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FutureNow Article
Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2008

Firefox 3: How to Convert Seven Million Visitors in a Day

By Robert Gorell
June 18th, 2008

firefox download day world recordOh, to have such problems…

If you’re hoping to download Firefox 3, it looks like it’s now safe to do so. But for nearly two hours yesterday, when the latest version of the popular Web browser first launched, so many people rushed the Firefox landing page that Mozilla’s servers crashed from the volume.

A round of applause for the marketing team at Mozilla. The pent up demand for their product combined with a brilliant “Firefox 3 Download Day” campaign to produce a perfect storm of online marketing genius. As of 7am PDT today, over seven million people have downloaded Firefox 3. They even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most software downloads in a day. As CNet reports, “The download rate, which peaked at 14,000 per minute Tuesday, was about 6,600 per minute Wednesday morning.”

Mozilla’s secret: An effective landing page and a commitment to website optimization testing.

Follow the Call to Action

In February of last year, we explained how Call to Action buttons make a difference on each of the landing pages for the major web browsers (including Firefox 2). Back then, FutureNow Conversion Analyst Joshua Hay noticed that…

firefox download button

“The non-standard shape stands out from the background of the page and has been given a persuasive color that draws the eyes to it [and] reinforces their brand. Within the Call to Action, Firefox lists the benefit and tells the visitor exactly what he is getting. Directly below the Call to Action, Firefox provides links that answer visitors’ questions if they aren’t quite ready to take action…”

Clearly, the download button for Firefox 2 was effective. It had been downloaded hundreds of millions of times; an impressive feat for software that, as Seth points out, “…wasn’t the default when you first turned on your computer.”

But Mozilla didn’t stop there. With version 3, they kept the same basic design, but they changed a few subtleties with the design, to bring us this:

firefox 3 download landing page

Now is when I imagine some of you rolling your eyes, thinking, “How can something so make a difference? They barely changed it!” Believe me, I understand your doubt, but making small improvements is why Amazon has one of the best conversion rates online.

Do you see everything Mozilla changed? I count five “small” tweaks that helped them convert seven million and counting. (I’ll explain why it worked to the first person who can correctly list all three five changes in the comments.)

Maybe your landing pages aren’t giving away free software. Maybe you don’t need to break world records to meet your goals. Maybe you don’t expect to go from zero to 5% market share in 24 hours. But don’t think it’s impossible to, say, double your landing page conversion rate.

It’s possible.

. .

Want to test your way to a better conversion rate? Do it strategically. FutureNow can help.

Add Your Comments

Comments (28)

  1. I was skeptical in the beginning of the download day. I was not able to get into the site for a few hours. I finally got it, and I am happy I did. combining firefox 3 with http://www.feedly.com in unbelievable!

    Thanks for numbers update. 7 Millions! WOW….. Great product

  2. Ah great stuff! Will be interested in checking it out!

  3. … and then Firefox3 ate my cookies :-(

  4. Thanks Robert for again making it clear how call to action buttons can impact conversion rate. We already worked on our call to action buttons when last time we read about it on this blog. But this post has again make me think that might be we can do even better. Thanks

  5. Hi Robert

    I thought I’d give the “three changes” a bash:

    Firstly, the name and version of the browser has changed position on the page. It has moved from a large on-page heading and onto the actual download button. I think this makes it clearer what the user is downloading?

    The text on the button has also changed, from “Download Firefox – Free” to “Free Download”.

    There is also a little image (the arrow in the circle) on the Firefox 3 download button that was not used on the Firefox 2 landing page. (But I noticed from Joshua Hays article that Opera used to use a similar image, which they appear now to have dropped).

    The information about the version of the browser has also been split over two lines in the Firefox 3 download button. The previous button had just two lines. I think the use of more lines on the Firefox 3 button makes key information easier to read quickly, almost like bullet points.

    More than three – but hopefully now you will reveal all!

    Sarah

  6. Well I’m pretty new at this landing page optimization process, but here’s what I see.

    1. The download button is larger and more distinctive.

    2. The Firefox logo is left centered instead of offset on the top left.
    3. The Firefox version is listed on the button instead of in a page heading.
    4. ‘Free Download’ is inseparably linked with Firefox 3
    5. The links that ‘answer users questions’ (ie. Release Notes and Other Systems and Languages) are flush left with the logo instead of the box in the button.

    How did I do for a noob?

    Other things I noticed about the landing page…
    The large tree trunk to the right of the page tends to stop the users eye and the tentacle like tree limbs will lead you directly to the logo, the product listing, and to the navigation bar.

