A web without windows

moz_design_challenge_logoCan’t help but love the shot at Microsoft in the latest Mozilla Labs Design Challenge post. Nice.

No windows, no unnecessary trappings.

I’m sure that this was not intentionally aimed at Microsoft’s IE8 RC1 announcement. But it made me laugh. It’s hard to imagine the world without the trappings of the personal computer. This is one of the unique challenges presented by August de los Reyes about Predicting the Past. I’ve been thinking more about personal health data, and thinking about how to build solutions aimed at informing and altering behaviour. Not on the scale of transformation that the Office Labs and MSR teams did with Future of personal health concept.  The video storyboards used in the Aurora Concept and the MSR Future of Healthcare videos are a great medium for students to express the complexity of the environment and the changes they see in predicting the future.

The question posed by the Mozilla Labs team is about extending the interpretation of the web. What does a user experience look like if the web is ubiquitous?

The Design Challenge is a series of events to encourage innovation, and experimentation in user interface design for the Web. Our aim is to provoke thought, facilitate discussion, and inspire future design directions for Firefox, the Mozilla project, and the Web as a whole.

It’s an interesting outreach to inspire and engage members of the Web community. It builds on the work that Mozilla did with Adaptive Path on the Aurora Concept exploring the future directions and ideas for Mozilla as a browser. The Design Challenge Spring 2009 asks 20 students to answer the following questions:

“What would a browser look like if the Web was all there was? No windows, no unnecessary trappings. Just the Web.”

It’s an interesting question and it provokes a series of other questions:

  • What does the Web really mean?
  • What does the Web mean in the context of a device? Does the device have local storage? local computation?
  • What assumptions as designers are we making about bandwidth? latency? interaction? behaviour?

The question of what is the Web and how individuals and groups interact, communicate and collaborate is really interesting. I hope that design students will document their assumptions about the hardware, software, networking infrastructure, carriers and to make their visions real.

As the Web becomes even more ubiquitous, we’ll never have to leave it. Whether it’s on touch tables, giant wall-sized screens, mobile devices, or just our computers, exploring the interactions for browsing a windowless Web will become ever-more important in the next couple of years.

Great opportunity for 20 design students to design a vision for the future. Plus they’ll get to work with Beltzner, Madhava, Aza, Alex and the rest of the team at Mozilla. 

Provoke thought and provide inspiration


The Aurora project has always intrigued me, a successor to the famed SR-71 Blackbird (though I thought it was designated SR-75 and not SR-91). In a vain of building a next generation experience, the team at Adaptive Path and  Mozilla Labs have partnered to build the Aurora Concept, “a video presenting one possible future user experience for the web”. It’s the second time in recent history where I have been thoroughly impressed with the design process used by the Adaptive Path folks, check out my commentary on the book, Subject to Change, and the Charmr project. The work on the Aurora Concept is a fantastic way to design, prototype and explore future design directions for Firefox and Mozilla and how the web should be built for the next generation of uses.

Part 1 – Exploring shared experiences

Aurora (Part 1) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

Part 2 – Exploring mobility

Aurora (Part 2) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

Part 3 – Interacting with the physical world

Aurora (Part 3) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

Video as a prototyping is not new. Video has been explored by the HCI and design researchers for a long time. In 1992 at Sun, Bruce Tognazzni created the Starfire design prototype. The team at Apple created the Knowledge Navigator in 1987 and Future Shock in 1988. Video is a compelling storytelling medium allowing designers to explore concepts and ideas without having to create functional environments. They are engaging spots that are designed to present a dream to a community in a digestible format.

My favourite part of the Concept Series is the call for participation. It is an open call to designers, developers and others from industry and higher education to get involved and design a vision for the future. The goal is to “bring even more people to the table and provoke thought, facilitate discussion, and inspire future design directions for Firefox, the Mozilla project, and the Web as a whole”.

Concepts may take the form of Ideas, Mockups or Prototypes.

  • Ideas
    It all begins with an idea. A sentence, paragraph, or even bullet-points kick-start the process. Ideas can be simple and non-technical. It should be easy for anyone and everyone to help shape the future of the Web. So throw your notions, inspirations, dreams and visions out to the community.
  • Mockups
    Turn your idea (or someone else’s) into an image, sketch or video. Words are great, but you know what they say about pictures. Mockups offer up a visual and communicate ideas in terms that are just a bit more polished and real. They draw the next person in, tempting them to pick up the concept and run with it.
  • Prototypes
    A prototype is interactive. Feel, touch and play with developing concepts. Prototypes get ideas across by showing off the moving parts. They aren’t always fully functional or pretty, but they’re more than a static image or two. They’re a dress rehearsal of sorts, with minimal programming. Make a prototype in HTML, Flash, or whatever puts things into action.

If I was a student designer looking for a design project to consider for my final year project I would think seriously about participating in the Concept Series or the Imagine Cup.