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Firefox Home Tab

Firefox 4 Home Tab Icon

As you may know, I’m currently working as User Experience Intern at Mozilla. I’ve been tasked with designing the next generation Firefox Home Tab. I wanted to share what work I’ve done so far and give a general update on what I plan on doing in the near future. I will be routinely updating the progress and my work on this project as the summer goes forward. So check back often to keep updated on what I’m doing.

I think it’s important to know right off the what we (the UX team) are imagining for the new home tab. We do not imagine the new home tab to be a content aggregation service, but rather we hope to fully understand and push the boundaries of what we (as a browser) can do that websites might not be able to do well. I’ve come up with some approaches that I’ve been looking at to use while designing, which I’ve listed below.

Possible Design Tools

  • Golden Questions
    used to understand many different perspectives
  • Secondary Research
    what research has been done so far by academia and other industry players?
  • User Research
    understand what users of home pages via surveys, possible interviews
  • Data Aggregation
    bring together all data points, see trends, gather insights
  • Brainstorming
    generate multiple ideas on what we can do as a browser
  • Design Lunch
    group brainstorming to get multiple view points and crazy ideas
  • Sketching
    to get ideas out of our heads
  • Concepting, Ideating
    to fully explore a design space
  • Prototyping
    to further explore a particular design
  • User Studies
    to understand gaps and problems with a design or concept

Current Existing Approaches

I started out with this project by completing a competitor analysis of current ‘home’ pages on the web. This would allow me to get a good grasp of what is currently ‘out there’ in the world, to get a base understanding of what people actually use, to find out what is popular currently, to understand some trends, and to find what existing approaches currently ‘do right’. In order to be effective, I decided to focus on the following web sites:

My Yahoo
Windows Live

In doing this research I looked at trends among these sites and general observations. I aggregated
this research into the following observations.

  • Most home page current use the gadgets/widgets
  • Boxes are the prevalent way to interact with these widgets
  • Most sites/pages allow for customization of layout, color choices, and/or themes
  • News was the most popular default widget, although I didn’t find it useful (survey here?)
  • Ads were very prominent and disruptive to the experience
  • Search was very prominent and always in the same position on every different site/page
  • Tabs on the side/top were the predominant way to organize these horrible boxes
  • Twitter trends were popular
  • Facebook connect was popular
  • Quick sharing was popular
  • Quick links to other integrated services were popular

You can find my full research (notes) on Google Docs

Summary and Next Steps

To summarize, we are not looking to build the next iGoogle, Netvibes, or My Yahoo clone, but rather
looking at what we (Mozilla) can do with our special role as an information broker and not a
web site. I’ve outlined some possible design tools and approaches to use in this project, and looked
at existing solutions in the world today.

As I move forward in this (very fluid) design process, I’ll be blogging about individual steps I’m
taking as well as my reflection on those steps and my process in general. I hope to continue
writing about my experience here at Mozilla and the awesome things on which I get to work.

I look forward to your feedback, comments, and ideas while continuing my work on this project.

Leave a comment

  1. In my current system, I view my emails (in Hotmail, via and view my Atom feeds (in iGoogle). It would be great if this Home tab could simplify this.

    Good luck with this project. It’s going to be really useful.

  2. Great summary of the status quo for personal portals..
    Very cool that you are making your design process public!

  3. I see this as another attempt (starring/places/typing instead of clicking bookmarks) at Firefox trying to reinvent the paradigm just to be different rather than something that amounts to much.

    Maybe work should be refocused to an enhanced new tab function like Opera/Chrome.

  4. I just loaded up IE8 for legacy reasons, they also have a featured packed new tab.

  5. @John
    While I think that new tab functionality could be improved, the Home Tab provides a great chance to enhance the experience of our users.

    Thanks for your great comments. Keep em coming.