I’m excited to announce that my colleague Heather McGaw and I will be speaking at Performance Matters (#PerfMatters) this April.Read More
In 2015 I was invited to participate in a small #InfoFutures forum funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and hosted by the Simmons School of Library and Information Science. We were tasked with envisioning the future of information and how to educate future information professionals for this emerging world.Read More
In his 2015 novel, Satin Island, Tom McCarthy’s protagonist (known only as “U”) is a corporate anthropologist working for an outre design research firm whose work embodies all the absurd contradictions of late capitalism. The highly influential firm’s logo is “a giant, crumbling tower.” The visionary owner and boss of U takes pride in telling his clients that he is selling them “fiction” and in talks to Davos-like conferences speaks primarily in Nietzschean aphorisms. Ultimately, McCarthy portrays the role of his protagonist and design researcher as the ideal specimen of the late capitalist job.Read More
Like many organizations, Mozilla Firefox has been experimenting with the Google Ventures Design Sprint method as one way to quickly align teams and explore product ideas. Last fall I had the opportunity to facilitate a design sprint for our New Mobile Experiences team to explore new ways of connecting people to the mobile web. Our team had a productive week and you can read more about our experience in this post on the Sprint Stories website.Read More
Last year, the Firefox User Research team conducted a series of formative research projects studying multi-device task continuity. While these previous studies broadly investigated types of task flows and strategies for continuity across devices, they did not focus on the functionality, usability, or user goals behind these specific workflows.
For most users, interaction with browsers can be viewed as a series of specific, repeatable workflows. Within the the idea of a “workflow” is the theory of “flow.” Flow has been defined as:
a state of mind experienced by people who are deeply involved in an activity. For example, sometimes while surfing the Net, people become so focused on their pursuit that they lose track of time and temporarily forget about their surroundings and usual concerns…Flow has been described as an intrinsically enjoyable experience.¹
As new features and service integrations are introduced to existing products, there is a risk that unarticulated assumptions about usage context and user mental models can create obstacles for our users. Our goal for this research was to identify these obstacles and gain a detailed understanding of the behaviors, motivations, and strategies behind current browser-based user workflows and related device or app-based workflows. We will use these insights to develop products, services, and features for our users.
Primary Research Questions
- How can we understand users’ current behaviors to develop new workflows within the browser?
- How do workflows & “flow” states differ between and among different devices?
- In which current browser workflows do users encounter obstacles? What are these obstacles?
- Are there types of workflows for specific types of users and their goals? What are they?
- How are users’ unmet workflow needs being met outside of the browser? And how might we meet those needs in the browser?
In order to understand users’ workflows, we employed a three-part, mixed method approach.
The first phase of our study was a twenty question survey deployed to 1,000 respondents in Germany provided by SSI’s standard international general population panel. We asked participants to select the Internet activities they had engaged in in the previous week. Participants were also asked questions about their browser usage on multiple devices as well as perceptions of privacy. We modeled this survey off of Pew Research Center’s “The Internet and Daily Life” study.
In the second phase, a separate group of 26 German participants were recruited from four major German cities: Cologne, Hamburg, Munich, and Leipzig. These participants represented a diverse range of demographic groups and half of the participants used Firefox as their primary browser on at least one of their devices. Participants were asked to download a mobile app called Paco. Paco cued participants up to seven times daily asking them about their current Internet activities, the context for it, and their mental state while completing it.
In the final phase of the study, we selected 11 of the participants from the Experience Sampling segment from Hamburg, Munich, and Leipzig. Over the course of 3 weeks, we visited these participants in their homes and conducted 90 minute interview and observation sessions. Based on the survey results and experience sampling observations, we explored a small set of participants’ workflows in detail.
Field Team Participation
The Firefox User Research team believes it is important to involve a wide variety of staff members in the experience of in-context research and analysis activities. Members of the Firefox product management and UX design teams accompanied the research team for these in-home interviews in Germany. After the interviews, the whole team met in Toronto for a week to absorb and analyze the data collected from the three segments. The results presented here are based on the analysis provided by the team.
Based on our research, we define a workflow as a habitual frequently employed set of discrete steps that users build into a larger activity. Users employ the tools at hand with which they are familiar (e.g., tabs, bookmarks, screenshots) to achieve a goal. Workflows can also span across multiple devices, range from simple to technically sophisticated, exist across noncontinuous durations of time, and contain multiple decisions within them.
We observed that workflows appear to be naturally constructed actions to participants. Their workflows were so unconscious or self-evident, that participants often found it challenging to articulate and reconstruct their workflows. Examples of workflows include: Comparison shopping, checking email, checking news updates, and sharing an image with someone else.
Part 1: Workflows are constructed from discrete steps. These steps are atomic and include actions like typing in a URL, pressing a button, taking a screenshot, sending a text message, saving a bookmark, etc. We mean “atomic” in the sense that the steps are simple, irreducible actions in the browser or other software tools. When employed alone, these actions can achieve a simple result (e.g. creating a bookmark). Users build up the atomic actions into larger actions that constitute a workflow.
