

Cyd also mentioned using Sleds to help observe and gather testing data. One example product is Mr. Tappy.

Cyd also mentioned a great community movement Open Device Lab, which is created to establish shared community pools of digital devices for testing products. Besides, she also mentioned some in-house practice on building a device lab, for example Etsy’s case study.

Conducting user interviews on-the-go

Through an interactive activity, Cyd demonstrated reaching to your participants via mobile can help you collect in-context and real-time results. She mentioned a great mobile case study: Trackyourhappiness.org. The study is completely conducted on the go via SMS and mobile survey forms. Besides, Blurb, dscout, and Usabilia are also effective tools to gain a contextual understanding without shadowing the users in person. This contextual technique could be particularly helpful in settings like public transit, food habits, shopping, exercise, etc.

As a designer who has experiences on usability study and research on mobile, I found Cyd’s workshop extremely informative and practical. I’m looking forward to exploring these tools and applying the techniques to my next research practice.

 

Jason Grigsby, Adapting to Different Types of Input

Nowadays people have touch screens, cameras, voice control, and sensors on their digital devices. How do we design for the explosion of these dynamic inputs?  Jason Grigsby shared some interesting facts about input and his forward-thinking strategies.

Jason Grigsby's slide 1

The Web never had a fixed canvas. Knowing the screen sizes doesn’t matter as much, since lines are blurred in between phones, tablets, and laptops. Resolution doesn’t define the optimal experience.

Jason Grigsby's slide 2

How to handle this challenge? Jason showed us several futuristic input technology and products that could potentially change the game.

Circling back, Jason dived deep into explaining what this input challenge means for the Web:

  • For TV remote controls, input patterns are difficult to detect.
  • There is still a gap in between touch input and desktop input(mouse and keyboard).
  • For many people in the emerging countries, mobile is their first smart device, not desktop.
  • People use laptops with mouse, keyboard, touch all together. Switching modes won’t solve the problem

Jason Grigsby slide 3

What if the product has lots of legacy and the users won’t let go? Some example Jason listed below demonstrated good product strategies in giving the users a choice.

The key benefit of giving this approach is: You are designing for user need not for a specific form factor or input.

Having been working on design UI for hybrid and convertible devices, I found Jason’s viewpoints about dynamic inputs quite valuable and relevant. The web is a continuous canvas, adaptive interface should not just belong to website. It’s time to break the boundaries in between desktop, mobile, and web, and rethink about the experience as a union.

 

As I mentioned, these two above are the talks that my colleague didn’t cover. I’ve also enjoyed brilliant talks by Ben Callahan, Brad Frost, and learned a lot from a hands-on jQuery workshop by Nate Schutta.

Overall UXIM 2014 was a delightful experience. It was eye-opening to share thoughts about mobile with people who do design in various industries, such as healthcare, energy, retail, etc.  Thanks Jared Spool and the rest of the team putting together a wonderful conference.

Emerging Needs in Thailand & Indonesia

Gemma Petrie

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Mobile Phone Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Mobile Phone Market in Bangkok, Thailand

This research was led by Bill Selman & Gemma Petrie.

In Fall 2013, the Mozilla User Experience Research Team visited Thailand and Indonesia to conduct Firefox qualitative research. In addition to our team of Mozillians, we partnered with SonicRim, a global design research firm, on this research project. If you would like to learn more about the project planning phase of this study, please read the first post in this series. You can also read about our initial observations in Thailand and our initial observations in Indonesia in previous posts. Finally, you can also checkout this follow-up post on ecommerce in Indonesia.

Study Goals

The goal of this research project was to understand how people in Thailand and Indonesia experience the Internet and to learn about emerging trends that will provide insight into new and current product features for Firefox.

Home in Bandung, Indonesia

Home in Bandung, Indonesia

Research Activities

The Mozilla User Research team believes it is important to experience in-context research with a wide variety of staff members. We brought a diverse set of talents into the field with us and gave each person the opportunity to engage in cultural immersion activities and two or more qualitative interviews in Bangkok & Chiang Mai, Thailand or Jakarta & Bandung,  Indonesia. Our field teams were comprised of: Bill Selman (User Research), Gemma Petrie (User Research), Uday Dandavate (SonicRim Researcher), Larissa Co (UX Design), Zhenshuo Fang (UX Design), Holly Habstritt (UX Design), Bram Pitoyo (UX Design), Margaret Schroeder (Market Research), Gavin Sharp (Firefox Engineering), and Yuan Wang (UX Design).

