The alpha version of Mozilla's community-driven Firefox support site offers how-to and troubleshooting documents directed toward new users -- a crucial audience if the browser is to capture and maintain additional market share.
"Our target reader is someone who does not know how to use about:config, or add a toolbar button, without instruction," explains the Best Practices for Support Documents, on the new Firefox Support Contributor home page. "This means each article should not only provide answers, but instructions, and assume the user has kept all settings at their default values. In general, try to write articles in such a way, that your mom would understand."
Now, granted, some moms -- and dads -- are tech-savvy and wouldn't use Internet Explorer (IE) anyhow. But as an alternative application, Firefox has to overcome a huge wall of resistance. IE comes installed on every Windows PC; users who want something else have to make an effort to find it, download it, install it, and get it up and running. And just because someone uses a computer at work, where there is probably on-tap tech support, doesn't mean he or she wants to bother messing with an alternative browser at home, no matter how compelling its features or customization options.
Recent numbers show that Firefox has been declining slightly in market share -- from an all-time high of 15.42% in April to 14.37% in July. Mozilla sees user-friendly online support for Firefox as a key element in attracting more users.
The existing content on the alpha support site is the result of strong Firefox community input, says J.T. Batson of the Mozilla marketing team. On his weblog, he asked that current users give it a try. "We need your help to kick the tires of the new site and to tell us whether or not you think the content will be helpful for the average Firefox user."
This being an alpha site, there is still more work to be done. Batson mentions a need for more article writers and editors; the initial call went out last month. Have a look at the formal Firefox Support Requirements Document, and if you think you can help, head on over to the registration page and get started.