Taming the Beast: The Solution to Mozilla's Hidden Marketing Problem

Let me start saying: I dont agree with all of the stuff he writes but he has some points. I've posted links to Andkon's article before and people reacted strongly.

When a user first goes to the main Firefox page (or gets redirected from a Firefox button), they are greated with a huge-ass logo and a huge-ass picture of a car, yes a car. Then, they might notice a bit of text that goes something like this: "Firefox 0.9 is the award winning preview of Mozilla's next generation browser." What's a preview and what's next generation? These aren't brillant catchwords that will lead the user to read on, but they are downright boring phrases that will make the user leave.

Read the essay Taming the Beast: The Solution to Mozilla's Hidden Marketing Problem

July 15, 2004 12:24 PM | Posted in Mozilla


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I think he has an error in his example page where he hasn't taken account for the fact that margins can collapse. At least, I think that's the problem. Setting the margin of the top dl element to 0px solves the problem.

I'm talking about the sidebar at the right, which shows a glitch for the top link when you hover over it.

I've not read the entire article. A bit too long for my taste, but possibly there are some good points in there.
But it would also be more readable if he would fix the design of his page to a more reader friendly one.

Comment by Martijn at July 15, 2004 02:02 PM | Permalink

Here here, a cry in the dark for a little usability! Admittedly, the new Mozilla.org site is light years ahead of the clunking old one, and when I mean that I mean finally there's a "Download Now" button above the fold right in front of your face.

If Mozilla wants to play with the big boys, they got to get a Marketing department. Sad but true.

Site icon Comment by quanta at July 15, 2004 04:16 PM | Permalink

"Andkon Design Has No Drawbacks" says, er, the author. That's a bit arrogant -- there are severe drawbacks.

For starters, while his design is simplified, it's like an advert for some kid's desktop toy rather than a professional piece of software. Such a design may get Joe Sixpack interested, but it'll deter academics, business users and PHBs (who've seen the big words on MS's site).

It's also full of potentially confusing wording too:

"The look and feel of Firefox and Thunderbird can be custom-tailored through themes, extensions, or other plugins"

Er, well, which? Extensions or plugins? Or both? What's the difference?

Et cetera. The author raises some good points, but in no way is his design a perfect solution -- as he said, you can't please everybody. And more importantly, do we REALLY need to be targeting complete novices? They'll only do something wrong and then blame the browser.

It's better to keep targeting general Web users with a bit of experience -- that's still a gigantic market, and these people can install it on novice's machines and support them.

Comment by MSa at July 15, 2004 04:35 PM | Permalink

"do we REALLY need to be targeting complete novices?"

Look. Until recently, I was in high school. NONE of my at least dozen friends that I asked could answer my simple question: "What is a browser, or give me an example." Most responses were idunnos or yahoo or google, from supposedly techno-teens. Yes, most people are too dumb for technical descriptions. This myth that there are "smart" users is false as they are already using alternative browsers...

"Er, well, which? Extensions or plugins? Or both? What's the difference?"

It doesnt matter. The point is create the feeling that Firefox can be added to in some sense, to give the user *control*. The design is worded as specifically without being nerdy. Specific enough to get the point across, vague enough so it's not nerdy.

"you can't please everybody."

You can try by focusing on the 95% (umm now 94%) of web population.

Mozillians might rejoice in the 1% a jump, but there's need for a new strategy if such a serious IE flaw can only garner a 1% gain...

Mozilla.org needs to think about agressive measures than just passively wait for bad news about IE... My type of design and strategy would be a nice start.

Site icon Comment by Andkon at July 15, 2004 05:26 PM | Permalink


Dumbing-down the site too much could cause problems. Right now Moz and Firefox look like respectable, professional tools; the hand-holding sites give the impression of half-baked shareware. It might get a few more on board, but it won't be effective for corporate users and PHBs.

"This myth that there are "smart" users is false as they are already using alternative browsers..."

I disagree. I know loads of relatively "smart" computer users (ie those who know what a web browser is, how webmail differs to SMTP, what OS they're running etc.) who were/are using IE simply because they weren't aware of decent alternatives. They knew Opera was that paid-for thing and they knew Netscape used to be big, but they use IE because it's the default app and -- well -- if it's so popular, it must be the best...

I'm converting many of these people to Firefox (and they're loving it), but to assume that all fairly knowledgable users are already running an alternative browsers is crazy! Look at the download.com page; over 1,000 reviews from people who managed to change without having it spelled-out for them. That's representative of millions of users who've switched without having to be told that Firefox is an "IE replacement" etc.

There are LOADS of users out there who know exactly what a browser is and how it works, but haven't changed yet for various reasons. And they're the people we should keep targeting -- because once they see the light, they install it on Grandma's / Joe Sixpack's machine.

Focusing on complete novices may bring in a few more convertees, but it'll alienate (and perhaps patronise) more experienced users.

Let's not try to convince Grandma to install Firefox. Massive problems will arise. Instead, let's try to convince the people who know what they're doing, as they're better at spreading the word, installing and supporting the app.

Comment by MSa at July 15, 2004 07:22 PM | Permalink

"Right now Moz and Firefox look like respectable, professional tools..."

Tools that people don't have a clue as to what they do. It's wonderful that you tell others about Firefox, so do I. But this one-on-one conversion is too *slow*, thus a site that itself can make converts (without a walk through for each user) is needed.

Mozillians are amazed at the 1% jump in June. I say that's complete crap because at that rate it's gonna take another FOUR YEARS before Mozilla overcomes IE's lead... Please people wake up, for the 11 months of the year when IE's flaws are not exposed, what is exactly Mozilla's plan with their "next generation reloaded browser"?