Part 2: Outside factors can influence the choices users make for both a whole workflow or steps within a workflow. These factors include software components, physical components, and pyscho/social/cultural factors.
Factors Influencing Workflows
While workflows are composed from atomic building blocks of tools, there is a great deal more that influences their construction and adoption among users.
Software components are features of the operating system, the browser, and the specs of web technology that allow users to complete small atomic tasks. Some software components also constrain users into limited tasks or are obstacles to some workflows.
The basic building blocks of the browser are the features, tools, and preferences that allow users to complete tasks with the browser. Some examples include: Tabs, bookmarks, screenshots, authentication, and notifications.
Physical components are the devices and technology infrastructure that inform how users interact with software and the Internet. These components employ software but it is users’ physical interaction with them that makes these factors distinct. Some examples include: Access to the internet, network availability, and device form factors.
Psycho/Social/Cultural influences are contextual, social, and cognitive factors that affect users’ approaches to and decisions about their workflows.
Participants use memory to fill in gaps in their workflows where technology does not support persistence. For example, when comparison shopping, a user has multiple tabs open to compare prices; the user is using memory to keep in mind prices from the other tabs for the same item.
Participants exercised control over the role of technology in their lives either actively or passively. For example, some participant believed that they received too many notifications from apps and services, and often did not understand how to change these settings. This experience eroded their sense of control over their technology and forced these participants to develop alternate strategies for regaining control over these interruptions. For others, notifications were seen as a benefit. For example, one of our Leipzig participants used home automation tools and their associated notifications on his mobile devices to give him more control over his home environment.
Other examples of psycho/social/cultural factors we observed included: Work/personal divides, identity management, fashion trends in technology adoption, and privacy concerns.
Using the Workflows Model
When analyzing current user workflows, the parts of the model should be cues to examine how the workflow is constructed and what factors influence its construction. When building new features, it can be helpful to ask the following questions to determine viability:
- Are the steps we are creating truly atomic and usable in multiple workflows?
- Are we supplying software components that give flexibility to a workflow?
- What affect will physical factors have on the atomic components in the workflow?
- How do psycho-social-cultural factors influence users’ choices about the components they are using in the workflow?
Design Principles & Recommendations
- New features should be atomic elements, not complete user workflows.
- Don’t be prescriptive, but facilitate efficiency.
- Give users the tools to build their own workflows.
- While software and physical components are important, psycho/social/cultural factors are equally as important and influential over users’ workflow decisions.
- Make it easy for users to actively control notifications and other flow disruptors.
- Leverage online content to support and improve offline experiences.
- Help users bridge the gap between primary-device workflows and secondary devices.
- Make it easy for users to manage a variety of identities across various devices and services.
- Help users manage memory gaps related to revisiting and curating saved content.
Future Research Phases
The Firefox User Research team conducted additional phases of this research in Canada, the United States, Japan, and Vietnam. Check back for updates on our work.
¹ Pace, S. (2004). A grounded theory of the flow experiences of Web users. International journal of human-computer studies, 60(3), 327–363.
I'm honored to have been chosen as the inaugural guest on the new Beyond the Stacks: Innovative Careers in Library and Information Science podcast from the Institute of Museum and Library Services!
Beyond the Stacks is dedicated to exploring interesting and unexpected career paths for librarians and information professionals, something I am personally very passionate about.
Research and blog post by Bill Selman and Gemma Petrie.
(If you haven’t read our previous report on Task Continuity, we recommend reading it first for context.)
Last time we wrote on this topic, we shared our observations and results from our research into multi-device workflows and task continuity in the United States. As we reported then, our participants are using the tools they have at-hand to construct larger workflows. The most popular of those tools being screenshots, SMS, and email.
Unlike most other markets that charge per SMS, the US has a unique mobile services pricing structure that often includes almost unlimited SMS in a monthly service fee. In other regions of the world, SMS has been replaced by communication tools like messaging apps (such as Whatsapp). In contrast, messaging apps have lower penetration in the US (for example, Whatsapp has 8% penetration in the US compared to say 69% in India). While the overall usage of SMS is declining even in the US, SMS is still a lower cost and accessible task continuity strategy here.
The question is: how are users in other regions using different tools for task continuity? And if they are replacing SMS with Messaging apps, how they are employing other task continuity strategies differently?
Since Firefox is a global product, we believe it’s important to meet the needs of all of our users. To that end, we organized a similar field study to our US project, but in two more economically advanced east Asian markets: Japan and Taiwan.
Research Questions and Methodology
In order to compare and contrast, we followed the same research methodology that we employed in our previous study of task continuity in the US. The primary difference in our field work and analysis was an emphasis on the question of how region and culture affect users’ task continuity strategies.
We interviewed 5 participant groups in and around Taipei, Taiwan and 5 participant groups in and around Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan. In total, we interviewed 13 participants. All 10 interviews took place in the participants’ homes. In addition to our primary research questions, the semi-structured interviews explored daily life, devices, and integration points. Further, participants provided home tours and engaged in multi-device workflow future thinking exercises.
