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(This is the same post as the one found on the Mozilla Hacks blog. Thanks to Jay Patel for co-writing this with me.)

If you are a web developer or designer, we can use your input. After gaining some great insights from our previous survey on Firefox 3.6 and Firebug 1.5, we have decided to go broader and get a better industry-wide snapshot of web developers.

We have created a new survey in our continued effort to better understand the web developer landscape and how the Mozilla Developer Network can be a better resource within it. Over the past few weeks, we have interviewed web developers about how they work and collaborated with a research consultant to compile a list of questions that will hopefully give us a clearer picture of the people behind the open Web and how we can better serve them.

This survey asks questions about the web development experience: the technologies and resources you use, the communities you join, and the companies that influence the realm of your work. We plan to use your responses to improve our developer engagement efforts and deliver relevant programs and content through the Mozilla Developer Network to make your web development experience better.

Your input is be much appreciated. Take the survey here, and please feel free to share the survey with other web developers and designers. Please pass on this link: http://bit.ly/wdatow2010 to the appropriate lists, forums, blogs, etc.

It is important that the results accurately represent the diverse set of people that make up the web developers of the world, so we hope that you will help us reach other developer communities, including those mentioned in our survey. Together, we can take a step closer to a better open Web. Thanks!

– the MDN team

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(This is the same article that can be found on the Hacks blog and is an updated version of the draft that was posted here last week. Thanks to Jay Patel for co-writing this with me.)

This week, Mozilla unveiled the newly redesigned Mozilla Developer Network, the latest incarnation of MDC. The website has evolved over the years and we recently decided to change the name from Mozilla Developer Center to the Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) to better reflect the developer segments that make up our community and provide a better platform for engaging developers in the Mozilla mission and our plans for pushing the open Web forward. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through some of the new features and content, in addition to some of the things you can expect in the months to come.

Our Mission
Upon first glance, the most obvious change is that the website has undergone a radical overhaul: from top to bottom, the entire MDN looks different. Even the tagline underneath the title is new: the Mozilla Developer Network is “a comprehensive, usable, and accurate resource for everyone developing for the Open Web.”

The idea behind the tagline is perhaps the biggest change we’ve made to the MDN: we wanted to create a place where all web developers – not just people who develop using Mozilla technologies – can find the resources they need to make the Internet at-large a better place. This fundamental premise drove many of the design decisions incorporated into the new MDN.

The New Home Page
One of our main goals for this redesign was to streamline and simplify the process of finding information. Because the MDN home page is the first page most people will see when they visit the MDN, we wanted to make sure a diverse set of users could access as much information as possible without cluttering the page.

Throughout the page, there are several opportunities for the user to sign up for an MDN account; if you already have an MDC/Deki account there’s no need to sign up again. If you’re new to MDN, you can easily register to join our community. Members will be able to log in to both the Developer Forums and the Docs Wiki.

The page also features a promo box with revolving panes highlighting important open Web technologies and tools. The goal of the promo box is to direct developers to the pages about technologies that are most likely to be pertinent to their work, which helps reduce the number of steps it takes to reach a desired article. There are a lot of things happening at Mozilla that developers will care about, so this is where we hope to provide every visitor a chance to learn more about those topics.

Moreover, the main content of the page will be available through a tabbed interface that will allow users to click through to whichever section in which they are interested. We currently have Docs and News but have plans to add Tools and Events as well. There are plans for the sidebar as well, but for now we have provided a live Twitter feed so that users can get a feel for what various Mozilla communities are talking about and sharing. We will eventually add trending topics based on activity from around the MDN, streams for conversations in the forums, and the latest web technology demos and experiments.

Site Architecture
The new MDN header contains a search bar and click-through access to various sections through the primary navigation. The MDN’s content has been separated into four main categories, each of which has its own navigation item: Web, Mobile, Add-ons, and Applications. This segmentation of the navigation allows us to organize content into non-overlapping buckets, which should more precisely direct developers to the content they need. Then we have the universal Docs – which takes users to a landing page leading to various articles and content from the Docs Wiki – and Community – which takes users to the Developer Forums for now – navigation items. Since those two areas are applicable to all developer segments, we kept them separate in the navigation layout.

