Firefox for Android: Your Feedback Matters!

Millions of people use Firefox for Android every day. It’s amazing to work on a product used by so many people. Unsurprisingly, some of those people send us feedback. We even have a simple system built into the application to make it easy to do. We have various systems to scan the feedback and look for trends. Sometimes, we even manually dig through the feedback for a given day. It takes time. There is a lot.

Your feedback is important and I thought I’d point out a few recent features and fixes that were directly influenced from feedback:

Help Menu
Some people have a hard time discovering features or were not aware Firefox supported some of the features they wanted. To make it easier to learn more about Firefox, we added a simple Help menu which directs you to SUMO, our online support system.

Managing Home Panels
Not everyone loves the Firefox Homepage (I do!), or more specifically, they don’t like some of the panels. We added a simple way for people to control the panels shown in Firefox’s Homepage. You can change the default panel. You can even hide all the panels. Use Settings > Customize > Home to get there.

Home panels

Improve Top Sites
The Top Sites panel in the Homepage is used by many people. At the same time, other people find that the thumbnails can reveal a bit too much of their browsing to others. We recently added support for respecting sites that might not want to be snapshot into thumbnails. In those cases, the thumbnail is replaced with a favicon and a favicon-influenced background color. The Facebook and Twitter thumbnails show the effect below:

fennec-private-thumbnails

We also added the ability to remove thumbnails using the long-tap menu.

Manage Search Engines
People also like to be able to manage their search engines. They like to switch the default. They like to hide some of the built-in engines. They like to add new engines. We have a simple system for managing search engines. Use Settings > Customize > Search to get there.

fennec-search-mgr

Clear History
We have a lot of feedback from people who want to clear their browsing history quickly and easily. We are not sure if the Settings > Privacy > Clear private data method is too hard to find or too time consuming to use, but it’s apparent people need other methods. We added a quick access method at the bottom of the History panel in the Homepage.

clear-history

We are also working on a Clear data on exit approach too.

Quickly Switch to a Newly Opened Tab
When you long-tap on a link in a webpage, you get a menu that allows you to Open in New Tab or Open in New Private Tab. Both of those open the new tab in the background. Feedback indicates the some people really want to switch to the new tab. We already show an Android toast to let you know the tab was opened. Now we add a button to the toast allowing you to quickly switch to the tab too.

switch-to-tab

Undo Closing a Tab
Closing tabs can be awkward for people. Sometimes the [x] is too easy to hit by mistake or swiping to close is unexpected. In any case, we added the ability to undo closing a tab. Again, we use a button toast.

undo-close-tab

Offer to Setup Sync from Tabs Tray
We feel that syncing your desktop and mobile browsing data makes browsing on mobile devices much easier. Figuring out how to setup the Sync feature in Firefox might not be obvious. We added a simple banner to the Homepage to let you know the feature exists. We also added a setup entry point in the Sync area of the Tabs Tray.

fennec-setup-sync

We’ll continue to make changes based on your feedback, so keep sending it to us. Thanks for using Firefox for Android!

17 Comments

  1. Omega said,

    May 30, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

    How about better video playback. Playing video is like an exercise in patience 50% of the time and often requires an external player.

  2. Mark Finkle said,

    May 30, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

    Omega – Improved video playback is one of our top feedback requests. We are working on it, but it’s tricky. See this post for some of our pain points: http://blog.technicaldebtcollector.com/2014/05/h264-in-firefox-android.html

    In addition to more coding work, we are planning a video diagnostic screen in Firefox. It would help you figure out why video playback is behaving poorly and send the information to Mozilla so we can make it better.

  3. liam said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 2:44 am

    How about working on skimming down what the browser has to load, for each site? I’ve got over 320 tabs open on my tablet and even if I only go to a few tabs per session it loads around 500mb every time (and is force killed if it goes much higher due to the android memory policy). I’m certainly an outlier but fixing my case would make the browser for everyone.

  4. Mark Finkle said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 8:31 am

    liam – Wow! 320 open tabs has to be a record. We do a few things to try to minimize the memory usage in your case. The first thing you probably notice is that we will flush the contents of your background tabs. This means that the tab still appears in the UI, but the browser system used to hold the webpage is emptied. When you tap on these tabs, the webpage needs to be loaded again. This saves a lot of memory. We also start to clear image caches, which means the sometimes you might notice that an image needs to be decoded and displayed again in a webpage. We are working on more”skimming” ideas too, but these were some that I could quickly remember.

  5. John said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    “We are also working on a Clear data on exit approach too.”
    That’s great. It’s is a feature I really want.

    Another option I’d like to see is the ability to pause videos automatically when you change tabs.

