Mozilla Studying Menu Item Use in Firefox

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 05, 2010

The Mozilla Labs Test Pilot program is studying the way users interact with the browser's menu bar. The Firefox user experience (UX) team is considering major changes of the menu bar design, at least for versions of Firefox running on "modern versions of Windows."

Mozilla Test Pilot is a Mozilla Labs project to collect "structured user feedback" from Firefox and other Moz Labs technologies. Users work with the program by installing the Test Pilot extension and then users have the option of participating in tests like the Menu Item Usage Study. All tests require user approval and data is anonymized before being sent to Mozilla.

The Menu Item test, being led by Alex Faaborg who is a principal designer for Firefox, is looking to get a better understanding of how the menu bar is being used in Firefox now. Data collected in the Test Pilot study will "directly help to inform your next version of Firefox." Users who find the standard menu preferable will be able to return to the standard menu bar.

The test will run for five days, and will test to see how often users work with menu entries, how long it takes them to find the entries, and so on. It should be interesting to see how the UX team works with this information and what effect it has on the design of the menu. Google's Chrome team shook things up a bit when they designed Chrome without the standard application menu design. Of all the comments I've heard from users about Chrome, no one has lamented the disappearance of the old-school menu.

The previous test, A Week in the life of a Browser collected data from nearly 5,000 users and analyzed browsing session length and use of bookmarks over the study. The full analysis is not out yet, but some results are up that look at the number of bookmarks people have, use, and the number of folders that bookmarks are stored in.

Mozilla's Test Pilot program is an idea other projects ought to explore. The menu item test in particular is one that many programs would benefit from, but Mozilla is doing a range of tests to see how users interact with the browser and where there's room for improvement. It has been done before for programs like The GIMP, and companies have done more broad-based user testing, but there's still a lot of room for improvement.

Want to help with the menu study? Sign up soon! The test began on February 2, and should run about five days before completing.