Each content page has a similar format: we feature a few popular articles for each category, some Mozilla-supplied tools, related news and updates, and a feed with relevant tweets. At the bottom of each page, there will eventually be popular forum topics and community comments. (Only the Add-ons page has this content right now). If you don’t find what you’re looking for on the landing page for any given category, there are links in each section of the page that take you to more options and pages. Despite the design overhaul, all of the information from the previous MDC remains intact, so there’s no need to worry about losing important articles. It’s all there and works exactly the same way as before.

Also, any information that can be accessed via the Docs landing page can also be accessed from other pages on the MDN, but we wanted to provide an alternative way of presenting the information: we highlight some important web development topics, in addition to important topics from the other categories. There are also fun features like Doc of the Day and Most Active Docs, in case you’re interested in what everyone else is looking at.

Growing the Community
The final navigation item in the header is for Community and perhaps the most important addition to the new MDN: Developer Forums. In the previous version of the MDN, although there was plenty of documentation to be found, we didn’t provide developers much of an opportunity to talk, discuss, and ask questions. We felt that, in our goal to make the MDN a central hub for web developers, forums comprised an important feature to incorporate into the new version.

Right now, there are five broad topics for discussion: Open Web, Mozilla Platform, MDN Community, Mozilla Add-ons, and Mozilla Labs. These domains should be able to cover much of the wide gamut of available discussion topics, but if not, we can always add new ones. Because the forums are new, they are still in the experimental stage; if you have any feedback for us, just use the feedback link at the bottom of the page. Feel free to start new threads and ask questions about anything, especially if it’s about documentation or the open web in general.

We’d love for you to try out the new forums! Again, if you have an account for MDC/Deki, you can use that to log in; if not, you can use the link in the upper-right corner to become an MDN member.

Submitting Feedback
At the bottom of every page, there’s a link to submit feedback on the new MDN pages. Whether there’s something wrong or there’s something you’d like to see (or whether you’d just like to say hello!), just hit that link and let us know what’s on your mind. We’ll do what we can to integrate your ideas to make the Mozilla Developer Network a better place for all developers.

Next Steps
Though we have made quite a few changes to the Mozilla Developer Network, they certainly are not the last. As the MDN continues to expand, we have decided to create a next-generation Docs platform that the Mozilla web development team will be building on Django, similar to the one being implemented for the new SUMO site. Planning is already underway, and we hope to migrate documentation over sometime in 2011.

Once we’ve converted all the content over, we plan to improve the way you find information via the search bar. So far, we have been devising ways to improve the tagging system and make sure that localized versions of articles are released as soon as possible. In addition, with the help of article rating and commenting systems, we can help make sure that the most relevant and accurate results are mentioned at the top of each search query. And finally, we are building a system that allows community experts in particular fields to regulate editing and writing of articles in their domains.

We’re also looking to expand the Community tab. Though we expect the forums to remain the centerpiece of that section of the site, we hope to also bring you news, updates, and other community-sourced content.

We hope that this has helped you get acquainted with the new Mozilla Developer Network. As always, we are amenable to your feedback and ideas, as we are as eager as you are to make the MDN an even better place for web developers to write, read, and discuss important Web topics. We look forward to hearing from you, and we hope you like the new MDN.

Thanks!
– Jay & Brian (+ the MDN team)

Today, we released the next beta for Firefox 4 – the fourth one, for what it’s worth. This might be the biggest beta release yet. Most notably, it features Firefox Panorama (previously referred to as Tab Candy) and Firefox Sync, which allows you to sync your desktop browser with things like your phone and other computers in your house or office or wherever else. CNET posted a good, unbiased summary of the update earlier today. If you’re interested at all in the future of tab and task management, definitely check out the latest beta.

Also of note: the refreshed Mozilla Developer Network, as I’ve been discussing in many of my posts below, releases tonight, meaning that when you go to developer.mozilla.org tomorrow morning, you should be able to see the hard work Jay, the web development team, and I have been putting into the MDN over the past few weeks (or months). Expect a long post detailing that in the near future!

Hey, everyone!