We engaged in a variety of contextual inquiry and ethnographic research activities including:

  • Semi-structured interviews with 44 participants (22 buddy pairs) in their homes and offices.
  • We observed public, commercial, and educational environments.
  • We connected with local Mozilla community members and hosted community dinners in Bangkok, Thailand and Bandung, Indonesia.
  • We collected over 60 hours of audio and video and nearly 2,500 photographs.
  • Finally, we engaged in an extended analysis period with both field teams in our Portland, Oregon office.
Interview Participant in Bangkok, Thailand

Interview Participant in Bangkok, Thailand

Results

In Indonesia and Thailand, changes are taking place with respect to how (and how many) people are accessing the Internet. Rapid technological and socioeconomic development has influenced technology adoption curves and technology-centric behaviors. Our research identified various themes that will help inform the future development of our products. Here are a few of them:

Infrastructure:

Key pieces of critical infrastructure are lagging, especially in Indonesia.1-5

  • Reliable telecom is unevenly distributed in both markets. Urban dwellers can’t easily connect with their rural relations (and vice versa).
  • Telecom infrastructure is generally lacking (though improving); Limited bandwidth is shared between a very large subscriber base.
  • In Thailand, data is cheap (less so, proportionally, in Indonesia). Certain kinds of data usage (like social networking) may be unlimited, while others are metered. People in both markets use multiple devices/telecom providers to maximize coverage/minimize costs.

This lack of stable infrastructure inhibits what can be done with technology and influences software adoption and software updates due to poor or nonexistent download speeds.

Software Market in Indonesia

Software Market in Indonesia

OS/Software Distribution:

Due to poor connectivity, downloading is often not the only software distribution channel in this region. Physical media such as DVDs and USB thumb drives still play a significant role in how software is distributed and installed. As a result, software packages are frequently installed in a shop, rather than at home. These packages can include everything from the OS, to multiple browsers, productivity tools, and games. In Indonesia, software being sold
 is often several versions behind the current version and may be compromised with malware.

Search & Navigation:

Participants have difficulty searching the Internet, because they don’t understand the pieces of the browser and the relationship of the browser to the Internet. This resulted in several beliefs:

  • The belief that Chrome is better for searching Google, because both are Google products.
  • The belief that search results are generated within the browser, thus searching in a different browser will produce different results.
  • Navigating to Google.com in order to enter Facebook.com in the Google search box.
  • Limited awareness that software can be customized or modified with add-ons.
  • Acquiring software based on popularity in their social circles rather than functionality or performance.
  • “It doesn’t work anymore” — There is limited knowledge of malware, malicious add-ons, etc., that may be severely impacting browsing experience
Restaurant Menu in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Restaurant Menu in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Translation:

Internet users in both markets rely on a blend of English and local language sources in order to find information they need. Users often, but not always, use English language menus on their devices (especially among Thai users trying to save screen real estate). Yet, while many users can navigate effectively in English, translation is still critical to their browsing experience. People want content in a context appropriate language: Local content in the local language and international content In English. Overall, there was a distrust of machine translations and a desire for improved content translation that provided additional cultural context.

What’s Next?

Mozilla is committed to providing the best user experience possible to our global community of users. It is important for us to understand the unique challenges and unmet needs that our users face around the world. We are grateful to all of the participants we were able to interview during this project and to the valuable support of our Thai and Indonesian communities. Over the last few months, our research team shared all of our Thailand and Indonesia study results with various teams at Mozilla. In addition to our observations, we suggested opportunities for addressing the unmet needs in this region. We look forward to incorporating design solutions to these challenges in our products. Stay tuned!

References:

  1. Get ready for traffic jams & long commutes. (Bangkok Post)
  2. Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
  3. Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
  4. Indonesia Has 2nd Lowest Average Internet Speed, Reactions. (Indo Boom)
  5. New GSA Evolution to LTE report: 2013 ends with 260 LTE networks in service. (GSA)

UX Book Club SF: UX Team of One

mhanratty

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As UX designer, even if you are working at a large company with dozens of other designers, you often find yourself as the only designer on a project. It’s a lot of responsibility advocating for users, fighting for time and resources for research, and pushing for beautiful UI details with engineers and product folks that may have little to no experience with design and research methods. How do you create great product experiences when you are, to use the title of Leah Buley’s book, a UX Team of One? For Buley who joined us to discuss the book on April 8th in Mozilla’s San Francisco office it’s about involving people in the process and acting as a facilitator within the team.

The book is divided into theory and practice. The first two chapters of the book are geared towards newbies with little to no training but who desire to move into user experience or apply some of the disciplines’ methods to their work. Since I’ve been in the UX field for some years I skipped to the practice chapters where Buley describes activities and deliverables for planning, research, design and evaluation. What differentiates her book from others is that she sets up each method or deliverable as a group activity. The activities are lightweight and practical,  perfect for involving non-designer types that maybe skeptical or time-crunched. One of the hard lessons I learned from transitioning from graduate school to being a designer in industry is that, while in an academic setting rigor is paramount, in the professionally world you can alienate your team if you are too rigid. You need to meet people where they are and be flexible.

For me reading the book was well-timed. I’m starting a new project with a new team. After months of being heads down on features I had forgotten some of the basics of kicking off new work. Starting this week I’ll be using activities like the Opportunity Workshop, Storyboarding and 2 x 2 Prioritization for our product workweek.

If you have anecdotes from working as a team of one I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments. For more information on the book club you can join our Facebook group or follow us on Twitter @uxbookclubsf.