Taiwan and Japan
- As we hypothesized, messaging apps have a strong role in task continuity in Taiwan and Japan. Every participant we interviewed used the messaging app LINE frequently to communicate with friends, family, and work associates as well as to continue tasks.
- LINE allows users to set up specific groups of contacts called “communities” that can be messaged simultaneously. Participants used this feature to share and negotiate tasks and information.
- LINE has replaced other communication and continuity channels such as SMS and email. SMS is viewed as “outdated.”
- With the exception of photos, data and task continuity appears to be less precious among the participants we interviewed than in the US. Almost no participant mentioned alarm about the possibility of losing data or not being able to reconstruct a task.
- Participants in both markets appeared to have shorter recovery horizons overall; in other words, most task continuity was for items for later that day or week. Bookmarks were used for longer, more persistent recovery horizons, but use was more for frequently visited sites.
- Both Taiwan and Japan appear to be instructional cultures. In public places, visual instructions were present. Some participants mentioned that they were not aware how to use some tools well but also believed that they were missing out by not using them. For example, TOK2 said, “I’m not good at Evernote. I wish I could become better at Evernote.”
- Compared to the US, we observed more device specificity among participants.
- Yahoo! remains a popular starting point for browsing in both markets.
- For our participants who were not information workers, email as a communication tool has been replaced by LINE or Facebook. Email is now used primarily as an identity tool to manage accounts for shopping or services such as banking.
- With the exception of the software engineer, participants expressed little knowledge of device-to-device sharing (except for transferring music) or continuity. For example, browser syncing across devices currently enjoys no usage among all but one of our participants.
- With the exception of a software engineer, cloud services were not used frequently among our participants as task continuity or storage tools. Participants were either not aware of cloud storage as a service or had a strong distrust of the security and privacy of cloud services (based on recent highly publicized hacking incidents).
- High fragmentation of devices with limited task continuity. Fragmentation extends to services and strategies. For example, every participant had a different email address for each device. We speculate this fragmentation stems from:
- A cultural separation between work and personal life.
- An operator policy that supplies an email addresses to each smartphone account.
- A culture that favors physical media and tangible objects. (e.g., many activities are still paper-based, none of the participants used streaming services and continue to buy or rent CDs and DVDs).
- Due to the high fragmentation of devices, only TOK5 used cloud services; even he said that he was an outlier in this regard at his office.
- Google search is used as a primary search engine and some participants had Gmail accounts, but other Google services such as Drive appear to have less penetration.
Our research in Japan and Taiwan led us to expand the Hold/Push stage of the task continuity cycle we developed based on the US research. In Japan and Taiwan (but also to some extent in the US), we observed that when participants shared data or a task, the sharing was accompanied by a social negotiation. That is, participants used some communication platform to discuss how to recover the task.
For example, TAI4 described an instance of this process: When planning a vacation with family, he or his wife send links to a LINE family group for suggested destinations and dates. The family members discuss the destination or alternatives via LINE. Once a destination is agreed upon, the task is resumed by reserving the destination or including it in the travel itinerary.
Task Continuity: Similarities to the US
We observed the following similarities when comparing our participant groups’ task continuity strategies in Taiwan/Japan to our groups’ strategies in the US.
- Ad Hoc & Personal: Many participants were not knowledge workers and did not have access to tools or skills for more “traditional” workflows.
- Satisficed Solutions: Participants are relatively happy with their task continuity systems, but aware that better solutions likely exist.
- Smartphones: Smartphones were the dominant device in most task continuity ecosystems.
- Common Strategies: In all three countries, email, cloud storage, phone calls, and bookmarks were popular task continuity strategies.
- Password Management: Recalling logins and passwords is a challenge. Most of our participants stored passwords on paper or locally in a spreadsheet or digital notepad. In all three countries, most participants re-used the same passwords or used a personal system to create password patterns.
- Device Continuity: Some multi-device continuity is being achieved through iCloud and Chrome (though this was less common in Taiwan and Japan).
- Sharing is Saving: Many “sharing” services like email and texting have been repurposed for saving functions.
Task Continuity: Differences to the US
We observed the following differences when comparing our participant groups’ task continuity strategies in Taiwan/Japan to our groups’ strategies in the US.
- Primary Strategies: LINE, email, and bookmarks were the primary task continuity strategies in Taiwan and Japan.
- Screenshots: Screenshots were not as prevalent as a task continuity strategy among our participants in Taiwan, and even less so in Japan.
- Cloud Storage: While cloud storage was a known service in both Taiwan and Japan, few of our participants used cloud storage and several said they had stopped using cloud services due to widely publicized security concerns–specifically, the Sony data breach and the hacking of celebrity iCloud accounts.
- Email: Email was a popular task continuity strategy in both Taiwan and Japan, but participants appeared to be less concerned about adding metadata for future search retrieval and communication tasks had primarily moved to LINE.
- Streaming: In Japan, most of our participants still rented physical music (CDs) rather than use streaming services.
