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Tag Archives: MDN

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!

[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.

The final day was a little shorter than the first two, but it was arguably the most memorable of the trip.

We woke up to a few lightning talks, which are five-minute demonstrations of various things that Mozillians have been working on. The lightning talks also featured the work of fellow intern John Wayne Hill, who has been working in user experience. Check out his blog at planet.mozinterns.net for more info.

Afterward, we went to our penultimate round of breakout sessions. Today I decided to stray from the usual engagement stuff to check out a session on web gaming. We were treated to demos of non-Flash-based games, including one that a fellow Mozillian had coded up on the plane on the way to Vancouver. It was, in short, a good time.

We then had one final round of lightning talks – featuring another fellow intern, Kyle Huey – followed by two more sets of breakout sessions. One of the most interesting breakout sessions featured my mentor, Jay Patel. As I mentioned in a blog post a week or two ago, one of our big projects has been working on the expansion and the redesign of the Mozilla Developer Network (previously called the Mozilla Developer Center). We’ve finished designing the new static pages, which should be going live by the end of the month. Most important in the redesign of these static pages is the categorization of documentation pages into four parts: web, mobile, add-ons, other.

If you want to see what the MDN looks like right now, check out the site. As you can tell, it could use quite the graphical overhaul.

We also hope to clean up the documentation and improve the way people navigate the site. As indicated by the heated discussion at the session, the most difficult obstacle will be localization: it’s hard to coordinate translation of documentation and to keep all of those different translations updated. We plan to keep the site constantly updated with the most updated version of an article in at least one language and to offer incentives for localizers to contribute. Furthermore, we plan to pinpoint contributors’ areas of expertise to streamline the technical review process so that articles are updated in a timely fashion.

If you want more details about the redesign of the MDN, check out the site for a copy of the PowerPoint deck that Jay and I made and also the priorities and requirements documents. If you have anything you’d like to contribute or suggest, please feel free to comment on this article or to contact me at blouie@mozilla.com. Any feedback is much appreciated!

Equally important is finding ways to get people to contribute to original documentation. Eric Shephard and Janet Swisher gave a great presentation about the implementation of so called “doc sprints,” which will bring together developers and experts in a particular field to draft documentation about a particular topic. If you have ideas to do so, definitely email Eric or Janet at sheppy@mozilla and jswisher@mozilla respectively.

After quite the busy day and an inspiring closing address by Jay Sullivan, we were corralled into gondolas that took us up to the peak of one of the highest mountains in Whistler. There was a great dinner and dance party up there; it was the perfect way to wrap up this opportunity to learn so much awesome stuff and meet so many awesome people. As they said at the closing address, there was “too much awesome.”

I can’t find a better way to describe it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my chronicles of the summit. If you have anything to say, don’t hesitate to talk to me!

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”.