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Mozilla Fennec L10n Productization Guidelines — Part 3. Compatibility criterion

This post was migrated from my old blog. Some links might not work.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a series of posts about the productization guidelines for localized Fennec builds. Post one discussed productization and why we need separate guidelines for Fennec. Post two described the purpose of productization.

Today, let’s discuss the compatibility criterion, which I believe is the most important guideline for localizers to consider.

The compatibility criterion: Services included in Fennec must render correctly on mobile devices, assuring good readability and ease of interaction.

The compatibility criterion is important, because it allows us to base on Firefox’s guidelines and adapt them to the mobile context. In other words, Fennec’s productization should follow Firefox’s guidelines, making exceptions when the compatibilty criterion is not met.

As you probably remember, there are 5 productization components in Firefox, mapping to components in Fennec (in fact, the future of the live bookmark and the getting started page in Fennec is uncertain, but let’s just assume for now that they’re in):

  1. Content handlers (a.k.a feed readers)
  2. Protocol handlers (currently: webcal, mailto, irc)
  3. Search engines
  4. News feed (a.k.a. Live Bookmark)
  5. The ‘Getting Started’ page

Fennec should ship only with services that meet the compatibility criterion. We should not promote websites that render badly on mobile devices, are impossible to read (e.g. because of the broken layout not adapted to the small screen), or impossible to interact with on mobile devices.

The good news is that I don’t expect there are many websites that don’t conform to this guideline. After all, Fennec’s developers have gone to great lengths to make sure the browsing experience is as good as on a desktop browser. You can pan and zoom easily, increasing the text size and focusing on chosen part of the website.

But I can imagine a couple of scenarios effectively breaking the mobile user experience, for example:

  • a Flash-based ad covering a significant area of the website which is difficult to close/discard (due to very small close button),
  • a non-standard input element with no accessibility fallback, which makes typing text into it difficult or impossible,
  • websites detecting a small-screen device (which as a practice is not bad) and offering a broken layout.

I’m sure you can think of more example like these. Feel free to add them in the comments.

Mozilla’s mission ensures that the Internet, desktop and mobile alike, evolves in the correct direction. In this context, that means open, participatory, and innovative. Good for the users. With Fennec, we’re becoming reponsible for building mobile Web the right way. We have the momentum and power to make an impact and make sure web designers and developers don’t ignore mobile in their projects. Because with no doubt, mobile will become one of the most important contexts of using Web, independently of region or demographics. Even more so, mobile is gaining a lot of traction in developing countries, which skip directly to the age of personal and portable computing. I like to think that we’re responsible for the direction in which the mobile Web evolves: open, participatory, and innovative.

Please add your thoughts. Is this criterion too strict? Too vague? Just right?

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In the next post I’ll try to summarize my thinking about the search engines in particular and suggest a couple of categories of search engines that we might want to ship Fennec with.

Published on 12.06.2009

Staś Małolepszy

Thoughts about the Internet, the information society, Mozilla and human-computer interactions.

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