- Bookmarks: Bookmarks were a more popular task continuity tool among our participants in both Taiwan and Japan than in the United States. In one Taiwanese household, bookmarks on the family PC were used as a means of collaboration for planning future events.
- Not Automatic: Unlike the United States, there was less of an expectation that organization should be automatic.
Based on our two studies, we learned that the content of task continuity strategies varies a good deal among different markets. Participants adopt technologies that are prevalent among their peers, easily accessible, and are cost-effective. These qualities for different technologies vary greatly. However, ultimately, with the adjustments to our task continuity model, the form of task continuity is strikingly similar among different markets.
The main difference we observed when comparing Japan and Taiwan to the U.S. was the presence of a greater degree of more complex social negotiation (in terms of the number of participants). Since LINE places emphasis on communities in the user experience compared to groups in SMS messaging apps, the more extensive negotiation could be attributable to the prevalence of LINE in Asia.
While the form may be the same for task continuity, the differences in context and content are important to consider when building task continuity actions and activities into technology. As is the case with most technology, end-users use tools and functionality differently than designers and engineers anticipate. Thinking on these studies, it is remarkable how many participants used tools designed to share data as a means to save data for themselves or for later. Designers and engineers must consider how to adapt their multi-device task flows to incorporate actions not just for one-off sharing but for persistence and negotiation with others.
I was recently invited to the UIC Daley Library to speak to an awesome group of librarians that are using UX methods to learn about and improve their institutions. The workshop focused on my work at Mozilla, how to plan a research study, and best practices for user interviews. Activities throughout the day gave all the attendees hands-on experience scoping, drafting, and running a user interview. You can see my slides below and learn more about the Chicago Library UX group on their meetup page.
(© 2015 Gemma Petrie. All rights reserved.)
For many consumers, software and hardware choices are increasingly becoming choices between incompatible brand ecosystems. In today’s marketplace, a consumer’s smartphone choice is likely to have a far-reaching influence on options for everything from file storage to wearable technology. With each app purchase or third-party service sign-up, consumers become further invested in a closed brand ecosystem. As start-ups are acquired or privacy standards change, consumers may become trapped in an ecosystem that no longer meets their needs.
Mozilla strives to create competitive products and services built with open source technologies, that protect users from vendor lock-in, and that address user needs. We believe supporting these values is not only good for consumers, but is also good for our industry. In February, we conducted a contextual user research study on multi-device task continuity. This user research will help Mozilla design current and future products and services to support users’ behaviors and mental models. This research builds on our our Save, Share, Revisit study conducted earlier this year.
- Tasks: What tasks require task continuity?
- Patterns: What are common task continuity strategies, patterns, and work-arounds? Why do they occur?
- Behaviors: What are current and emergent behaviors related to task continuity activities?
- Devices: What constitutes a unified experience across devices? Do some devices perform specialized tasks?
- Context: Given that previous research has focused primarily on work and productivity environments, what do home and work boundaries look like for task continuity? 1
- Mental Models: What are the expectations, metaphors, and vocabularies in use for task continuity?
- Tools: How effectively do current features and tools meet continuity needs? Why do challenges occur?
The Mozilla User Research team conducted three weeks of fieldwork in four cities: Columbus, OH; Las Vegas, NV; Nashville, TN; Rochester, NY. We recruited a demographically diverse group of 16 participants. Each participant invited members of their household to participate in the research, giving us 43 total participants between the ages of 7 and 52. All 16 interviews took place in the participants' homes. In addition to our primary research questions, the semi-structured interviews explored daily life, devices, and integration points. Further, participants provided home tours and engaged in multi-device workflow future thinking exercises.
If you are reading this blog post, there is probably a good chance that you work in the tech or design industry. You likely have fairly advanced technology usage compared to the average person in the United States. Your personal device and service ecosystem might look something like this:
The device and service ecosystem for the average person in the United States includes fewer elements and fewer connection points. For example, here is the ecosystem map of one of the 16 participant groups in our study:
As you can see in these diagrams, the average user has single points of connection between his primary device (MacBook Pro) and all the other devices and services he uses. The advanced user, on the other hand, is utilizing various tools to move content between multiple devices, contexts, and services.
The Task Continuity Model
Based on our research, we developed a general model of what the task continuity process looks like for our participants. Task continuity is a behavior cycle with three distinct stages: Discover, Hold/Push, and Recover.
The Discover stage of the task continuity cycle includes tasks or content in an evaluative state. At this stage, the user decides whether or not to (actively or passively) do something with the content.
The Hold/Push stage of the cycle describes the task continuity-enabling action taken by the user. In this stage, users may:
- Passively hold tasks/content (e.g. By leaving a tab open)
- Actively hold tasks/content (e.g. By emailing it to themselves)
- Push tasks/content to others by sharing it (e.g. Posting it on Facebook)
The user may also set a reminder to return to the task/content at this stage (e.g. Set an alarm to call the salon when they open). It is possible for a single action to bridge more than one Hold/Push state (e.g. Re-pinning content on Pinterest shares it with followers and saves it to a board). It is also possible that a user will take multiple actions on the same task/content (e.g. Emailing a news article to myself and a friend).
