TOP READS OF 2020

The fiction and non-fiction that moved me during an unprecedented year.

Photos of many colors of books stacked on their sides.
Photos of many colors of books stacked on their sides.
Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

I read more in 2020 than I ever have before. With all social commitments canceled for the foreseeable future, I turned to books. I read them in all ways. I read paper books, e-books, and audiobooks. I read whatever format I could get my hands on from Chicago Public Library. The pandemic kept going, and I kept reading. According to GoodReads, which I use to track my reading, I read 85 books. This was over double the number I read the previous year. To close out the year, I’m reflecting back on some of the favorites I read in 2020.


Writing clear microcopy can sometimes take a surprising amount of time.

Photo of typesetting letters of various shapes and sizes.
Photo of typesetting letters of various shapes and sizes.
Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash.

The small bits of copy you see sprinkled throughout apps and websites are called microcopy. As content designers, we think deeply about what each word communicates.

Microcopy is the tidiest of UI copy types. But do not let its crisp, contained presentation fool you: the process to get to those final, perfect words can be messy. Very messy. Multiple drafts messy, mired with business and technical constraints.


The behind-the-strings work that content strategy does to improve the user experience of our products.

Image of white Android phone with Firefox logo over a purple background.
Image of white Android phone with Firefox logo over a purple background.
Firefox recently launched launched a completely overhauled Android experience that’s fast, personalized, and private by design.

The Firefox for Android team recently celebrated an important milestone. We launched a completely overhauled Android experience that’s fast, personalized, and private by design.

When I joined the mobile team six months ago as its first embedded content strategist, I quickly saw the opportunity to improve our process by codifying standards. This would help us avoid reinventing solutions so we could move faster and ultimately develop a more cohesive product for end users. Here are a few approaches I took to integrate systems thinking into our UX process.

Create documentation to streamline decision making

I had an immediate ask to write strings for several snackbars and…


How content strategy simplified the language and improved content design around a core Firefox feature.

Image of a shield on purple background with the words “Enhanced Tracking Protection.”
Image of a shield on purple background with the words “Enhanced Tracking Protection.”
Enhanced Tracking Protection is a feature of the Firefox browser that automatically protects your privacy behind the scenes.

Firefox protects your privacy behind the scenes while you browse. These protections work invisibly, blocking advertising trackers, data collectors, and other annoyances that lurk quietly on websites. This core feature of the Firefox browser is called Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP). When the user experience team redesigned the front-end interface, content strategy led efforts to simplify the language and improve content design.

Aligning around new nomenclature

The feature had been previously named Content Blocking. Content blockers are extensions that block trackers placed by ads, analytics companies, and social media. It’s a standardized term among tech-savvy, privacy-conscious users. However, it wasn’t well understood in user testing…


Michael Metts and Andy Welfle joined the Firefox UX team to discuss their book Writing is Designing: Words and the User Experience.

Photo of Writing is Designing with notebook, coffee cup, and computer mouse on a table.
Photo of Writing is Designing with notebook, coffee cup, and computer mouse on a table.

This post was co-written by Meridel Walkington.

The Firefox UX book club comes together a few times a year to discuss books related to the user experience practice. We recently welcomed authors Michael Metts and Andy Welfle to discuss their book Writing is Designing: Words and the User Experience (Rosenfeld Media, Jan. 2020).

To make the most of our time, we collected questions from the group beforehand, organized them into themes, and asked people to upvote the ones they were most interested in.

An overview of Writing is Designing

“In many product teams, the words are an afterthought, and come after the “design,” or the visual…


How a content strategist and designer collaborated quickly and iteratively from two different continents.

Even in the “before” times, the Firefox UX team was distributed across many different time zones. Some of us already worked remotely from our home offices or co-working spaces. Other team members worked from one of the Mozilla offices around the world.

Map with pins of Firefox UX team members around the world.
Map with pins of Firefox UX team members around the world.
The content strategists, designers, and researchers on the Firefox UX team span many time zones.

That said, remote collaboration still has its challenges. When you’re not in the same room with your teammates — or even the same time zone — problem solving and iterating together might not come as naturally. Don’t get discouraged. It can be done, and done well.

We recently built a prototype for the Firefox Private Network extension. Fast…


Six methods a UX content strategist at Firefox used during the product’s redesign.

Image of Firefox Monitor logo with text.
Image of Firefox Monitor logo with text.
Firefox Monitor is a data breach notification service created by Mozilla.

As a UX content strategist at Mozilla, I support not only our browsers, but also stand alone products like Firefox Monitor. It’s a service that notifies you when you’ve been in a data breach and what steps to take to protect your personal info.

Designing content for a product that delivers bad news presents unique challenges. Data breaches are personal. They can be stressful. Sometimes the information exposed can be sensitive. How we organize, structure, and surface content in Firefox Monitor matters.

When we had the opportunity to redesign the end-to-end experience, content strategy played a key role. I identified…


Not all the money you make is yours to keep.

Photo by JD on Flickr

1099-s. Schedule C. P&L. EIN. I didn’t even know these words existed as W-2 employee.

Now I’m fluent in this tax-related lingo. Well, kind of.

I’ve been working for myself for for three years. Figuring out taxes has been, hands-down, one of the most challenging aspects of it all. Come tax season, I’m juggling a jillion forms and am perpetually worried I’ve overlooked something that will lead to me owing the government oodles of money.

Paying quarterly state and federal taxes are a thing, but that’s the least confusing part…


Self employment has many perks. Figuring out health insurance coverage is not one.

Photo by jimiburg

As more friends and colleagues take the leap into freelancing, one of the most common questions I receive is how I approach health insurance.

When I walked into my boss’ office a few years ago to quit my job, that also meant giving up my employer-provided plan. Back then, I couldn’t have told you the difference between between a co-pay and a deductible. I probably couldn’t even tell you how much I paid since premiums were automatically deducted from my paycheck.

But self employment forced me to…


How a rejection letter and a plate of red velvet cupcakes led me to understanding how #FinHealthMatters.

Thank you for your interest in Northwestern University. After careful consideration of your application, I am sorry to inform you we are unable to offer you a place in the class of 2008.*

The 18-year-old me was devastated. I believed attending Northwestern was the ticket to my future success.

The 29-year-old me is relieved. Being rejected from my number one university was one of the best things that’s happened to me. It taught me a crucial financial health lesson, one I still try to follow every single day.

That lesson? Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The average cost of attending Northwestern is now $68,060 a year. Had…

Betsy Mikel

Senior Content Designer at Mozilla. I help people make the most of Firefox.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store