Last week the desktop Firefox team got together in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to do more planning for 2013, hacking on key initiatives, and team building. We had attendance from Engineering, User Experience and User Research, Product, and Innovation/Labs, totaling just under 30 people.
On Monday Johnathan Nightingale and I presented the latest thinking on target markets, industry assumptions, and feature roadmaps for 2013. We were also treated to an amazing trio of presentations from Ed Lee of Innovation/Labs, UX's Madhava Enros, and Bill Selman from UR.
On Tuesday, the whole team participated in an ideation session led by Madhava and Johnath that resulted in an exciting collection of short and long term work items.
The ideation session started with a re-cap of some of the themes from the previous day's planning talks and instructions for everyone to write down as many ideas for Firefox improvements as we could. We posted all of those ideas up on the big wall and then started clustering them -- grouping similar items and labeling those areas.
Here's a picture of the big wall before clustering.
Photo by DoNotLick, and used under a CC license.
Photo by DoNotLick, available under "she gave me a link to it" terms and conditions.
The ideas clustered into about three dozen areas including Transitions & animations, Kill URLs, Translation, Search, Sharing/emailing/social, Flash, Crash reporting, Platform integration, Tabs, Add-ons and feature integration, Preferences, User created content, User switching, Evergreens, Privacy, Self healing, Help, Humor, jokes & whimsy, Remote control, Add-ons management, Sync & Backup, Profiles & import, Paper cuts, Web Apps, Performance, Personalization, First run, Discovery & suggestions, Passwords, Australis, Network, Save for later, Developer tools, and Download manager.
From there, the team selected about a dozen items to design, prototype, and demo during the remainder of the work week. On Thursday, break-out teams presented the results of that work.
Mike Conley (mconley) and Matthew Noorenberghe (mattn) presented the work they'd done to increase the performance of the upcoming Australis tabs re-design. They worked with the graphics team (several of whom are conveniently located in the Toronto office) on some new approaches and their presentation concluded with a chart showing approximately 30% performance improvement on low-end hardware (a netbook.) Australis is getting closer and closer so this was some really valuable work. Not only will Australis be beautiful, it will be very fast.
After the Australis tabs demonstration, Mike Conley gave a preview of tabs working in the title bar in Mac, a hard-fought victory that will allow the Australis team to implement the planned design properly on OS X.
Next up was Shane Caraveo (mixedpuppy) who showed some of the exciting improvements he's got working for the Social API, including the ability to install new social providers from the Web, enabling and disabling of service providers within the Add-ons manager, and an initial implementation of the Share feature.
Following the Social improvements was Gregory Szorc (gps) with some great work on improving memory usage related to the upcoming Firefox Health Report feature.
Jared Wein (jaws) had three pieces of work to share. First was his work on identifying and warning users about extremely slow start-ups. He followed that up with a nice demo of animating the transition between showing and hiding the Find in page toolbar. And last but not least, jaws showed some nice updates to the style of error pages in Firefox.
Next we heard from and saw demonstrations by Marco Bonardo (mak), Asaf Romano (mano), and Ed Lee (mardak), which included breaking the star bookmarks button out of the address field and combining it with the bookmarks toolbar button, and User Profile integration with Firefox.
Zhenshuo Fang (fang), was up next and shared a bunch of investigation and ideation that UX/UR, Engineering, and Product had done during the week on the Firefox first run experience and the various ways it could be improved. The ideation session here clustered into Celebrating users, Instantly personal, De-cluttered, Australis introduction, Help make Firefox my own, and Firefox boot camp. You can dig in to those ideas here.
Up next was Bill Selman (wselman) who presented some of his work on designs to improve crash reporting and in product help.
Justin Dolske (dolske) shared some of the opportunities that he and a break-out group enumerated for adding more whimsy to Firefox, including an add-on that updates the new tab about:blank placeholder text in the address bar to make it less dry and much more human and inviting.
Christian Sonne (cers), demonstrated the moving of much hated missing plug-in infobar into a simpler and less obtrusive notice in the address bar.
And last but not least, Felipe Gomez (felipe) presented the findings that he and his break-out group developed around captive portals and how Firefox can identify when it's accessing the internet through a captive portal as well as some ideas about handling the restoration of tabs failures that happen when connecting through a captive portal.
There was a lot more than this happening during the week, including some core Firefox hacking and lots of discussion, problem solving, small scale direction setting, etc., etc. There's just nothing quite like getting a geo-distributed team together in one place for a few days of concentrated effort. I can't wait for the next Firefox work week.
update: Jared posted a great write-up also.