Enroute: Building Amazing Software

My Application Journey:

I had the aspiration of contributing to FOSS through Outreachy and working with Mozilla since over a year. Having subscribed to the mailing list for Outreachy’s Application information, when I saw the applications had begun, I rushed my way to the website.

I had spoken to previous Outreachy interns and they had one salient advice to give: “choose the project that you think you’ll love working on!” I remember spending a week going through all the projects listed by Mozilla, in detail, trying to ensure the one I picked complements my skill set!

“The goal is to build amazing software!” This is the first thing that caught my eye on the “Project Description” page for my project- “Improve the Firefox Certificate Error Pages”.

Instantly, I emailed my project mentor, Johann Hofmann, and got a very supportive response. The entire process of contributing to this project was so enriching that I remember thinking that even if I didn’t get selected, I’ll be left with indelible knowledge. That’s the best part about Mozilla: the community is very helpful. I kept contributing to the project even after the deadline because I had become extremely passionate about it. Eventually, the results came out and I was elated to know I had gotten in!

What is my project about?

The Firefox Certificate Error Pages are essentially the error pages that are shown to users when Firefox fails connect to a website due to a bad SSL certificate. The project aims at improving the copy and UX design of certificate error pages to be more helpful to both advanced users and regular users. We also intend to better detect and alert the user about issues with their computer, such as interfering anti-virus solutions or wrong system clock.

Mozilla is as open source as it can get and Firefox is created by a global non-profit dedicated to putting individuals in control online! The Firefox team conducted surveys and testings to best determine user feelings in order to improve the UI. They made us reach to the following conclusions regarding some changes we need to make:

  • The Design changes essentially aim at making more Information salient; allowing users to see all of the information at once and iconize more serious warning messages
  • Reword the error message to put more emphasis on the site rather than the connection
  • Provide instructions on updating clock and eliminate the error due to wrong system clock
  • Include “I Understand the Risks” button so that the user is sure about the potential risk

Some of the planned copy designs are as below:

SEC_ERROR_EXPIRED_CERTIFICATE bypassable@2x.png

This error page helps the user know about a potential security threat because of which Firefox did not continue to [name of website] (example.com). If you visit this site, attackers could try to steal information like your passwords, emails, or credit cards.

 

To better understand the difference, you could compare it with the current certificate error page:
Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 2.57.57 PM

Another important error page category we’d be tackling would be the Wrong System Error Clocks and this is the planned design:

SEC_ERROR_OCSP_FUTURE_RESPONSE certain@2x.png

This error page informs the user that their computer clock is set to [Month day, year, time]. They also see the message to ensure their computer is set to the correct date, time, and time zone in their system settings, and then refresh example.com.

These are just two examples of the copy that has been proposed. We have decided to pref-off and fork the error page code and have filed some bugs. We hope these would add small improvements, that will add up to a more pleasant overall user experience, along with improving the security and privacy of all Firefox users.

The Outreachy internship period has commenced, and I am super excited to finally be a part of what the project description said: “building amazing software!”

 

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