The Anatomy of a Creative Brief…

…or at least the creative brief we’re going to use.

equine anatomy illustration
Image from Crossett Library Bennington College

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Firefox for Android UX & Product folk are embarking on a new experiment towards streamlining how we define and design new features.

One of the new things we’re doing is collaboratively developing a “creative brief” which the UX team can then use for focused brainstorming and exploration. Ian Barlow — Firefox for Android’s exceedingly awesome UX lead — and I put together the following framework for this.

Overview & goals
A few sentences (as few as one) that outline the overarching goals and purpose of this project/feature.

  • What is this feature/project?
  • What are we hoping to accomplish?

Non-goals
This section is technically optional, but it’s often useful to think about and explicitly state what you’re not trying to do.

  • The flipside — what is this feature/project not?
  • What specific aspects are we not interested in exploring or expanding into?

Who is this for?
Defining our target audience.

  • Who is this for?
  • What specific demographics/groups/sorts of people are we trying to help?
  • Which of the Firefox “user types” are included?

Why are we doing this?
What triggers lead to this initiative? This could be one or any combination of the following, and more.

  • User feedback
  • User research
  • Demonstrated/observed user problems
  • Technology opportunities
  • Market drivers
  • Other specific problems that need to be solved
  • Partnership opportunities
  • Competitive analyses
  • etc.

Inspiration
What elements could/should we use as inspiration when we start thinking/brainstorming about this project? The “inspiration board” for the project.

  • What examples of this idea/feature already exist?
  • What design elements from elsewhere do we think could be interesting and useful?
  • Any other inspirational images, links, articles, etc.

User research
Any background studies we have done or can find about our target users.

  • Links to any relevant user studies we’ve done ourselves either directly or peripherally related to this feature, project, or users.
  • “Literature review” results — external articles, studies, etc. that we believe would be helpful when working on this feature/project.

User stories & use cases
These are not intended to be final user stories for this project, but rather a handful of stories and use cases that provide a starting point and further inspiration & understanding about how the Product team is thinking about this project/feature.

Criteria for success
What do our victory conditions look like? How will we know we have succeeded? What metrics do we think we’ll use to make these victory conditions measurable and concrete?

And that’s about that. We’re in the process of fleshing out the creative brief for our first project experiment, and when we have that in a more complete state, I’ll post about it here.

As always, questions & feedback are welcome, and you can always find the Firefox for Android team hanging out in the #mobile IRC channel.

NEW! Firefox Features List process change

I’ve made one small-but-awfully-helpful change to how the product Feature Lists are going to work. Now, if you start working on one of the items on the list, please change the “Rank” for that item on the Feature List to “In Progress”. Don’t worry about moving it to the top of the list, we’ll sort that part out.

I’ve done a few on the Firefox Feature List, as an example. Obviously this makes it a lot easier to figure out what is currently being worked on.

If you are working on a Feature from one of the Feature Lists, please do me a huge favour and flag it as “In Progress” on the Feature List Page. Thanks!

Firefox Planning & Tracking: A New Approach

If you take a look around Mozilla these days, you’ll notice that there are a lot more of us trying to do a lot more things a lot faster.

To manage all of this, we need to be a bit more disciplined about what we do and how we do it. Prioritizing what we want to do (and when) is a big part of what this post is all about — we can’t do everything all at once, so we need to be more deliberate about what we focus on at any given time.

We also have to be more conscientious about what and how we communicate with each other — there simply isn’t enough time for any one of us to dig through our various channels to find out everything we need to know. We need a consistent and centralized place where everyone can go to get the information they need.

How are we doing this?

We’ve developed a system to help us manage this stuff, and it looks something like this:


simplified, but you get the idea

Roadmaps are where we set forth our vision for each product and what we believe our priorities need to be in order to achieve that vision. Roadmaps often include other stuff as well, but for the most part the Roadmaps define where we want to go (vision) and how we’re going to get there (priorities).

Product Managers don’t weave these out of whole cloth, but drive the process of creating the Roadmaps through extensive discussion with people throughout the community. These are also not things to be dusted off once a year when we sit down to write a new roadmap — we will evolve them as we go.

Feature Lists are the things we believe need to be changed or added in our various products over the next year or so. These lists are derived from the Roadmaps and then divided by engineering group. The purpose of Feature Lists is to make it easier for engineers to know what they should work on next.

Like Roadmaps, Feature Lists will be revised constantly as we add, remove, and reprioritize things based on changing circumstances and information, and as we ship features out. Ultimately, each Feature List will be rank ordered by priority — #1, #2, #3, etc. with no ties — but we’re not quite there yet.

Feature Pages are really the heart of this system, as this is where each Feature is defined, specified, staffed, and tracked during development. The goal is that eventually (by Firefox 7) all significant development projects will be defined and tracked via Feature Pages.

When we talk about a feature, we’re talking about a “shippable unit”, a well-scoped and atomic piece of work that improves a part of one of our products. This is a smaller unit than what we normally think of as a feature, but conceptually larger than a typical bug fix.