  6. Ben said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

    The toast switch is awesome.

    The biggest concern with the UI I have right now is that tabbing is too difficult to access – you have to scroll up for the UI to show, then tap the tabs button.

    I don’t know if it’s a good idea or even possible on Android but I think a tabs button on the navigation bar would be awesome. I used to involuntary invoke the app switcher when I wanted to switch tabs.

  7. Mark Finkle said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

    Ben – We are prototyping some ideas around easier tab switching using gestures. Hopefully more on that soon.

  8. na said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

    id like the “show product announcements” to default to off or be entirely removed.
    nobody cares about that shit. its this advertising. unless firefox is now sponsored by that (then i might as well not use it)

    the other ui elements are less of a concern for me.

  9. Chris Peterson said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

    My Fennec UI annoyances:

    * I’m frustrated by Fennec’s tab-switching UI in landscape orientation (my preferred reading mode). When I have few tabs open, the current tab is left-oriented, out of reach of my thumb on the right side of the device. When I have many tabs open, the current tab is positioned partially off screen, which makes selecting it with my fat thumb difficult. I realize this design is probably a UI affordance to show that the tabs can scroll, but you could accomplish the same hint by position the last-most tab partially off the left side of the screen or the tab to the right of the current tab off the right side of the screen.

    * I often use the link context menu to open links in new tabs to be read later, but the new Sharing menu items are now in the most prominent, top position. I open new tabs 20x more often than I share a link, so this frustrating because I have to hunt for the click target and I sometimes hit the wrong menu item.

  10. Chris Peterson said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

    Also, the tab bar’s tab-switching and drop-down menu buttons are really close together.

  11. Mark Finkle said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

    na – Depends on what you mean by “product announcements”, which technically are the Android system notifications we very rarely ever use. When we do use those, it’s to let you know that the newest releases fixes a critical issue or security bug. Sometimes we might use the notifications to let you know you are using a version of Firefox that is very out of date too.

    We also use “banners” inside the application, currently only when you are in the Firefox Homepage. These banners are more of promotions. We use banners to help people learn about things in Firefox that they might not know about, like Firefox Sync or Add-ons. You can silence these by tapping the [x] in the banner.

  12. Mark Finkle said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

    Hi Chris – We are working on the first issue you point out. We have some designs in progress for the second half of 2014.

    As for the “Share” action on the web content menu, we understand it’s a bit of a muscle-memory issue, but part of the problem is that the “Share” menu transforms from text to multiple icons as you use it. Having a multi-icon action row in the menu, mid-way in the list, is even worse. We think part of the problem people are having with tapping “Share” by mistake is that it’s text. If we started the menu with some icon defaults, we think it would be easier to avoid when attempting to “Open in New Tab”. We will look at our telemetry to see if this works out.

  13. liam said,

    May 31, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

    Mark
    I was aware that pages were loaded lazily, but the image cache being, fairly, nonexistent was news. Aside from those there’s clearly a ton of data being loaded to prep the browser for the on demand loading of tabs.
    I wonder if the majority of that mem is due to the data structures which represents tabs themselves?

  14. matrus said,

    June 1, 2014 @ 1:51 am

    Hi Mark.

    Chrome will magnify a specific area in a small popup box if it is unsure which element you want to touch. This is a huge usability boon on sites which are not optimized for mobile and I really miss that in Firefox.

    I also noticed that when creating shortcuts to web sites on the home screen Chrome will use high quality icons while Firefox for some reason often will only use a pixelated, washed out low quality version (of the same web site!).

    Other than that I find the inability to sync the reading links between desktop and mobile (or even between mobile versions!) is highly frustrating. I usually put links on a reading list when I’m on my phone and want to read it later on a larger device (be it tablet or desktop). I’ve never used reading list because of the missing sync functionality.

  15. liam said,

    June 1, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

    Matrus
    That’s called touch disambiguation, I believe, and I think that big exists though you might want to check.
    Same with the synced reading list, iirc.

    Mark

    Related to the above, are there any plans to sync tab history across devices? That’s how I mind map myself, so the history is really important. Perhaps that might be a better fit for your Mozilla projects team, a lá pancake?
    I’d also prefer if they moved to a current tab management system. Maybe panorama? Yeah, it’s heavy duty but it let’s you group tabs and hide one you don’t need. This might actually be the solution to my problem of too many open tabs.

  16. James said,

    June 15, 2014 @ 10:39 am

    Can you clarify in which builds these features are expected to be present? Do I need to be using a beta or nightly build?

  17. Mark Finkle said,

    June 15, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

    James – All of the features should be in Nightly. Some of the features are actually in release (Home and Search management).

RSS feed for comments on this post