    The logo has an almost white to green gradient; the human eye is drawn to ‘light’ so it helps to lead the eye directly to Firefox 3 Free download.

    The balloons on the page are cleverly colored to either grab your attention (purple balloon) or lead your eye back to the logo (blue and green balloon) and the cute little smiling sun links the eye to the tail of the Firefox logo, which of course lead you right back to ‘Firefox 3 Free Download’.

    The Navigation on the right of the screen is nicely unobtrusive and has both the blue and white of the main navigation bar. If the blue catches you eye, it’s back to the blue nav bar and striking white text, over and around to ‘The Best Firefox Yet’ to the light colored gradient, little white download arrow, or the cute little son…

    Overall, this page is full of crap. Contrast; Repetition; Alignment; and Proximity. ;)

    I do find it interesting that their landing page has been changed to more closely match the Firefox 2 version.

    Anywho, enough of my ramblings… what do you think?

  7. 1. contrast between dowload button and background color is greatly increaesd.
    2. use of the word mozillia for seo
    3. use of link on top and right side for seo, and to show there more

  8. Wow, you guys ARE paying attention!

    (Quick note before I address each of your points: It seems I confused things in the post when I wrote “five” tweaks at first, then “three” right after, so I apologize. I actually did notice five things, total, but two of them I noticed just as I was launching the piece. Guess I missed that in the edit. Moving on… )

    So, here’s my list:

    1.) Firefox logo — By incorporating the logo in the design of call to action button, there’s instant trust and credibility. Mozilla maintains its overall branding in the site’s navigation, while the download button is all about branding Firefox and getting people to convert in one action. (Nice job explaining this one, Sarah and Steve!)

    2.) New background — As Isaac mentioned, there is a greater contrast between the background and the download button. The irony is that even though the new background is more design-heavy (balloons, trees, birds), it actually draws LESS (conscious) attention. It adds a feeling of comfort and playfulness; something that supports the Firefox brand and the copy on this page. Even the copy in the background is scaled down. All they need is one sentence to get their point across this time (“With more than 15,000 improvements, Firefox 3 is faster, safer, and smarter than ever before”). And if you really want to learn a thing or two about subtle persuasion, take a look at where the birds, the sun, and the pencil in the top-left corner are facing. Yup, they’re all looking right at the call to action button, so the eye is drawn to the call to action button and we don’t even realize it. In fact, these background changes only add to the illusion of the button hovering in a three-dimensional space. I’ve also noticed that the background changes sometimes when you refresh the page; a sure sign that they’re having some fun with split testing.

    3.) Font choice — If you’ll notice, the text of the Firefox 3 download button is the same font as the background. That builds continuity and trust because it’s a unique font. You could say the same for the Firefox 2 download button, but the font they use doesn’t stand out. Meanwhile, they use the new font to its greatest effect by inverting the headline to white. So much for so-called “best practices”! Inverted white font!? That’s enough blasphemy to give most usability gurus a heart attack. But it makes perfect sense. It says “The Best Firefox Yet,” something you don’t need to scream at visitors, anyway. This is all about subtlety and not taking ANY attention away from the download button. Brilliant, but be careful before trying this on your site.

    4.) The down arrow — Extra points to Sarah for spotting this one! Yeah, it looks like Firefox is stealing a bit of mojo from Opera with the small round down arrow. Maybe “borrowing” is a better way to phrase it. If you see something that one of your competitors is doing that you think might work, test it out for yourself. Just be sure to make it your own. If you copy people in obvious ways, it could damage your brand and, ultimately, your conversion rate.

    5.) No underlines — Cool! I was hoping to get ONE thing that you guys didn’t guess. For me, this was the most interesting, and telling, design choice. This type of change is what A/B split testing is all about. By not making the text of the call to action button look like a hyperlink, they drive home the point that the button has one single purpose: the download. Also note how they removed the underlines from the hyperlinks below the download button. People still know those are links. Yet another “best practice” exchanged for something that works better in a certain context.

    So, Sarah, Steve and Isaac… You just won copies of our 2005 bestseller, Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results. (Just email your shipping address to blogeditor at grokdotcom dot com, you three.)

    Keep the comments coming. It looks like there were a few things that I missed.

  9. Good stuff folks. Just a quick comment on what Mozilla still needs to look at. There is still one barrier to conversion that they don’t overcome easily; will this release work with all my existing add-ons and plugins. If the visitor doesn’t know for sure and they have some critical add-ons, they might not convert.

  10. Great point, Bryan. I heard from a friend earlier today that it wasn’t letting him download add-ons, while another one said that Firefox 3 was ignoring the most basic order you can give a browser; it wasn’t loading a direct URL!

