Mozilla just launched their new Add-ons site (as mentioned in our release calendar located in the sidebar), and the biggest improvements are all in the layout and design. You’ll notice that the search box is now at the top of the page to make it easier for users to find what they are looking for, and this is something I wanted ever since the last redesign they did. Here are the things that I have noticed thus far:
- There are only 153 extensions available and 82 themes, which is a huge reduction from almost 2,500 extensions that were previously available. So you should feel honored if one of the extensions you created are in the list of available ones.
- There is no advanced search like the one available prior to this design. Don’t worry though, the most important tools available in the advanced search was being able to choose how your results were sorted and picking how many results are displayed on a single page. At the top there are “Sort by” links which let you choose the sort order, and then all the way at the bottom you can pick how many results are shown.
- Nice breadcrumb navigation located near the top of the page so that you can easily get back to where you came from.
- The image preview page for any given extension (example) now shows thumbnails for all of the screenshots, and clicking on a thumbnail reveals a full-scale version of the image using a technique called Lightbox:
This thumbnail idea isn’t bad, but it does add an extra click to view the full size version and an extra click to close it. I prefer to have a minimal number of clicks.
- All extension pages have a “previous releases” link available that allow you to easily install old versions (example).
- You can now get RSS feeds for specific searches, such as this one for Google.
- No more comments…you can either submit a review, which is essentially the same as what a comment was, or you can start a discussion. The discussion reminds me more of a forum where people can respond to each other, which is especially nice for people looking for help on a specific extension. Before it was extremely hard for developers to stay in contact with users unless they had their own external site to manage the discussions.
- View the Add-ons site in multiple languages (French example) which only adjusts the text Mozilla created for right now (links, categories, etc…). I haven’t checked out the development center, but I’m guessing they would let developers upload descriptions in multiple languages so that someone viewing the French site doesn’t see the English description. That would require someone to translate the descriptions for the developer though.
So nothing sounds bad, right? So what’s their big mistake?
Mozilla is supposed to be making some sort of behind-the-scenes site for all of the extensions that did not make the final cut, such as one of my favorites GMarks. I looked all over and didn’t see any reference to this site at all, and as of right now clicking any hyperlinks for extensions/themes that got pulled will leave you with a page that says “Add-on not found,” and here is an example from the GMarks link. I am hoping this is a temporary thing while they get everything setup, but I thought they would have had this ready at the time the new site launched. If they needed some time to get everything implemented they should have just pulled the entire site down for maintenance.
Links to extensions that were not pulled still work, so it is just for the ones that did get pulled. They definitely need to get something fixed fast, because this breaks all of the links that search engines have to the existing extension pages, which could affect their placement in the results if not correct in the next few days. Not only that but it will probably frustrate many users who are searching for extensions.
Once they get all of the links fixed, and get everything else situated, the final result will be a great looking site with only the best extensions. I can’t wait to see how they setup the site for the extensions that got pulled, but from what they have said it is supposed to incorporate some voting mechanism to help new extensions make it to the main site. Sounds like it will kinda be like Digg, but hopefully they do it in a way that works well for their site.
My greatest fear with the new design is that developers will be less inclined to make new extensions if they are only available to a small amount of users that actually visit the behind-the-scenes site. At least new users looking for extensions won’t have to plow their way through hundreds of “junk” extensions that most people would consider to be spam.
Let us know if you see anything else that’s new!
Thanks to ClausValca who pointed out how to get into the “Sandbox” to view non-published extensions:
- You’ll need to have a registered account and you need to login.
- Click on your email address which should be located next to the search box.
- Check the box that says Show Sandbox:
- Click the Sandbox link next to the search box:
- Now you can search for extensions in the Sandbox mode:
- All of the extensions viewed in Sandbox mode will have a pretty little pink box to download from instead of the typical green one:
This still doesn’t seem to solve the troubles that I was having with the links being broken to certain extensions, but I’m assuming that is just a small problem that they will be fixing soon. It is still a pain that users have to be logged in to search the Sandbox extensions.