Enhanced Search in the Firefox Awesomebar

Our User Research team just finished a field study that explored the differences in how people use browsers and apps on mobile devices (phone and tablet). The goal was to understand what value a browser should provide on mobile devices and identify opportunities for Mozilla in the mobile browser space.

One of the key findings from the study was that while generally, single purpose apps are more widely used than web browsers on mobile devices, they do not entirely replace them either. Browsers really shine when people are trying to  find answers to things (searching).

So where apps answer the problem of  “I need to do ____”, browsers are still the go to solution to answer “I need to know ____”.  With this in mind, we’ve been working on how to improve search in mobile Firefox, by making it quicker and more useful.

Building on our Awesomebar experience (showing lists of bookmarks and history, ranked by frecency), we have added search suggestions that display simultaneously with your Awesomebar results. Once no Awesomebar results remain, users still have a multitude of searches they can jump to, and across multiple providers.

This is a work in progress, and feedback is welcome.

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6 comments

  1. pretzer

    This looks great! Search suggestions will improve the search experience on mobile a lot.

    One minor comment:
    IMO the first search suggestion should always be to search for the currently typed text, no autocompleted suggestion.

    For the alternatives:
    The left alternative gives the impression that the suggestions somehow belong to the history bookmark entries on the left, so there would have to be a stronger distinction, in my eyes.
    The right alternative is missing suggestions, so it won’t improve the situation as much.
    Also for both alternatives it will be hard to do an equivalent on phone size.
    The main design works out best for me!

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  2. Caspy7

    On the left screen in the alternate mockups it seems to display the awesomebar results & the google suggestions in such a way that they’re sharing lines. This seems like it would be a confusing thing for users.

  3. I hope those can be turned off. Not sending every key press to search engines and have Google analyze my typing is one of the great things I tout Firefox for in my privacy-aware surroundings (of course those who don’t give a damn about privacy will love this feature).

  4. John S

    This is a horrible UI in my opinion. I don’t want someone to peer over my shoulder and see tons of URLs that I visited, but never typed into the bar. This should be something that should be able to be disabled. You can not get adequate privacy to use this on an airplane. I could turn off history, but that still provide a valuable function. This search is annoying. I will use google to search, if I want.

    The awesomebar is really the awfulbar in my opinion. If you are going to make devastating changes to the UI, you should provide a set of configuration parameters that allows reversion to the previous behavior. I’m happy even if I need to go into about:config to make the changes. I realy just hate getting stuck with garbage like in MS Office, there’s no way to disable the stupid ribbon or shrink the height of the ribbon objects and it consumes terrible amounts of precious vertical screen space.

    It’s great if some people like this search feature, but it’s not useful to me and it’s driving me away from firefox for security, privacy and usability reasons.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful and charmingly articulated feedback, John — this will in fact be an opt-in feature, so you won’t be sending anything to Google without first manually turning suggestions on.

  5. Eran

    “thoughtful and charmingly articulated” lol.

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