Mozilla has launched a usability test plug-in for its open-source Firefox browser, in a bid to make testing and user feedback easier and more attractive.
Test Pilot, an add-on for Firefox 3.5, was rolled out on Wednesday. "We are looking for Firefox users of all levels of skill and all levels of technical knowledge to help improve Firefox and Labs experiments," Mozilla Labs employee Jinghua Zhang wrote in a blog post.
The opt-in programme allows those who sign up to "try out the newest features and user interface ideas before anyone else, but also see and learn how those results may contribute back to the product design", Jinghua wrote, adding that participants would not have data about their product usage submitted without their permission.
Test data will be anonymised and aggregated for presentation to the general public without the user's individual data being identifiable, Jinghua said.
Test Pilot was first announced by Mozilla Labs in March last year. At the time, chief innovation officer Chris Beard wrote in a blog post that Mozilla had to "rely upon the blogosphere and word-of-mouth to attract the attention" of people interested in trying out new Mozilla experiments.
"The problem is that we are systemically biasing feedback towards only those who happen to hear about a particular experiment (on a given day) and in those cases skew to the technically savvy early adopter," Beard wrote. "It is therefore very hard to derive conclusions representative of our much larger and increasingly mainstream user base."
Beard added that each of Mozilla's feature tests was isolated, and the organisation had to "start from scratch" in finding volunteer testers each time.
With Test Pilot, an icon is permanently visible at the bottom right-hand side of the browser window, allowing the user to keep an eye on which tests are upcoming or currently underway.
Those signing up to the programme will first need to complete a survey, which gauges their level of technical knowledge.
According to Jinghua, the Test Pilot programme is "still in its 0.1 release", and revamped iterations will be made available "within the coming weeks".