Earlier today, the third beta for Firefox 4.0 went live. Most prominent of the changes include support for multitouch gestures on Windows 7 machines and revisions to the JS engine so that pages render faster. If you haven’t gotten it already, find it here.

I’ll be publishing another post soon detailing my work from the past couple of weeks. Stick around!

[This is a continuation of the post “Redesigning the MDN (part 1).”]

In my previous post I mentioned our fundamental goal is provide web developers with a central hub for documentation and discussion. I’ve talked a bit about how we plan to achieve the former, but what of the latter?

For this reason, we added yet another tab to the MDN’s header, called “Community.” In the newest iteration of the MDN, this tab will primarily serve to host a UserVoice-based forum where web developers can congregate and discuss anything open-web related. As we get that finalized, I’ll update this blog with a list of initial topics so that you can start to think about things to talk about.

Again, when the new MDN goes live sometime in mid-August, expect a more in-depth tour of the Community tab. Also, note that the Community tab will eventually encompass more than forums. Eventually there will also be community-provided news articles and other community engagement efforts via Mozilla. Those should be coming in later iterations of the MDN.

Thanks for reading! As usual, if you have any questions, comment or shoot me an email.

(Redesigning the MDN is a complex project that’s going to take more than one post. In this post, I discuss the reasoning behind some of the more superficial changes I’ve made to the Network.)

Another one of my big projects here at Mozilla has been working on redesigning and re-branding the Mozilla Developer Network (MDN). If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ve already seen some of the work that Jay and I have done with regard to graphically redesigning the network. As I’ll discuss in a bit, we’ve made some important changes since then.

First, it’s important to understand the impetus for change. The Mozilla Developer Center (the current name for the MDN), as it stands, can be found here, if you’re not already familiar with it. Although it certainly looks better than it has in years past, it could still use some fixes here and there. Or all over the place. You can find the slide deck with some pictures of our first draft of the redesign here.

Underneath the superficial overhaul, however, lies a deeper paradigm shift. Although content is pretty well spread out to cover various domains of the open web, the focus currently concentrates on developing on the Mozilla platform specifically. While certainly we want to reward and help those who develop with the tools that we provide them, we feel that perhaps this mindset is a little close-minded. Mozilla’s goal is to advance the open web in every way possible, Mozilla-inspired or not. Consequently a solely inward focus on only Mozilla’s tools is unintuitive and does not allow us to optimize the progress of the open web.

Ultimately, the goal of the Mozilla Developer Network is to provide a central hub for discussion and documentation for open web developers, regardless of platform. The redesign of the MDN cannot lose sight of this goal.

With this goal in mind, we took the original .psd files from our web designers and started making tweaks. As previously mentioned, there are four main documentation headers: Web, Mobile, Add-ons, and Applications. In the currently released design, all of those headers are given equal weight, which runs against our fundamental goal.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a way to change these headlines without breaking the entire header, so we instead decided to revamp the site’s home page to place a greater emphasis on open web technologies at-large. When the new site is live, you’ll be able to see for yourself. There have been several other changes as well; I’ll tour through them on this blog when the new Network goes live.

One thing I’d like to emphasize: though our presentation of information has changed to fit our goal, none of the documentation has changed. You will still find all the information found on the current MDC, from Gecko to info about Mozilla-specific APIs. These articles will continued to be updated as well. Only the presentation of the information has changed.

Expect the site to go live mid-August. Tomorrow, I’ll write about some of the awesome new features that we can expect to see in the next iteration of the MDN and how we plan to facilitate communication between developers.

A quick aside from my summary posts: download the Firefox 4 beta 2 to check out application tabs and a sweet new Mac OS X interface. The alpha for Tab Candy is also available as an early build of Firefox, if you’re interested in trying that out as well.

For a more detailed rundown of the new beta, check out the Hacks blog for a sweet demo from our very own Paul Rouget!

Happy developing!

Hey there! Sorry for the long delay since my previous post; it’s been a busy past few weeks. Since coming back from the summit, my internship has been full of twists and turns, leaving me little time to write.

I’ve been assigned to work on a whole lot of different things. To give equal exposure to all of them, I’ll write several posts to update you on my work these past few weeks.