Something like “Create a Home Tab as a Permanent App Tab” is a feature under this definition, whereas “App Tabs” is too large to be well-scoped. “App tab rendering glitch on OS X” is too small to be worth feature tracking, as it is really just fixing a flaw rather than adding to the product or changing how something behaves.

Feature Pages are really guidelines rather than strict templates to be slavishly filled out. Use them as you see fit. The only requirements are:

  • The status block at the top be filled in and kept up to date.
  • The team list must be fleshed out as completely as possible (and everyone on that list should be aware that they’re on that list).

After that, you’re free to do whatever you need with the Feature Pages. The sections in the template are really just prompts to help you get things clarified and written down, but you can ignore them if it makes sense to do so.

With the vision and priorities defined in the Roadmaps, and the Features defined and tracked through Feature Pages, we’re just missing a place to track the collective progress for each release. This is where the Release Tracking page comes in.

Once a Feature is underway and we know which release it’s going to target, the status block from that Feature Page will be transcluded into the appropriate table on the Release Tracking page.

Throughout development, with Feature Page statuses being updated regularly, the Release Tracking page will make it easy to see at a glance how things are progressing. Should a feature miss a release, it’s easy to move the feature into the next release table and continue tracking progress there.

No Surprises

The primary goal for this system can be summed up as “no surprises”. Everyone across the organization — engineering, QA, marketing, PR, web dev, IT, build & release, etc. — should be able quickly and easily to find out:

  • what is currently planned for each release
  • how things are progressing
  • what they need to do
  • when they need to do it

No surprises. This will never be a failsafe system, but I think we can get a lot closer to there than where we are now. This is a first step, and we will evolve the system as we learn more.

Working on stuff for Firefox 5? Please let me know!

Firefox developers: if you are working on something for Firefox 5, please let me know.

I’m not looking to track every single bugfix, just changes or additions that you think would be significant enough to include in a write up or announcement about the release — anything that would be of interest to users and/or developers.

If you are not sure whether what you’re working on qualifies, please err on the side of assuming it does. You can contact me by:

  • email: deb-at-mozilla-com (email if at all possible)
  • leaving a comment on this post
  • pinging me in IM (deb.richardson@mac.com) or IRC (dria)
  • or at very least cc’ing me on the relevant bugs

Please include any relevant bug numbers and links to wiki pages!

Mini Personas Plus Test Day! (Friday)

We’re just about ready to release an updated version of Personas Plus for both Firefox 3.6 and Firefox 4, so we’re holding a somewhat impromptu testday for it on Friday (but feel free to start early if you like).

Where to get it…

If you have a few minutes to spare, please grab Personas Plus RC4 from the FTP site and install it on Firefox 3.6 or Firefox 4. You will have to “allow” the site to install the add-on in the dialog that pops up:

https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/labs/personas/personas-1.6.2rc4.xpi

How to help…

Please test a few of the activities listed below (and anything else you can think of). If something appears odd or broken, either post a note here, leave a comment on the Personas forum thread or send an email to me directly at deb@mozilla.com.

On IRC?

If you’re on Mozilla IRC, feel free to join the #personas and #qa channels — I’ll be online for most of the day, so look for me (dria) there if you have any questions or think you have found a problem.

Some stuff to test…

  • Does the add-on icon (Fox Mask) appear properly in your status bar (Firefox 3.6) or add-on bar (Firefox 4)?
  • When you click on the Fox Mask icon, does the menu appear to be complete and correct?
  • Do all the menu items seem to do what they should?
  • When you open the “My Favorites” menu item, does clicking the “Sign in to Access your Favorites” take you to the correct page on GetPersonas.com (the account sign-in and creation page)?
  • When you select the “Random Selection from [galleryname]” submenu item, do you get a new, randomly selected Persona?
  • If you have selected the “Random Selection from [galleryname]” submenu item, does your Persona change periodically (every 60 minutes or so)?
  • If you are logged into your GetPersonas.com account, does clicking on “Go to My Favorites” do the correct thing?
  • If you are logged into your GetPersonas.com account, are you still logged in if you click any of the “#### More from [galleryname]” menu items to visit the GetPersonas.com galleries?
  • Go to Preferences and check the “Show Custom Persona in menu” checkbox. Does this add a new “Custom Persona” menu item?
  • Are you able to create and apply a custom persona using the Custom Persona menu item?
  • Does uninstalling the add-on from the add-ons manager work properly?

Did we miss something?

If you can think of anything else that we should test, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list. Thanks!

Personas Plus RC3 – Please help test (again)!

A third (and hopefully final!) Release Candidate of the Personas Plus add-on for Firefox 4 is available on the FTP servers. The RC works with Firefox 3+, current nightly builds, and Firefox 4 beta releases.

You can download the add-on here: https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/labs/personas/ — you want to get personas-1.6.2rc3.xpi.

If you find any issues (or if you test and everything seems OK), please post a comment here! Thanks!