Mozilla Design challenge

Posted on February 4, 2009


As I always love design challenges, here’s the email I received from my adviser, I’m glad to know it finally becames a course project, which I originally wanted to do here in basic interaction design class I TAed last semester.

“Dear CMU designers, Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox web browser, has just announced the Mozilla Labs Design Challenge. We’re inviting design-focused students from around the world to develop new ideas & prototypes for the future of the Web. The Design Challenge will be held in two stages: In the first stage students submit mockups of their ideas; during the second phase we will run an exclusive three week tutoring & mentoring program during in which the students will turn their static mockups into dynamic prototypes. Final polished prototypes will be posted, and honors for “best in class” will be bestowed. We would like to invite students from your faculty to join us in the first Design Challenge. It would be great if you could point your students to the website, and invite them submit their ideas.

You’ll find more details about the Design Challenge on the Mozilla Labs blog at: Further information can be found in the following article published by WIRED magazine: We are looking forward hopefully to working with you & your students.”

As one of the luckiest people who had the chance to participate in this project earlier, I’d love to share some extra thoughts if someone will do the job.

1. Rethink the future. My definition of future web browser evolves with time, and now it’s completely different than it was in the summer. When I designed my piece “Lifestream”, I thought about today rather than the future, mostly on how to improve the current situation, less reflection on the society we will live in tomorrow. However, tomorrow, our younger brothers and sisters will live a digital life which they took granted, HTML and web design will become high school required courses, software becomes an art form, computers exist everywhere and web is no longer looked like the form that of today. What is their definition of a browser? Is a browser a extension of brain, a tool to access, store and process information, or a self-presentation medium? or something completely out of imagination? With those questions in mind, use one sentence to summarize “what is a browser”, and come back to examine what we had today, we may gain cool insights.

2. User behaviors, always. I didn’t do much of that during the summer, so-called user-centered design research. But it’s a very powerful tool, I admitted. Not just examine what people do on the Internet, but observe what they do in their contextual daily life, what do they need in a specific situation, then construct patterns, transform ideas, to digital world. It turns out we use browser in a highly contextual way, it stores our daily memory in the browser’s history, and represent our virtual self in a form that might be different than our real self. For me, it is meaningful, because in the near future, personalized semantic content representation will be the key to any successful user experience design, and popular browser companies, such as Firefox, should take the responsibility.

3. Focus and Concrete, use a story. I’d suggest you, designers, focus on one thing rather than the whole experience. You may end up only design an experience for book collectors who use browser to search antique books, but that’s people’s everyday browsing life.

So much for today. Wei at