One of my big projects thus far has been designing an industry-wide web developer survey. Some of you might have seen one of my previous blog entries about the results of the survey we distributed this past March. The findings, while interesting, don’t paint a complete picture of the state of the open web and the developer tools you all like to use. Thus far the surveys we’ve released – the one previously mentioned and one that was released last November – have been distributed via Mozilla channels and have only really inquired about Mozilla platform technologies. We hope to change that.

We hope to get a wider snapshot of the web development community, not just for us, but for you. A panorama, if you will.

The survey will be released in a few weeks – sometime before the end of August – so check back frequently for the opportunity to take the survey and help us paint the picture of the open web. Thus far I’ve iterated through several drafts of the survey and talked to several market research consultants to determine how to best distribute and design the survey. It will be ready soon!

On a more interesting note, I’ve also been reaching out to infographic designers. Although the data obtained from the survey will certainly help us, we want it to help you, too. We want to present our data and conclusions in an aesthetically awesome way. Right now, I’m talking over our goals and the possibilities of an end design with several artists. They all have some pretty good stuff going on; they’ve won awards and made some pretty interesting designs. Stay tuned!

Because we expect such a large audience to be taking the survey, there has been a lot of pressure to get every word and every question right. I never realized just how much goes into designing a questionnaire: figuring out the average time spent to read and answer each question, the best way to structure a question, the most efficient reconciliation of details and the big picture, etc. Given the impact we expect this survey to have on our engagement efforts, the survey must determine with exact precision the information that we’re looking for. Such a statistical conquest, I have discovered, isn’t as easy as it looks.

More blog posts about the other things I’m working on will be coming soon! Thanks for reading.

If you’re interested in learning about the changes we’re making to the Mozilla Developer Network and our efforts to engage and communicate with developers, check out the talk I’m giving with Jay Patel at 1:30pm PST. The viewing information is as follows:

  • Wednesday, June 30th 2010 @ 1:30pm
  • Mozilla HQ in Ten Forward and via Air Mozilla
  • Dial-in info for those that want to call in: 1-800-707-2533 (password 369) or 1-650-215-1282 (extension 92#)….then dial Conference number 8600#

It’ll be a good time. See you then!

EDIT: You can find a copy of the slide deck here.

(This entry was written in collaboration with Jay Patel. Note that this is the same entry as the one found on Mozilla Hacks.)

To follow up on the developer survey from last November, we did a second survey this past March after the releases of Firefox 3.6 and Firebug 1.5 to gauge developer reactions to the latest features in the browser and a much improved version of everyone’s favorite developer tool.

In this post we’ll share the results of our latest survey and provide some data and insights from all the great feedback we have received. We hope this will help us better understand developers’ needs and continue to build out the Mozilla Developer Network to better engage with them.

Recap of the November 2009 Survey

As a refresher, here is a summary of the initial November 2009 survey. The main takeaways were as follows:

  • Our community is made up of a diverse set of developers that cover all aspects of web development from design to back-end work.
  • Open standards are by far the most popular technologies used for web development work.
  • Firefox is the most common browser used first by developers for testing their work, primarily because of the many developer tools and Add-ons available for Firefox and Mozilla’s strong support for web standards.
  • Firebug stood out as the most popular developer tool and many developers agreed that it is “absolutely essential for development.”

Results from the March 2010 Survey

Our second developer survey received 2,267 responses over two months from late March to early June.

For this survey there were several common questions from the previous one – about browser preferences – so that we could measure satisfaction over time and follow trends in browser adoption following the release of Firefox 3.6.
We also responded to the overwhelmingly enthusiastic praise of Firebug by asking for feedback on the most recent release. By obtaining more specific feedback on the latest version of Firebug, we hope to address any remaining issues to make it an even more effective and attractive tool for developers.

Developer Browser Preferences

We did not see much change in browser preferences from November 2009 to March 2010. Even considering a new iteration of Firefox and increasing competition from other browsers, the data still reflect general browser market share trends: the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome gained at the expense of older versions of IE.

The following data show the primary browsers developers use to test their websites:

Which browser(s) do you test your web sites against to make sure they are compatible?