(I like Opera's site better as well... and somehow they dont look half baked...)

"Look at the download.com page; over 1,000 reviews from people who managed to change without having it spelled-out for them"

I think Asa's and BR's "GO TO DOWNLOAD.COM AND REVIEW FIREFOX" is pretty spelled out, also: only 79 reviews before the blog entries... BTW, the people who read the moz blogs (like this one) are for the most part not in the average population...

"more experienced users."

Thus my suggestion of putting the Mozilla Suite in the developers section and putting "for Advanced user" links on the extension and plugins pages... If users, you claim, are smart then they should be intelligent enough to follow a link, sparing the majority from too much info.

"I know loads of relatively "smart" computer users"

I went to a high school that had the Mozilla Suite as the default browser. Since I spent most of my daily free periods in thet library over a computer, I oversaw how people used Mozilla. Apar from myelf, I didnt see a single person during the entire year using tabs. In fact, some nerd-wannabee was telling his friends a way to browse faster by pressing CTRL-N... smart kids huh?

I honestly think you and too many other people overestimate the general public.

Site icon Comment by Andkon at July 15, 2004 09:19 PM | Permalink

Just a few key points here; sorry I've not prettied it up with more sentences and the formalities of normal conversation.

First, I think you make some excellent points, but the key failing (IMHO) is in assuming that the Mozilla frontpage and the Firefox frontpage have the same goals. Mozilla is more than just its pet browser: unfortunately it *is* an open source project, and the Mozilla Foundation's website needs to highlight this. The Firefox website, on the other hand, ought to be more end-user-centric. (Thankfully, someone has bought and redirected www.getfirefox.com to the Firefox product page, so to the uneducated end-user it might as well be a top-level starting page.) Perhaps at some point the foundation homepage needs a looking into also, but it clearly has different aims than the firefox site.

Second, if we keep the first point and focus mostly on redesigning the Firefox page, we have a much more manageable beast to tame. To start from your mocked-up version, you have some clear ideas that are spot on. The use of dedicated color and the lack of technese makes it a far less daunting sight for Grandma and Grandpa. However, the goal to reduce the bandwidth of the page, while noble, isn't something to which a designer should enslave himself, especially for the first impression of an end-user oriented site like Firefox. Your suggestion of flash animations are brilliant. But why not make the links to the flash pages actual small (and even small-footprint) images of those features? Variations of those found at http://texturizer.net/firefox/features.html might be a good start. It might help to see shots of the browser in action immediately upon loading the site to catch the eye of the surfer so he or she will actually read the text nearby. This, I suppose, was the idea behind the car on the front page of the current page. Unfortunately, the car is bigger than the browser toolbars, is irrelevant, and is even grainy/blurry. Clear, focused pictures, even small ones highlighting small areas at a time, even "fetishizing" the browser, will get more miles to the gallon--or converts to the kilobyte.

Third, and this is just a nitpick, assuming you keep everything on that version of the site you've made, perhaps Firefox should be in the middle instead of squeezed to the left. The morphed bulging image linking to it from your article highlights exactly how I saw the page when I first saw it: the front page for Thunderbird.

Fourth, and this negates the third, maybe the page should focus just on Firefox? A quick picture and a tagline--perhaps something like, "Got email? Get Thunderbird, Firefox's sister" or something equally warm and fluffy--linking to Thunderbird's site allows for people to see the best benefits of both.

Hmm... I think this is all for now. I have a few other minor things, but I do think you're on the right track, maybe even on the right train. If only those few stray cows would clear off the tracks, I think you'd be golden. (Of course, quick disclaimer, all this is just my quickly-pounded-out opinion. Take it or leave it for someone else to use.) In any case, good ideas, and a nice clear philosophy to what the page should be about!

Comment by James at July 16, 2004 12:01 AM | Permalink

Andkon - considered reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People"? If not, it might be a good idea if you want to make any genuine progress with your proposals.

Comment by Anon at July 16, 2004 02:53 AM | Permalink

"Andkon - considered reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People"?"

Thats a coercive book. Instead, why not read a book called Coercion by Doug Rushkoff... Oh wait, I have a summary for it :)


Site icon Comment by Andkon at July 16, 2004 02:36 PM | Permalink


There are two completely *different* goals, two that *contradict* each other. Let me cite /products/firefox/why/:

"Firefox offers 2% more space to web pages than Mozilla [the Suite]"

There's *absolutely* no need for rivalry within the same organization...

"...the goal to reduce the bandwidth of the page..."

Not a goal, but fortunate side effect.

"But why not make the links to the flash pages actual small (and even small-footprint) images of those features?"

I stayed away from that in the design because all previous images of features on the Firefox pages are completely vague. It's hard to put "tabs" or "extensions" into a meaningful 3232 gif. Though Im sure it *could* be done nicely and meaningfully.

"Variations of those found at http://texturizer.net/firefox/features.html"

Yeah... the tabs feature doesnt mean anything, you cant tell what it does... it would seem to me a waste of space...

"see shots of the browser in action"

Unfortunatly, screenshots can't under any circumstance capture action... Photos are arent videos...

"Clear, focused pictures,"

If I see clear and focused pictures, then Im for it. I havent seen of those types on any Mozilla page.

"perhaps Firefox should be in the middle instead of squeezed to the left"

Yes, I've thought of that myself.

"maybe the page should focus just on Firefox?"

Yes, that's a great idea as well.

I'm trying to get the word out about this new design to various places, but only moz blog seems to have taken it. I gave the link to the essay to others including Mozillazine, but no one seems to have thought much of it... I'd for this to go to waste, so expect a new andkon layout :-)

Site icon Comment by Andkon at July 16, 2004 03:03 PM | Permalink

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