In the Recover stage of the task continuity cycle, the user is reminded of the task/content (e.g. By seeing an open tab) or recalls the task/content (e.g. Through contextual cues). Relying on memory was one of the most common recovery methods we observed. In order to fully recover the task/content, the user may need to perform additional actions like following a link or reconstructing an activity path.
Once the task/content is recovered, the user is able to continue the task in the Resume stage. Here, the user is able to complete the task or postpone it by re-entering the task continuity cycle.
The Task Continuity Model allows us to clearly map the steps involved in a specific task continuity activity. To illustrate, one of our participants discovered a video that he wanted to watch at a different time and on a different device. Here are the actions he performed to achieve this:
- Discover: Finds URL for video he wants to watch later.
- Push/Hold: Copies URL to email. Sends email reminder to himself.
- Recover: That evening, while browsing on his iPad, recalls that he wanted to watch a video from earlier in the day.
- Resume: Scans email for reminder message, locates it. Copies URL to iMessage.
- Push/Hold: Sends iMessage from tablet.
- Recover: On MacMini-connected TV, receives iMessage, copies URL from iMessage to browser.
A selection of our research findings that we believe are the most relevant to UX professionals and engineers:
- Ad Hoc Workflows: Participants used small, immediate tools such as text messages and screenshots to string together larger tasks.
- Satisficed: Participants were generally satisfied with their current task continuity workflows, even when they knew they weren't efficient.
- Task Continuity Tools: Text messages, screenshots, and email were the primary task continuity strategies.
- Screenshots: Participants tended to use screenshots rather than texting links. People were performing complex tasks using screenshots (like managing employee schedules).
- Re-Searching: People tend to re-initiate a search to pull up content on a different device rather than pass it through email, text, or some other method.
- Third-Party Services: While tools like Evernote may be popular in technology circles, they are essentially unknown outside them.
- Cloud Storage: Most participants had been exposed to cloud storage services, often through work, but their personal use was usually limited to free accounts.
- Organization is Work: Most participants avoid task continuity actions that require organization. Instead, participants relied on recovery techniques such as memory, scanning lists, and searching to recover tasks.
- Barriers: Participants choose a path of least resistance to complete a task. When confronted by a barrier, most participants will detour; sometimes those detours become a journey away from a product or service. Barriers we observed included authentication, forced organization, and overzealous privacy and security measures.
This research provided a valuable foundation and framework for our understanding of task continuity, but it is important to acknowledge that it was conducted only in the United States. We were particularly surprised by the reliance on texting and screenshots and believe it is important to explore this behavior in areas where carrier-based SMS programs are less popular. We plan to build upon these findings by expanding this research program to Asia in May 2015.
- Santosa, S., & Wigdor, D. (2013). A field study of multi-device workflows in distributed workspaces. Presented at the Proceedings of the 2013 ACM international joint conference on pervasive and ubiquitous computing. Pages 63-72.
In early January, Mozilla conducted user research to refresh our understanding of how people save, share, and revisit content with the goal of building our knowledge base for a larger contextual research project on multi-device task continuity that is currently being conducted. (More on that in a future blog post.)
We recruited eight participants to engage in a three-day diary study to document their save, share, and revisiting behavior. Instructions were emailed to participants each morning based on daily themes: Saving, Sharing, Retrieving. Each evening, the participants were prompted to submit their diary entries and answer a few additional questions. Based on these responses, half of the participants were selected to participate in an additional 60-minute video interview with the researcher to explore these themes in greater detail.
- Most people are using low-tech systems to save, share, and manage their content. There is a tendency in tech circles to overestimate the popularity of services like Pocket and Evernote, when in fact the most competitive task continuity resources are basic services like email, local storage, text messages, and screenshots.
- Most people are aware that their personal system isn't perfect, and in fact often cumbersome to maintain, but other solutions are perceived as some combination of absent, confusing, or limited by storage/price.
People tend to save content to their devices, rather than to third-party systems. Some of the participants had tried services like Dropbox or iCloud, but abandoned them when they ran out of free storage space. Utilizing free local storage means people always know where to find things. If saving locally isn't possible, people will often take a screenshot of the content or send it to their own email account in order to save it.
“If there's a way I can physically save the article I would save it to my device or SIM card. If I can’t do that, I will take a screenshot of the articles and later go back and view them” - P6
“I found a picture of a toy I want to buy my daughter. I took a screenshot on my phone and I will go to the link in the pic using my computer later to show my mom.” -P2
For most participants, alternate device access was not a big concern when saving content. In fact, most of the time, people intended to revisit on the same device. When saving content, most people intended to revisit it within a short time frame - usually the same day or within a few days. This was due to the fact that people believed they would "forget" to return to the content if too much time passed.
For many participants, the line between sharing and saving was blurred. The primary methods for sharing content - Facebook, email, and text messages - where valued not only because they made it easy to share, but because they also made it easy to revisit.