November 2009


Tested Against
Percent
Firefox 3.5 82.03%
IE 8 74.63%
IE 7 68.23%
Chrome 60.23%

March 2010

Tested Against Percent
Firefox 3.6 80.17%
IE 8 70.23%
Chrome 62.37%
IE 7 56.18%

The numbers are unlikely to shift drastically because regardless of developers’ personal preferences, the top browsers listed above are the ones most commonly used by regular users, as demonstrated by browser market share data. Thus it makes sense that developers test against these browsers most often.

Firefox isn’t just the most popular browser for developing, according to the data below; it’s also popular for personal usage. It should be noted, however, that this survey was distributed primarily though Mozilla-related channels, so there might be some bias in the results; we address this problem later in the report.

Note also that the vast majority of developers were quick on the uptake switching from 3.5 to 3.6.

Have you tried Firefox 3.6?

Upgrading to Firefox 3.6

Although the vast majority of developers switched from 3.5 to 3.6, there were still some who did not. In fact, roughly 10% of the March survey respondents still used 3.5. The primary reasons for the continued usage on 3.5, however, had little to do with personal preference. Roughly half of those who still used 3.5 did not even know that 3.6 was released, while the other half responded that they didn’t have time to update.

One interesting note from the results was that a lot of developers still using Firefox 3.5 were on Linux distros that did not yet have the Firefox 3.6 package available at the time they took the survey. Given that 23% of respondents develop on the Linux platform, that could explain why so many had not made the jump.

What operating system do you mainly use for your development environment?

Unfortunately the data lacked specific details on why developers did not know about 3.6 or why they did not find time to update to the next version. With that said, regardless of the reasons, it is clear we should focus on facilitating the update process for future iterations of Firefox. We will start by promoting early betas and announcing new Firefox releases on the MDN website.

Feedback on Firebug 1.5

We all know that Firebug is important to developers, so we wanted to focus on getting Firebug-related feedback for this survey. Comments about Firebug echoed those from the November survey: the consensus is that “Firebug is the single most important tool in web development.” Indeed Firebug is considered such a critical tool in the developer’s arsenal that several of you asked us to package Firebug as a built-in component of Firefox instead of just as an Add-on; some users call the duo the “triple F”: Firefox and Firebug.

While the 1.5 release was a huge improvement from previous versions, developers weren’t shy about sharing their frustrations and feature requests. Many noted occasional stability issues, such as when Firebug is finding elements in document trees or taking certain Ajax requests. Additionally, we received several suggestions for improving the user interface, such as incorporating more Firefox-native design elements, increasing the size of the “Deactivate Firebug” button, and removing elements like the “Quick Info” and “CSS Overview” boxes.

One data point that stood out was that about 22% of developers had not tried Firebug 1.5 at time they took the survey. Considering that it was released in January and the survey was open from March to June, we would have expected that the adoption of such an important tool to be higher than what the data suggests. This presents an opportunity to better communicate new releases and raise awareness among developers to make sure they are up-to-date on the latest development happening with Firebug.

Have you tried Firebug 1.5?

For those of you who are interested in learning more about documentation, features, and related news, visit the Firebug website. Along with regular blog posts from the team, the site will host community forums for discussions with community and Firebug team members and offer ways to get involved if you want to contribute to the project. Firebug 1.6 development is well underway and we’ll continue to see it evolve to meet web developers’ needs.

Next Steps

Thus far your feedback via our first two surveys has been invaluable as we strive to build a better open Web through the Mozilla Developer Network. We now have a decent snapshot of the type of development you do, the technologies and tools you use, and the browsers you prefer for both work and personal use. The insights we have gained will help us refine the MDN roadmap and guide the programs we develop over of the next year to better engage with developers and build out the MDN website to meet your needs.

Our next step is to move beyond these initial data to get a larger snapshot of the developer community. We will start by designing an informal survey to get a grasp of what developers here at Mozilla and within our immediate community have to say about the tools and resources they find the most valuable for their work. We plan to follow that up with more research on the web developer community as a whole by distributing an industry-wide survey.

The goal for Q3 is to design a survey that can be distributed to a more diverse and unbiased global developer community. We plan to launch the new survey later this year and will look to you to help us reach the right mix of developers. Ultimately our goal is to have the clearest possible picture of the global web developer community and how it views the current “state of the Web”.