    Other than that, everyone seems to love it. Personally, I’m holding off until I know that all of my add-ons and plug-ins are secure.

    This landing page is heavily geared toward people in Spontaneous mode.

  11. I would actually add a few changes to their list (to be fair I am comparing the above 2 images and have never visited, until now, the home page of mozilla) of things which likely had a minor but quite possibly measurable impact:

    1) Moved the color red inside the button. This helps to draw eye to the area on the page they want you to be looking at. Putting red outside the button (or other attractive colors) would have a negative impact.
    2) face near the button. The balloon next to the button has a face. To be fair I would mirror the balloon to point the other way
    3) They appear to be creating some very different experiences depending on your segment. Visit the homepage with javascript off. Visit the homepage with a bandwidth limiter…could just be I am getting lucky recipes but I don’t believe so.

    Then again maybe those things didn’t have any impact! I would love to see their numbers.

  12. Although I was part of the mad rush on Download Day, not knowing if my precious AdBlock list will be taken over to FF3 is exactly why FF3 is still sitting un-istalled on my desktop.

    I Like the way they use the sun and the balloons to guide your eye over to the navigation. They have changed it since then and it’s now UFOs, the pencil points nowhere but the sun is now looking at me from the top right. The UFOs are so big, they make it really obvious that the navigation is now in an, for westerners, unusual spot. Maybe they got too many complaints from users like me who had no idea how to find out if my Add-ons will still work.

  13. They have a couple different backgrounds they are using. They also still have at least 2 different layouts of the button active. Just keep clearing your cookies (and possibly closing and reopening your browser) and hitting their page.

  14. Something I don’t care for is that my cursor doesn’t turn into the hand that lets me know the button is clickable. They seem to be ignoring a best practice with that.

  15. Hmmm, does buttons etc really make a difference in this instance? I think not. I think no matter what they did then they would have had a high download rate – 7 million is still a drop in the ocean compared to the number of FF users.

    The hype – never knew there was a new one coming out till I saw your post – why haven’t they communicated with their existing users about the new version??

  16. @Shannon: That’s odd. Which browser were you viewing it in? I checked it out in Firefox 2, Opera and Safari, and it showed the hand icon when I moused over the download button in each of them.

    @CaricatureKing: You don’t think 7 million downloads in 24 hours is a big deal? Wow, you’re a tough customer! Considering that they didn’t communicate it to existing customers and that they now have almost 21 million downloads, I have to disagree.

    Also, in terms of your doubts about the call-to-action button making a difference, I think you’re right to a degree. Obviously, many of those who are downloading it heard via word-of-mouth that a new version was out and that they should download it; however, testing shows time and again that these “little things” do end up making a huge difference. For Mozilla, a less spontaneously persuasive landing page could have meant the difference between 4-5 million downloads in a day and the 7 million they ended up getting.

    Finally, I can only guess as to why they haven’t been announcing the new version to existing Firefox users, but the safe bet is that A) they were concerned about crashing the servers… again, and B) that they’re still working out a few last minute bugs.

  17. I viewed it in IE. I thought it was strange.

  18. but how many users are there – I am merely observing percentages…7 million would not even cover the hard core FF users.

    Me, I’ll wait till all the plugins are revised for compatibility – In have such problems last upgrade!

  19. Guinness Book of World Records….

  20. unfortunately I was out of the city without internet so I couldn’t download it last ‘download day’. I admit that I felt really sorry!

  21. The overload on the download servers was just a third reason for media to write about Mozilla Firefox, besides the announcement of Download Day and the download record that was achieved. I wouldn’t see it as a disadvantage.
    Usually it’s bad news when your service is down, but when the service is down because millions of peoples (more than you prepared for) are eager to download your new product, this is great publicity.

  22. Thanks Robert

  23. I do not really think that the button is the main reason for the downloads.

  24. @ K Si – Of course your right, the button is only a part of it. But people want to know they are downloading a trusted application. If I went to some random site and it said download firefox from us, I’d certainly be skeptical. I want to know I’m downloading it from the original source.

    oh, and Congrats Firefox (my preferred browser)

  25. [...] Firefox 3 Shows How a Good Landing Page Can Convert Seven Million Visitors a Day: Test, retest, and enjoy the benefits. [...]

  26. unfortunately I was out of the city without internet so I couldn’t download it last ‘download day’. I admit that I felt really sorry!

  27. they don’t overcome easily; will this release work with all my , testing application. If I went to some random site and it said existing add-ons and plugins. If the visitor shows time downloading a trusted doesn’t and that they should download it; however

  28. Ok, I’m not sure I agree to what was mentioned. No disrespect I suppose.

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