UX Lead with a passion for all things UX, IA, Product Design, and Music


Simple concepts for extending search use and discovering customization in Firefox

Note that all content in this post is for placement and creative thinking only. These concepts have not been implemented and do not represent affiliations with the logos, companies, etc. shown.

How to make use of Open Search in Firefox

Firefox comes with direct access to search engines like Google, Duck Duck Go, Yahoo, and others by default, but you can also add other websites to use as a search host, or even your own if you like. This is the power of Open Search, which has been around for quite a while, but not not widely known.


What does this look like in Firefox? How do you know when a site is set-up to have its content searched, and can therefore be added as an option to search from in your browser? See below how the green + icon is displayed w/in the search field in Firefox and how you can add a site like Github as a search option.
Want to set up your site to allow it to be added as a search host within Firefox? Read David Walsh’s post on how.


Why would you want to use this? This allows you to immediately search content from the website of your choice from the search field in the browser w/out having to first navigate to that webpage. It’s one step closer to searching content you might repeatedly go to a specific web page to find.

Why would you want to design a unique experience to promote and support this? To put it more succinctly, the ability to add a unique search host to the browser’s search field can allow the browser to make a task easier for a certain audience. This means we can focus on the needs of specific users and create a search experience specific to their needs. It can give the perception of your browser understanding your needs, skill, culture, etc. simply because it allows you to complete a task (via search) with ease, less frustration, and/or in the right context.

2 basic concepts for using Open Search to make Firefox more supportive of a specific audience

1. Promoting search hosts relevant to a specific locale

Let’s use French, or ‘fr’ as our example. The following examples would require the search provider preparing their XML as shown in David Walsh’s blog post above.

  • A. Locally relevant content: Present a locally relevant search host site via a web page to the user. For the 'fr' locale, we could use sites like Qwant, Fnac, and Darty as examples.

  • B. Simple interaction for first time discovery: We don’t just show the user how to add one or more of the locally relevant search hosts to their search options in Firefox… we let them do it themselves in one-click, w/ a clear CTA on the page. This is made possible by using our UITourAPI, which in short, allows the web page and browser chrome to interact with one another. By clicking on the CTA in the web page, the interaction and value is demonstrated in the browser chrome, without the user having to find the feature themselves. Next time they'll know where it is without our assistance.

Let’s say these search hosts have a strong local appeal and were shown via a web page when downloading Firefox for the first time, or via another channel or point in our onboarding process (ie: First Run, Second Run, subsequent restarts, email newsletter, social etc). Not only have we shown the user how to make the search field in the browser more relevant and useful to them, we’ve used the brand recognition of the locally relevant providers to catch the user’s attention and educate them about how easy it is to customize their web browser. [ View rough wireframes w/ additional concepts used to think through interaction, scope, and technical feasibility ]

2. Adding search hosts for an audience with specific needs and daily tasks, like Developers

MDN contains valuable documentation that developers continually access. Adding MDN as a search host avoids having to go to MDN or Google every time you want to search for docs that you know exist within MDN's articles.


The above are 2 basic examples for how to apply and promote the value of Open Search in Firefox and teach users that customizing the browser for their needs is both possible and easy.