Ethan Marcotte now blogs at Unstoppable Robot Ninja.

Weblog entry:

Is Mozilla putting the best site forward?

I’ve been sans the PowerBook this week, as my sweet aluminum baby-baby is off to Texas for a new logic board. Aside from the tooth-gnashing, hair-pulling dismay over using Windows, I’ve a small army of long-neglected applications that are long overdue for patches. After slogging through a few months of delinquent OS updates, I turned to my beloved Firefox — I grabbed a recent build before cruising over to David Tenser’s fine Firefox Help site to stock up on a few necessary extensions.

After clicking on the “Extensions” link, it became apparent that something’s gone all funhouse mirror over at the Mozilla Foundation. Whereas some time ago the link would send you to Mr. Tenser’s original Firefox extensions page (still available if you manually enter the URL), the user is now redirected to Mozilla Update — which is apparently now the place to download Firefox extensions. While I can understand the need for an “official” update website, the new Mozilla Update seems a problematic replacement for its predecessor from a couple vantage points.

Various snobbish and boring remarks follow — the faint of heart (and short of attention span) are not urged to continue. All others, please press on.


While the original Firefox extensions page groups two hundred extensions under logical headings, the new site simply converts those headings to links that border on mystery meat: I can’t see what differentiates the Appearance section from Page Display unless I click into each and review its contents. And for some reason, some categories are simply empty, which is bound to be confusing to the average user.


While it might not be a silver bullet, making a search engine available would go a long way toward taking the guesswork out of the new site’s navigation. Currently, there is no easy way to find a particular extension — unless, of course, browsing through a few dozen pages of extensions is your particular cup of pain. It took me about five minutes of paging through the All Extensions to find out that Digger is not available on the new Mozilla Update site; however, it is available for download on the original Firefox extensions page.

Good ol’ fashioned branding:

And then, of course, we come to good ol’ fashioned branding. Save for Jon Hicks’ lovely logos atop each page, it is difficult to see the hand of the Mozilla Visual Identity Team at work on the new Update site; heck, the site doesn’t even mirror any of the brand identity set forth by Dave Shea’s redesign of While not a flaw of the current site per se, it could be disorienting for users acquainting themselves with Mozilla — its products and its sites — for the first time.

I realize that the above could be taken as the selfish grousings of a disgruntled user, upset that his precious Extensions page got redesigned — and to a certain extent, that’s a pretty fair assessment. And more likely than not, the average IE switcher won’t care about installing Tabbrowser Extensions or FlashBlock, so perhaps this argument’s a bit of a straw man.

However, Mozilla is gaining much more scrutiny these days, and deservedly so: thanks to Internet Explorer’s recent security mis-steps, “alternative” browsers such Firefox are getting some long overdue publicity. As a result, one would hope that Mozilla’s public-facing sites were designed not only for the benefit of its development community, but also for those individuals that are (hopefully) switching from Internet Explorer to a better browser.

Additional Reading:
  1. Taming the Beast: The Solution to Mozilla’s Hidden Marketing Problem


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