“Social media and email services make it easy to revisit content because they log and save everything.” - P3
“I found Crockpot recipes on Facebook that I wanted to try, so I re-posted it to my Facebook wall.” - P7
Participants used a variety of low-tech methods to revisit content. The primary methods included relying on the URL bar to autocomplete URLS based on browser history, following links in emails, and leaving browser windows open.
The Firefox UX research team is currently conducting a contextual user research project in multiple cities to learn more about multi-device task continuity strategies. These findings will add depth to our current understanding and help us design experiences that will support and expand on these user patterns. Stay tuned for more information on this work.
(You can find the original post on the Mozilla UX Blog.)
Last month, Mozilla traveled to India to conduct user research on mobile usage. We are grateful to our talented research partners Dear and Tazurba International for their expert local knowledge, to the amazing Delhi and Rajasthani Mozilla communities who provided critical logistics and translation support, and to the many Mozilla staff members that took time out of their busy personal and professional lives to join us in the beautiful (and blazing hot!) Indian summer.
The Mozilla User Research team believes it is important to bring a wide variety of colleagues into the field with us for research. We know that first-hand experience does more to build empathy and understanding than a presentation ever will. This trip marked our largest field team to date and included:
- Jared Cole, Design Strategist
- Francis Djabri, FxOS UX Designer
- Peter Dolanjski, FxOS Product Manager
- Sandip Kamat, FxOS Product Manager
- Bruce Huang, FxOS Product Manager
- Juwei Huang, FxOS UX Designer
- Elizabeth Hunt, Marketplace UX Designer
- Jane Hsu, FxOS Go-To-Market Strategy/Partnerships
- Rina Jensen, Content Strategist
- Amy Lee, FxOS Visual Designer
- Peiying Mo, L10N Program Manager
- Arky, L10N & Community Rep
- Rob Rayborn, User Advocacy
We aimed to answer the following questions with our research:
- Who are the people in our target market(s) in India?
- What motivates someone to purchase a mobile device?
- What can Mozilla enable people to do with a Firefox OS device?
- How can Mozilla make a difference?
India is a vast and varied country and it was difficult to design a research approach that would cover multiple regions with adequate depth in the time we had available. We decided early on to focus this initial phase of our India research program in the north, specifically in Delhi, rural Rajasthan, and Jaipur.
This research used a variety of methodologies to gather data. We conducted one-on-one interviews in Delhi and Jaipur and worked with community members and local researchers to meet with local families, shopkeepers, and visit rural villages. In addition, we also conducted informal ethnographic observation during our two weeks in India.
One of our primary goals was to immerse our field team in Indian daily life and culture. Our large group and broad geographic research area presented some initial challenges during our planning stage. We made the decision to engage dscout to bring some order to our data collection and help field team members that were new to research think about how to capture and analyze their experiences.
We split each day into two modules with different themes like phone stores, mobile content, or family. We then divided our field team into small groups, accompanied by Mozilla community members, to explore different areas. Each group added photos, videos, and answers to a few short questions to dscout, allowing us to quickly gather a large amount of structured information on each theme. This data, combined with our team's first-hand field experiences, provided a valuable contextual foundation for our research.
Mobile Open Houses
We conducted one-on-one interviews with 55 recruited participants at "Open House" events in Delhi and Jaipur. The interviews were split into four main topic areas: Current phone and technology usage, phone purchasing process, mobile content, and Firefox OS device user testing.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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!
- Get ready for traffic jams & long commutes. (Bangkok Post)
- Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
- Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
- Indonesia Has 2nd Lowest Average Internet Speed, Reactions. (Indo Boom)
- New GSA Evolution to LTE report: 2013 ends with 260 LTE networks in service. (GSA)
Build. Empower. Teach. Shape. When Mitchell Baker defined the Nature of Mozilla in her keynote at this year's Mozilla Summit, she highlighted these activities to be our main responsibilities as Mozillians.
The User Research team is dedicated to understanding who our users are and how to build products that will meet their needs. Earlier this year we completed the Firefox User Types study as part of this effort. This research has already been used by internal Mozilla teams to think about different features and design solutions for Firefox, and the Summit gave the User Research team the opportunity to share this work with the entire Mozillia community. Our session, "Designing for our users, not for ourselves," was facilitated by Mozilla User Research team members in all three Summit locations: Toronto (Cori Schauer & Gregg Lind), Santa Clara (Bill Selman & Lindsay Kenzig), and Brussels (Gemma Petrie and Dominik Strohmeier). Special thanks to our amazing UR and UX colleagues for their support at each session!
Getting Mozillians Excited about User Research
The summit was an awesome experience with more than 1,800 Mozillians across three locations. We were excited to share our work during our UR/UX breakout sessions, but with so many concurrent tracks, we knew not everyone would be able to to attend. In order to convey our enthusiasm for our research, spread the word about our sessions, and get the community talking about who our users are, we created and distributed enamel user type pins to all of the Mozillians in attendance.
