Open Help: Michael Verdi – How Mozilla supports users all over the world

Michael Verdi works for Mozilla on the SUMO project. Slides are here.

  • Does support for all of Mozilla’s products, like Firefox, Firefox for Android, and coming soon Firefox OS.
  • 450 million people in 80 languages.
  • How? with superheroes.
  • Community photo from 2010 has 600 people. At any given people about half of the people working on support.
  • Support team has grown from 2 people to 14.

Proactive support

  • user advocacy like bug fixes, and features
  • education: expierence, features, user engagement, articles

Support site:

  • Self-service: articles
  • User-to-user: answer questions

Proactive Support


Some of the things Mozilla does around education (this is their newest thing):

  • support stuff is linked to all over Blog posts and marketing content includes links
  • learning experiences – changing the NUX and upgrading user experience. Showing people things that have change or features that they’ll want to know.


Mozilla have a team devoted to listening to users and getting things fixed or change. Driving changes to the project.

Project squeaky

make add-ons awesome

Because you can do anything you can extend Firefox but also break users. Biggest problem for support.

Add-on guidelines that are pro-user:

  • be transparent
  • be respectful to users
  • be safe
  • be stable

[Note: can we put something together like this for WordPress plugins?]

Reduced support requests related to our most troublesome add-on by 60% by helping them to follow these guidelines.

Firefox Reset

“If we can’t make perfect software, at least we can make it easy to recover when things go wrong.”

There’s a giant section of problems that can be solved by creating a new profile in Firefox. The problem is starting over with a completely new install – lose bookmark and passwords.

There was a long article that explained how to create a new profile and copy all of your old data to the new profile. Decided to give people a button that they could click to copy over the data. Fixes 80% of those problems.

Working on ways to improve it so that they can put it somewhere that people will find it.

 Reactive Support

Sumo – their support landing page.

Software used is Kitsune.

  • Knowledge base
  • Q&A style support forum
  • Twitter client
  • Search
  • Internal communication
  • metric
Knowledge base
  • wiki-based docs
  • fully localizable
  • multiple products
  • multiple product versions
  • multiple operating systems – detects the OS the user is using they just see the info for that OS
  • templates
  • review systems
  • metrics – each article has a survey “is this useful?” and these are cross-references with revisions
  • dashboard

This helps 50% of the users. Only 50% of users use Firefox in English. So it’s important that it’s localisable. A large amount of the support team work on localisation.

Half of the traffic goes to the top 20 articles. You can help out a big chunk of people by just localising these.

Community Support
  • Q&A support forum, like stack exchange (less full featured). Has upvoting, and other feedback metrics
  • created an add-on to suck all of the data from Firefox and share that with the support people
  • this is one of the sources of input for our advocacy team
  • is a good source of finding issues or things that are truly bugs
  • have canned responses
  • this year they introduced support for any language in their questions app. Users can ask question in any language. Other locales had made their own solutions
Army of Awesome
  • a Twitter client that aggregates all of the tweets about Firefox.
  • answer hundreds of Tweets a day
  • is the easiest way to get started helping people


  • Educating people up front is a huge thing. Whenever points to something or someone blogs about something and links to an article the article will get loads of traffic. People don’t go to support because they want to learn about firefox. “If you want them to RTFM, make a better FM”
  • Advocacy – get your support thing involved in making the product. That has been the biggest factor in making the situation better. Problems are solved before they become a major problem. Listen to users – fix the things that they think will be a problem.
  • Document – 21 – 22 million visits to the support site and 35,000 questions. Without documentation they would have an unmanageable amount of questions.
  • Optimize – you need to make content findable. Also de-index old posts.
  • Search – Found that people who clicked on an article and went to the site they voted it helpful 80% of the time. People who used Mozilla search found it useful about 35% of the time. Search sucked. Also, got questions about things that are already documented. When search was improved they went down to 75 questions a day from 500 questions a day.
  • Information Architecture and user experience – when they rolled out the NUX and IA they didn’t change the content at all, 5% more people voted it as useful. For every 1% improvement = 1.5 million people per year helped. Just changing the IA and NUX, not touching the content, enabled them to help 7 million people in a year. More effective to make the site work better.



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