Making the user manual disappear

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

Some fine morning next spring (or next fall for the other side of the earth), people will open Firefox and find that it has a whole new look. A gorgeous new tab strip that makes it easy to focus on what you’re doing. A bookmark star and bookmark menu sitting right next to each other and a new, visual Firefox menu that’s super easy to customize. And on that day, they’ll also see a message drop down from the new menu button, inviting them to take a tour of these new features. This week I’m super super excited to be in San Francisco to work with a bunch of great people (Zhenshou, Holly, Jen, Laura, Michael, Alex and Blair) on building that tour.

So let me tell you my version of how this came to be.

This is a slide from a Kathy Sierra presentation. It’s my favorite presentation slide ever. This is what I came to Mozilla to do. Actually, what I’d love is for people to not even realize they’re reading the manual. Have it so integrated into the whole Firefox experience ecosystem that it kind of disappears.

Over the last few years I’ve been working on that in a couple of different ways. One is that we re-purpose or link to support stuff everywhere. All over Firefox, the website, our blogs, Facebook and Twitter and even sometimes in the stories written about us by others. It’s become a whole thing now that just happens and I don’t always hear about it until after the fact. Like the time Facebook did it and sent millions to one article.

Another project I work on is the Firefox Reset. When I first started working on support, the last resort for helping someone was often creating a new profile and migrating their important data over. That is Wizard level stuff! So with the Reset we turned it into a super fast, one-click-easy thing that even a Busy Bee can love. And now if Firefox takes a long time to start or if you try it again after having given up on it for a couple of months we’ll suggest you use the reset to make Firefox brand new – but without loosing all the stuff you care about. How cool is that?

Ok. Still with me. Here’s the thing I’m getting at. This update experience, like those other projects, is part of my master plan to make the user manual disappear.

A little more than a year ago, knowing that this new version of Firefox was happening, I got a bunch of people together to start talking about what we could do to get users excited about it and make sure they saw the new features. So there will be a whole coordinated effort to talk about it before, during and after. Of course, as part of that there’s a ton of new support material that will need to be created – new articles, screenshots, videos. But the big new thing that I’m super excited about is this new update experience which is key part.

The idea is, when Firefox starts up after having updated, a message will drop down from the new menu button inviting you to take a tour. Of course you can dismiss it but in the process of doing that, you just learned about that new menu. You see what we did there? And if you choose to take the tour well show off few Firefox tricks. But check this out. Our web-based tour is able to interact with Firefox – like we can open that new menu and highlight stuff in there. I think it’s going to great.

So is it marketing? Is it support? A website? The product? The UI? The UX? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes! It’s all of that and more. Like getting chocolate in your peanut butter or peanut butter in your chocolate.

So check back next week for demo time! And then soon, hopefully for lots more – like a new, new user experience.

7 thoughts on “Making the user manual disappear

  1. Verdi is my hero. Your videos are the most entertaining thing on the web! The new first run looks awesome. Great work to everyone involved!

    • No it doesn’t. For this we actually built an api in Firefox to allow a webpage to do things like open a menu and highlight part of the UI. So the tour in this case is text with parts of the browser opening and being highlighted.

  2. Pingback: Building a new Firefox update experience | Verdi

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