The pins were a hit and within minutes the keynote auditorium was full of Mozillians trying to trade with one another for their favorite user type. Nearly half of our community members fall into the "Wizard" category of users, but in our research this user type only represents 1% of North American Firefox users. We deliberately distributed only a few "Wizard" pins at the Summit in order to get people talking, and did it ever! As people frantically searched for these elusive pins, it gave us the opportunity to discuss the theme of our talk, "Designing for our users, not for ourselves." (Thanks to Zhenshuo Fang for her lovely user types artwork and to Madhava Enros for the pin idea!)
Teaching the Community about User Types
The word was out about User Types, and more than 60 Mozillians came to the session in Brussels, 35 in Toronto and 30 in Santa Clara to learn more. During the presentation, we introduced everybody to the concept of having user types to guide our design and product development process. We also introduced each of the user types and their specific characteristics. We then split the room into six groups and each group received a short user profile, a collection of photos, pens, paper, and two exercises:
- Review the representative profile - you are now that person. Finish this sentence "To me, the Internet is..." using the photos. Feel free to draw, annotate, or whatever you need to finish the sentence. Once you are done, choose three words that best describe the Internet to you [as the user type].
- Now that you know how your user type thinks & feels about the Internet, spend time with your group brainstorming what your user type wishes Firefox could do for them. When done, choose the top three ideas your user type came up with and tell us "I wish Firefox would..."
After finishing the exercises, each group presented their results to the other teams. The goal of our session was to make people start thinking like one of our user types and we were incredibly impressed with the thoughtful ideas each group shared. The presentations highlighted an important constraint our designers work with every day: There are very different ideas about the Web and what Firefox could offer each of the user types, however we only develop one Firefox Desktop which needs to serve all of our users.
Thanks to all the Mozillians in the different Summit locations who joined our session. In Brussels, we especially enjoyed the long discussion that followed after the official session ended. We hope that these discussions will continue and that we will all keep the user types in mind when working on future products so that we are better able to build the Internet the world needs. (Special thanks to Cori Schauer for her work preparing this session!)
In August and September, the Mozilla User Experience Research Team visited Thailand and Indonesia to conduct Firefox qualitative research. The goal of this research project was to understand how people in these markets experience the Internet and to learn about emerging trends that will provide insight into new and current product features. If you would like to learn more about the project planning phase of this study, please read the first post in this series. The fieldwork teams will be dedicating the end of September to the thorough analysis of our findings. In the meantime, we are excited to share five initial observations from our Thailand fieldwork.
The Mozilla research team, along with our partner SonicRim, interviewed 22 participants in 11 sessions over a two week period in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand. We also had the opportunity to explore cultural sights, public transportation, new and second-hand electronics stores, public spaces, Internet cafes, and universities.
The transportation options in Thai cities are seemingly endless - everything from motor bikes and tuk tuks for hire to public boats and trains. In Bangkok, the congestion is also seemingly endless, with an average road speed of less than 10 mph.Perhaps as a result of these long commutes, mobile devices are popular and prevalent on all types of transportation. In fact, Thailand has a mobile phone penetration rate of 120%, which means there are more mobile phones in use than there are people.
While basic feature phones are still the most common mobile device in Thailand, smartphone sales have more than doubled in the last two years.3 The latest high-end phones (Samsung, Apple, Nexus) are very popular, though cheaper models, used devices, and knock-offs are also abundant. Mobile phones are routinely sold unlocked in Thailand, which makes it easier to sell used devices or upgrade to the latest technology.
The Thai government has committed 30 billion baht (US$0.94 billion) to its "Smart Thailand" initiative in an effort to connect 85% of the country to high-speed broadband by 2015.4 The government has also partnered with major telecom providers to install more than 120,000 free wifi access points in Bangkok.5 And in May of this year, 20 Thai provinces received the nation's first true 3G service.6 Yet, even with this huge investment in infrastructure, connection speed, price, and availability continued to be major issues for the Thai people we interviewed.
Hardware and Software Purchases
Unlicensed software bundles are prevalent in both ad-hoc mall kiosks and more formal stores. As a result, most people have the latest OS and software. It is common for people to buy computers with no operating system installed and buy a package of basic, unlicensed software directly from the salesperson. A typical package included Windows 7, MS Office, Adobe CS 5, antivirus, YouTube Downloader, and multiple browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and IE) for 600 baht (US$20). In contrast, a licensed copy of Windows 8 would cost the consumer 5000 baht (US$130). Similarly, unlicensed smartphone app bundles were also available.
Our research indicates that Thai people are more concerned with ease of use, familiarity, and personal recommendations when it comes to technology than they are with brand loyalty. When asked why they were using a particular piece of software, the overwhelming majority said it had been recommended and installed by the person who sold them their device, or it had been recommended by a friend or family member. Personal research or brand recognition did not appear to be factors for most Thai consumers.
Next in this series: The Internet and Browsing in Indonesia: Five Findings from the Field
- Get ready for traffic jams & long commutes. (Bangkok Post)
- Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
- ICT2020 Thailand Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy Framework (2011-2020). (MICT)
- Thailand’s free wifi dream might be coming true. (Tech in Asia)
- AIS launches the 3G era. (Bangkok Post)
Every good UX researcher has the ability to become totally engrossed in even the smallest research project. Yet, one of the amazing things about working for a global, mission-driven organization like Mozilla is the opportunity to take on some truly big research challenges. The Mozilla UX Research team is about to embark on such a project as we begin our Firefox Southeast Asia research in Thailand and Indonesia.
