April 15, 2008

AMO 3.2 - the road ahead

Morgamic and Basil have both posted about post-release feedback to AMO 3.2 and how we're responding to it. To echo both of them, we owe a big thank you to everyone out there who, in blog comments, emails, or forum posts, took the time to remind us of things we'd missed, voiced concerns, or told us where we were on the right track.

I think the key to the theme of what we're working on for 3.2.1 and in 3.4 emerges from Morgamic's list of AMO's varied roles:

  • A place where new users try to find add-ons to improve their browsing experience
  • A hub for advanced users to pick up on the latest and greatest add-ons
  • An incubator for new features
  • A place where developers can get feedback and statistics for their add-on
  • A tool we use to help QA popular extensions and ensure they meet quality and security guidelines

In the 3.2 redesign, our goal was to improve the experience for users in the first scenario on that list — people new to the idea of add-ons as well as the large and growing set of people who want to stop in, quickly find something to improve their online experience, and be on their way again. This constituency has, I think, been under-served in the past, which is the reason for their priority here and also for the coincident additions in Firefox 3 (the recommendations in the Get Add-ons tab, for example, should help to get new users started and oriented and also drive some new traffic to AMO). It's in this light that we made a number of the AMO changes, such as the more prominent search field, a deliberately trimmed down set of initial details about an add-on, the grouping of add-ons by purpose rather than implementation type, and by having the install buttons stop you before you've installed an add-on that won't work. My sense is that we've made positive strides for these users, though it will be some time before we can tell to what degree — figuring out ways to measure this with an audience we won't hear from directly is one of the tasks ahead.

All of that said, AMO exists equally for its other four listed roles. A successful AMO must, axiomatically, support add-on developers and those advanced users who are at the forefront of add-on testing and reviewing. It's worth noting, as well, that these sets of needs are not entirely orthogonal; in the same way that AMO being easy for casual users helps add-on developers by multiplying the latter's ability to reach a large audience, a site that's efficient for advanced users and developers is one that is more likely to be host to many great add-ons for casual users. More directly, in the redesign, making the add-on rating interface more prominent and listing experimental add-ons to everyone are changes that benefit both groups. The trick is addressing the needs of these two (or more!) very different audiences in ways such that neither's experience is diminished.

Basil's post included a summary of the top concerns we're seeing, especially from advanced add-on users and developers. 3.2.1 and 3.4 will see many of these addressed, especially in cases where we've made their use-cases less straightforward by hiding information that they find necessary but that confuses or distracts new users.

  • In some cases, information that was pruned is making its way back in, placed to be, hopefully, findable by those who want it, but not overbearing to those who need not be concerned about it. Like putting compatibility ranges and access to all versions (for all OSes) back in:

    Or adding more visible access to feeds of new and featured add-ons:

  • In other cases, we can address particular audiences by taking advantage of a logged-in state. For example, we can let advanced users disregard safeguards that don't really apply to them (the link enables the button):

  • We're also refining categorization, including undoing some category merging that just didn't end up working, as in the Themes & Appearance category. There will be a category called "Themes" once again that will be solely and entirely about themes.

And, alongside all of this, Fligtar's amazing work on improving the usability of AMO's developer tools continues as well.

You can check out the preview site as we work on these issues — everything we change changes there first. Beyond this, too, please do keep the feedback coming, both in terms of the recent redesign, but also about how the site can better serve advanced users and developers. In some cases, there may have been ways of doing things on AMO that became more difficult after the redesign, but where the previous method hadn't been ideal either. Are there things you're trying to do that could be more straightforward?

Posted by madhava at April 15, 2008 03:04 PM | TrackBack

axiomatically? orthogonal? http://www.webaim.org/techniques/writing/#familiar

In fact, everything at http://www.webaim.org/techniques/writing/.

Posted by: MA at April 16, 2008 10:04 AM

I'm glad to see the comments are focusing on the content of the post :) Madhava's making some really good points here, and trying to use precise language in so doing.

I've always thought that AMO teeters and totters between being a "site where Firefox users can find new add-ons that are useful for them" and "a site where add-on developers can host their wares, get feedback, interact with the community, etc". As Madhava points out, the audiences are pretty different in terms of user needs and goals.

The recent AMO was, IMO, a big success for that first audience, and reviews I've seen online by and large confirm that feeling. It's come at a slight convenience cost for the second audience, and I believe what Madhava is saying is that a lot of that came in the form of illustrating use cases which were previously entirely unknown. Now let's turn our focus to that developer audience and try to figure out what they're using the site for, and why. We'd be thrilled to hear what sorts of things representatives of that audience frequently use the site to do.

Posted by: Mike Beltzner at April 16, 2008 10:39 AM

"This add-on is for older versions of Firefox ... ignore version check"

How about saying what version the add-ons is for, right there? If the extension is marked as compatible with Firefox 3 Beta 5 and I'm using a newer trunk build, it will probably work, but if it's only marked as compatible with Firefox 1.5, it probably won't.

Posted by: Jesse Ruderman at April 16, 2008 09:10 PM

Jesse - that's a good point, and it something we can think of for the logged-in case. We're displaying the compatibility range a little further down the page (much more prominently than before), but it's true that it would be useful for some people to see at the point of making the "Add" decision.

MA - I accidentally deleted your follow-up comment when doing some spam cleanup - my apologies! I don't seem to have it backed up anywhere -- please feel free to re-post, if you like.

Posted by: madhava at April 22, 2008 11:01 AM

What I would like to know is how am I supposed to sort my search results?

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