Internet Usage and Emerging Needs in Thailand & Indonesia (2013)
In August and September of 2013, the Mozilla Firefox user 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 could provide insight into new and current product features. Additionally, we hoped to understand why our historically high browser market share in Thailand had fallen dramatically in recent years, while our large market share in Indonesia held strong.
My Role: Lead Researcher
I was the lead researcher for our Thailand research and, along with my field team, interviewed 22 participants over a two week period in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand. We conducted research synthesis and analysis as a field team, and collaborated with our Indonesia field team to report on and socialize our findings and recommendations.
What are the primary ways in which users access the internet in Thailand?
What motivates users to access the internet and what are their expectations?
What are the primary activities that engage users online?
What are users’ frustrations and obstacles when using or accessing the internet?
How do users perceive online communities and social networks?
What are users’ notions about privacy and security?
What user experience and product needs can Mozilla identify and address that are specific to Thailand & Indonesia?
Process & Methods
I was the primary researcher for our Thailand research and, along with my field team, interviewed 22 participants over a two week period in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Desk research on telecommunication infrastructure, income ranges, internet and mobile penetration, social/cultural themes around communication with friends and family, etc.
Discussions with our Thailand-based Mozilla contributor community to help inform our research locations, schedule, and recruitment criteria.
Stakeholder Interviews: Interviews with senior leadership and product management teams to understand internal knowledge, articulate research questions, identify assumptions, surface project constraints, gather field team member nominations, and build organizational support for the research efforts.
Recruitment: Using recommendations from our Thailand contributor community and our professional networks, we identified local recruitment and interpretation firms in Bangkok and Chiang Mai to contract with and began recruiting participants based on a range of demographic, socioeconomic, and device usage criteria.
Relationship Pairs: We focused on recruiting pairs of participants for this research project for two primary reasons. 1) We were interested in investigating the social aspects of internet in daily life and 2) we were interested in interviewing younger participants (12 y.o +) with a guardian present.
Pre-work: We recruited 15 relationship pairs asked them to create a digital scrapbook as homework before our interview. This activity allowed us to look beyond basic recruitment details and gain a more holistic view of participants and their lives. The scrapbook asked participants to use photos and text to introduce themselves and give us an overview of their friends and family, their home, a typical work/school day and leisure day, how they use the internet at home and when away from home, and to describe how not having access to the internet would impact their life. Based on these answers, we selected 11 relationship pairs to visit in-person in Thailand.
Field Team: Each time we conduct a field study, we invite non-researchers to join us in the field and participate in analysis. This immersion helps other people in our organization understand the work of user research, build deep empathy with users, understand the context of use of our users, share their expertise throughout the process, and become internal advocates of our research findings and recommendations. During this fieldwork, members of the Mozilla design, engineering, and marketing teams joined us.
Before colleagues enter the field with us, we conduct hands-on field training to introduce the participants, interview guide, debrief forms (and other field materials), set etiquette expectations, identify roles and responsibilities, note-taking and digital documentation best practices, and share self-care tips for long interview days.
Contextual Inquiry: We met our research participants in their homes for our interviews, and in some cases we also visited their work places and/or schools. This allows us to spend time with participants in the context in which the behaviors we are investigating commonly occur. In this study, contextual inquiry allowed us to experience any difficulty participants encountered with connectivity, understand how their homes were networked, investigate usage of a wider variety of devices, and gain a deeper understanding of social dynamics, hobbies, and home life.
Semi-Structured Interviews & Activities: We conducted semi-structured interviews with participants to understand methods of internet access, device usage, motivations and expectations when accessing the internet, their primary internet activities and workflows, communication strategies and social network engagement, any frustrations or obstacles they encounter when accessing the internet, how they perceive of privacy and security online, and a discussion of their scrapbook pre-work. We interspersed the 120 minute interviews with hands-on activities including:
Day-in-my-life Journey Map: Participants constructed a cognitive map that outlined a day in their life with digital content. The purpose of this activity was to reveal the role that information technology and online resources have in shaping their understanding and experiences.
Internet & Identity Collage: Participants constructed a collage that outlined the role that digital tools play in various parts of their lives (self, family, school/work, country). The purpose of this activity was to reveal the role technology plays in shaping identities in various parts of their lives.
Show and Tell: Using the journey map and collage, participants enacted archetypal moments from their every day lives to show and tell how browser features help or hinder their experience.
Browser Participatory Design: Finally we provided materials for participants to develop their own “ideal browser window” and then narrate the story of how this ideal browser would be customized to their unique personal and social needs.
Ethnographic Research: The field team also engaged in various ethnographic research activities to add additional context to our interview data. Along with members of our local Mozilla community, we visited app side-loading kiosks, purchased examples of low-cost laptops with preloaded (pirated) software packages, visited co-working spaces, 7-11 mobile data payment centers, and other locations.
Debrief Activities: After each interview, field team members filled out a short form to capture their initial thoughts and takeaways from the participants. Each evening, the entire field team gathered (typically over dinner) to share their debrief thoughts, add to our high-level field notes, and identify areas for further inquiry. Additionally, each day I shared field updates with our primary stakeholders and sent the interview audio recordings out to our transcription service so they would be ready for coding once our fieldwork wrapped.
Synthesis & Analysis
After our fieldwork, I created detailed participant profiles for each interview based on our field data (demographic data, photos, interview activity artifacts, team debrief notes, etc). The Thailand and Indonesia field teams met in our Portland, Oregon office for a week of synthesis and analysis activities.
We began the week by reviewing participant profiles and other field data. During review, the field team created post-it notes for key concepts, quotes, and specific beliefs, motivations, frustrations, or behaviors. We then conducted an affinity mapping exercise to cluster this information into meaningful categories.
After our synthesis and analysis week, I worked closely with the researcher leading the Indonesia fieldwork. We open-coded our interview transcripts and began producing our final report.
Deliverables & Socialization Activities
Weekly emails to stakeholder groups with project planning updates and observations from the field.
Final report document
10 minute video highlight reel
Company-wide recorded talk on our “Air Mozilla” channel.
Targeted internal talks to various executive, product strategy, and UX teams.
Remote ideation workshop with UX team.
Examples of Primary Findings & Outcomes
Finding: Mozilla considers the primary distribution model for our software to be user download. Yet, the telecommunication infrastructure in Thailand and Indonesia is so unstable that most people purchase pirated packages of software from resellers. This makes sense from an economic standpoint when you consider software for a fee, but even free software like Firefox is often acquired this way because it is too cumbersome to download it. This results in extremely out-of-date versions of our software, or worse, compromised versions that lead to bad user experiences and security issues.
Recommendations: Continue to reduce the size of our download files. Consider physical software distribution programs in certain markets.
Outcomes: Our engineering teams prioritized work to reduce the size of our download files. We piloted a side-load via USB program in a community space in Bandung, Indonesia.
Search Access Points
Finding: Participants had difficulty searching the Internet, because they didn’t understand the basic navigational features of the browser like history, bookmarks, and the search box. As a result, people relied on navigational workarounds to find or return to their preferred content such as navigating to Google.com in order to enter Facebook.com in the Google search box.
Recommendation: Consider eliminating multiple search entry points to limit confusion around how to access Google. Move the “Favorites” tool out of the drop-down menu and into a visible top-level location to help users return to content.
Outcomes: After this (and other later studies) we were finally able to make the case that removing the secondary search box from the browser chrome and relying on the url bar as the primary search access point would limit confusion for users around which was the “correct” way to access search.