Field notes from Hong Kong

alam

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As someone who’s spent his life divided between Hong Kong and Canada, I’ve seen and experienced some very interesting differences (and some similarities) between the two places. The differences that I’m talking about extend to conventions in design and user experience. Hong Kong’s compact geography combined with a diverse group of people makes for one concentrated melting pot of technology, geography, demography, and well, just about anything you can think of. While it would be fun to write about all the different dynamics, I’m going to focus on the conventions of design and user experience here.

Let’s start with the lowest common denominator: screens. The first thing I noticed was the size of these things. Sure, larger screens can be popular anywhere but there was an obvious preference for larger screens in Hong Kong. This creates some interesting use cases that we would be less likely to find here in North America. Streaming entire TV series and movies (sometimes while driving/working), extensive gaming, and even the use of a tablet as a phone come to mind. Yes, we can find these examples in North America too, but I would say it’s far more common there. I’ve also noticed a tendency to use larger screen devices for greater legibility, this of course would be more common amongst the older users but it does exist.

HK_ipadphone

Next up, would be OS, and it can basically be broken down to iOS versus Android (there are some very intriguing extensions, but more on that later). In a place where everything comes in an infinite combination of colour and specifications, Android obviously has the upper hand here. Plus, they actually have a selection of phones with larger screens. Users also get apps (like movie streaming apps) that would either take a lot longer or just would not be allowed to make it onto the App store. In addition to this, many mid-sized companies in Hong Kong have their own apps and the Play store is just easier to deal with. When it comes to games, installing an .apk file is fairly straight forward as well and users seem to be ok with the process (with regards to hassle, privacy and security) as long as it’s a something they really want. Yet interestingly enough, there still doesn’t seem to be a clear cut winner between the two operating systems.

As I mentioned in the beginning, a great way to describe Hong Kong is compact. On a telecommunications level, it means getting cell service and coverage to everyone is fairly easy. Not only is the market price competitive, but coverage is available almost everywhere. Yes, that means the subway too (or MTR as it’s called over there), and a lot of time is spent underground in those tubes. While I wouldn’t say that everyone has a data plan, it’s definitely not as expensive and therefore much more common. I won’t ramble on here about the downside of having somewhat of an oligopoly in the telecommunications sector, but I hope I am painting a clearer picture of the situation. In summary, we have a densely populated area with widely accessible, relatively fast internet.

HK_mtr1

For designers, device type, screen resolution, connectivity, bandwidth, and battery life are all interconnected and affect the design choices we make. What’s interesting is that Hong Kong offers a very different landscape of restrictions than the North American norm. In many ways, it is less restrictive and allows for more “intricate” user experiences. This is where an interesting gap begins to form. For example, mobile apps like Foursquare or Car2go that requires your geolocation via some sort of internet connection would be a lot less fun if you weren’t connected.

The flip side to this is battery life. If everyone is connected all the time, streaming videos, updating apps and gaming online, you would think that battery life would be an issue. Since work hours are longer, I assumed that most devices would simply charge throughout the day. I found that it didn’t necessarily hold true because the day itself was longer, and people were using their devices proportionally more. Enter the external lithium batteries. These also come in about 10 thousand different colours and combinations (approximately).

My external battery

The different people and cultures that make Hong Kong what it is also makes it one difficult audience to design for. Of course, assuming that there is only “one” audience is always a bold assumption. But the level of competition is really high and I think this can be attributed in part to the population density but also to the culture. One of the reasons why there are so many different variations of the same product is because a lot of it isn’t actually produced by the same manufacturer but instead available as “knock offs” in the aftermarket.

Let’s take a look at Xiaomi. I noticed that their presence was a lot greater than when I last visited in early 2013. Back then, I had heard of them but didn’t really pay much attention to it. This time around, they’re being called the “Apple of China”, their extension of Android’s OS (MIUI) is gaining momentum, and their products are in high demand. Their website is a great example of the per-audience differences I’m talking about. The first thing I noticed when I landed on the page was obviously the design of the page: simple, lots of white space, large HD photos, with a generally modern feel to it. Then, I noticed the language drop down.

Copy aside, there are clear visual/design differences between the English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese versions of the site, to the point that they are essentially different sites.

What’s also interesting here are the behaviour of links: no matter what version of the site you’re viewing, all links open in new tabs. This was something that I noticed when I worked in Shanghai and when I visited Chinese sites. I think the use of browser tabs as a natural navigational bread crumb stems from older Chinese sites that typically have a lot more links on a given page compared to the typical website designs we see over here in North America. I think it actually works quite well in some cases. I know this may seem minimal at first, but to me it feels like this may be the start of a trail and I’m interested to see what it may lead me to.

To some extent, I feel like Hong Kong today is a physical manifestation of the open web; in fact, it offers a natural depiction of why silos don’t work. With so many people so close to each other, ideas and products can develop really fast but also burn out just as fast. This makes sustained growth and continuity even harder to achieve. Trying to keep users confined without a reasonable alternative just doesn’t seem to work in the long run.

These different conventions to UX and design are very interesting to say the least. Personally, these types of things are compelling to think about. But, as a designer I feel obligated to be aware of as much as I can and when it’s a whole third of the world, it’s just nice to know.