Browser Add-ons, Life, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Programming, TwitterBar

Making Add-on/User Communication Less Annoying

Update: TwitterBar for Firefox was sold to HootSuite and renamed HootBar in March of 2011. TwitterBar for Chrome was discontinued in October of 2012.

When a new user downloads TwitterBar, there are a number of things I want them to know or questions I want to ask them. So what is the best method to communicate with an add-on user?

The solution I’ve been using for a while is to pop up a dialog like this:

There are several problems with this approach, all of which I decided to ignore when I implemented it:

  • It steals the user’s focus.
  • It’s annoying.
  • The user might click cancel without reading it just to get rid of it.
  • It’s annoying.
  • The user might immediately (but accidentally) click elsewhere, hiding the dialog behind another window, never to be seen again.
  • It’s annoying.
  • It’s extra code and work to pop up a special dialog like this.
  • It’s annoying.

Back when there was only one dialog, I decided that these were acceptable faults. However, since then, I’ve come up with a few more questions I want to ask users, so now instead of one annoying dialog, there are three or four annoying dialogs – a new one appearing each time you restart Firefox.

Predictably (or so it should have been), users don’t like to be assaulted with new dialogs each time they start their browser. Most likely, they’re starting their browser for some purpose other than using my add-on, so my add-on shouldn’t steal their attention. As one user so elegantly put it,

“I really love the TwitterBar, but after the most recent TwitterBar update, I noticed I kept getting these annoying as hell pop-ups from TwitterBar about TwitterBar. After the third one (while I was in the middle of doing something and became distracted with this pop-up dialog box TwitterBar tip of the day), I uninstalled it. If you want to keep your clients, don’t constantly tap them on the shoulder.

I had already been working on redesigning these add-on/user interactions when I got that email, so the user’s message reinforced what I had suspected: I was alienating my userbase.

Here’s the new scheme I’ve settled on for now:

It’s a notification bar, much like the one that appears when Firefox blocks a popup. It has these positive qualities:

  • It doesn’t steal focus or interrupt the user.
  • It’s not in-your-face, so it’s less likely (I assume) to be dismissed without thought.
  • It can’t be lost behind another window.
  • The amount of code to implement it is less, and it’s more in tune with the browser interface.
  • It’s not as annoying.

I’d love your feedback on this change. Is it enough? Should I stop bothering users altogether and just let them discover their way around the add-on? I’m open to all ideas.

(If you’d like to try a version of TwitterBar with this new notification method, you can download it here. Although, if you’ve already seen the old dialog-style version of these notifications, you won’t see the new-style ones anyway.)


21 comments on “Making Add-on/User Communication Less Annoying

  1. The new method sounds a whole lot better. I like going where I intend when I open Firefox. It seems like a win win situation. Thanks for the consideration and the new design and for a great add on.

  2. Christian says:

    Even that would be annoying. I would rather not see anything at all from TwitterBar. At the very least allow the user to set some option somewhere that says something like, “Never bother me.”

  3. I forgot to ask in my last comment… Would it be possible to pop up a text box for a custom tweet when you click the post to twitter button? That way each page could have a custom message instead of a default for all.

    • You can already add any custom text you want by just typing it in the address bar before the URL before you click the “Post to Twitter” button. (I get this question a lot – is it not clear that you can post anything from the URL bar, not just the current link?)

  4. Mmi says:

    I actually appreciated getting the pop-up as it asked something that I wanted to do — follow Twitter Bar — which I was not able to do when it first installed because Twitter was “stressing out” — Twitter’s choice of words, not mine.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have never even seen a popup besides the first 2 ones, that ask for activation and if they want to follow twitterbar. so this is really a non issue.

  6. Erick says:

    Yeah… it is annoying, because it is such a reminder of pop-ups. At first I wanted to see If I had inadvertently installed spy-ware. But yeah the new solution sounds much better since it interacts with the Firefox interface that is less intrusive.

  7. FrozenIpaq says:

    Just allow it as a one-time pop-up message when they install the application and stop any further communication with the end-user, if they want to follow you or have the latest development news they will seek it when they see fit. You don’t need these pop-ups or notifications to be used so often

  8. Ross says:

    Please provide at least an option to disable the popups and the notification bar. If I want to follow you, I’ll follow you. If I want help with Twitterbar, I’ll go looking for it (for instance, the search I just did for “twitterbar popups”). Twitterbar is a handy tool, but not so much that it’s worth the annoyance.

  9. I knew about being able to post from the address bar. I just didn’t realize somehow that posting from the address bar could be crossed with clicking to post the current page to Twitter. Lol I guess I was a little slow on connecting the dots this time…

  10. Zikki Majestic says:

    The main disadvantage (apart from stealing focus in the previous version) is that a user doesn’t know for how long these questions will continue appearing on the screen. Please make a counter or something like “question 1 out of 5” indicator, since right now majority of users thinks that these questions will go on forever…

  11. Tom says:

    Um, yeah. Crazy annoying and they keep coming. I assumed there was an option to turn them off. Only way to stop is to uninstall.

  12. hey Chris!

    I really do like twitterbar but don’t use it as much as I would if there was an option to choose which twitter account you want to post to when it confirms.
    Any possibility of adding that feature?

    thx, Jay

  13. mc says:

    I just installed Twitterbar today so I never saw any popup windows. But I still find these messages annoying enough to have found this page via google (twitterbar annoying messages) in hope of finding a way to turn them of. I think it is a good idea to tell users about new functions of your plugin, but please make it optional.

    Except for this, twitterbar is excactly the plugin I have been looking for.

  14. Olivier C. says:

    Thanks for reflecting on this issue with your users :)

    Send no message at all, please. Pop-ups are inacceptable, I almost uninstalled Twitterbar. The notification bar is better, but still annoying because unnecessary. I like the Twitter bar it’s handy, but it’s only one extension among others. If I feel like customizing my add-ons, I go to add-on options, where I change all my extensions settings. I don’t want one of them to think it deserves more attention.

    I’d say prompt the user only if is necessary for the extension to function, and do it all at once. Thanks for your good work!

  15. Hey Chris,

    i got a question. I got a strange error with twitterbar. Although i have ~100 chars, it states i wrote more than 140 and ask me if i want to try sending it. Confirming works like a charm, but i want this bug removed.
    I tried uninstalling and reinstalling it, but the addon still keeps its settings. Where are the settings saved? I searched in the typical extension directory, but the twitterbar directory is deleted when uninstalling it.

  16. EIT says:

    I love your twitter bar and it is added on all my (fire)foxes. I think ‘keyboard shortcut’ to upload will make it more perfect.

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