The primary goal of this research project is to understand how people in specific emerging markets experience the Internet and learn about emerging trends that will provide insight into new and current product features. We are particularly interested in learning about the context of Internet use, values related to the Internet, and specific Internet usage.
So, why not just send out a few surveys? Mozilla believes that there are valuable insights that can only be generated by in-context, ethnographic research. We recognize that many of the people involved in creating new technologies live in a fairly limited tech bubble and we truly value learning from a global community of Internet users.
Why Thailand & Indonesia?
One of the more challenging decisions researchers have to make at the beginning of a project is how to appropriately limit the scope of the research question. For this project, we have decided to focus on Thailand, Indonesia, and India. (India is slated for early 2014.) Both Thailand and Indonesia have rapidly growing economies and relatively low internet penetration rates. Interestingly, the Firefox market share in these two countries is dramatically different. Firefox holds 64% of the browser market in Indonesia, yet only accounts for 23% of the market in Thailand. We believe these two countries will provide valuable insight into understanding user needs and improving the Firefox market share.
A small team of user experience, engineering, and marketing Mozillians will be traveling to Thailand and Indonesia to conduct user interviews and ethnographic research in August and September. We have partnered with SonicRim, an awesome global design research firm, on this research project. Our research is divided into three phases: Planning & Recruiting, Fieldwork, and Analysis.
Phase 1: Planning & Recruiting
- Recruitment: Mozilla and SonicRim created a recruitment survey (aka a "screener") to identify the participants for our interviews. We will be interviewing people who are moderate to avid Internet users, who use a range of different hardware and software, and who come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. We then selected two cities in each country to focus our efforts: Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand and Jakarta and Bandung in Indonesia. Our local recruiters will identify 6 participants from each city to participate in formal interviews.
- Research Activities: Before we arrive, each participant will complete a "homework" assignment that will document their experiences of life and culture through photos and written descriptions. After we arrive, we will conduct 2-hour interviews in each participant's home or place of work. Each participant will select a friend or relative to join them during the in-person interview. Interviewing "buddy" pairs instead of individuals can facilitate a deeper discussion and often results in more detailed data. In addition to these formal interviews, our fieldwork teams will visit locations that may provide interesting insights related to culture and technology like electronics stores and shopping areas.
- Community Events: Mozilla is a global organization with community members all over the world. We are looking forward to hanging out with some of Mozilla's awesome contributors at the community events we are planning in Thailand and Indonesia.
My first substantive post to this website garnered a bit of attention back in June. At the time I was reading Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and becoming increasingly disillusioned by the lack of relevant course offerings in my program. My short post was picked up by none other than Peter Morville himself:
This exchange sparked the beginning of a conversation with some GSLIS administrators and I'm hoping to get involved with the Curriculum Committee this fall. In July, the Library Journal referenced my post in the article Putting the UX in Education | The User Experience and Office Hours by Aaron Schmidt & Michael Stephens. They write,
"User experience (UX) thinking was born at information schools but hasn’t found a home in many libraries. Why not? The answer is simple. Many LIS programs haven’t integrated UX coursework into their curricula, and libraries suffer as a result.... LIS schools reviewing curricula may want to shift some of the focus placed on materials and process to user needs, behavior, and creating experience."
They go on to recommend specific coursework (like interpreting and employing user research and usability testing), while suggesting that elements of UX should be part of the overall LIS curriculum.
I decided to begin my summer reading with Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Peter Morville & Louis Rosenfeld, or as it is commonly referred to "the polar bear book." Both Morville and Rosenfeld pursued advanced degrees in library and information science before they popularized the field of information architecture and published the first edition of this book in 1998. A large percentage of information architects hold an MLIS and it is evident in Information Architecture that Morville & Rosenfeld find strong connections between their formal education and their work.
When I began my graduate education at one of the top-rated iSchools last year, I (perhaps naively) expected a more "information" oriented curriculum. However, in my experience most library schools remain heavily focused on traditional librarianship and the information needs of academia. While these areas of scholarship are undeniably culturally and intellectually significant, the focus often seems to ignore the broader context of information needs. This is particularly perplexing at a time when the library world is going through so many painful changes. Libraries are closing or are engaged in year-round efforts to fight for funding. Many new librarians go years before landing their first professional position. At the same time, library schools continue to increase their enrollment each year with ever-expanding distance programs. I love libraries and I hope every one of them is saved, but I believe there is great work to be done outside those walls too, and that librarians are uniquely positioned to take it on.
Good information architecture combats information overload - a well-covered concept in LIS education. So, why does there appear to be so much friction between traditional and nontraditional librarianship? Why hasn't my grad program offered a course on information architecture in more than five years? Why is book cataloguing considered a more noble career path than structuring and organizing information outside of a library setting?