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Facebook redesign March 24, 2009

Posted by baldricman in News, Tech.
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The new Facebook design really sucks. I hate to post something like this, and I’m usually the last to pronounce (negative) judgement on “new” looks etc for sites (or anything for that matter), and I count myself as one of the positive people, the optimists, when it comes to this sort of thing. In fact, I happened to really like the last major UI change to Facebook, which was met with massive criticism indeed. And that is why I thought so carefully about posting something like this after I first opened Facebook after that changes.

I’ve tried to like it, honest. I’ve really, really tried. I’ve looked for benefits to the new layout. But I just can’t find anything, ANYTHING that is better about it! I recently signed up on Twitter (just a day or so before the change in fact), and still have not “clicked” with it… I just don’t see it as something I’ll use much. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I opened Facebook to see…. Twitter. Wait a sec…. I’m sure I typed in “faceb…..” Damnit! They’ve mated! They’ve produced an evil, ugly red-headed spawn!
In my opinion, Facebook has merely indicated its concern over the growing Twitter “phenomenon”  by immitation. (What do they say about flattery?) But did they not think that Twitter was never really in competition with them in the first place? They (used to) fulfil different needs.

As you probably are acutely aware, there is an overwhelming majority of facebook users who agree with my sentiments. So far, of the few who have supported the change, I still have not heard any reason why the new look is better (not just a good reason, I mean any reason at all).

The only argument is that “people complained previously about changes, but now they like them”. I’m sorry, but that’s not an argument.

Anyway, I felt most vindicated when I came across this article today. It turns out that Facebook employees hate the new design too. 

The feedback on Facebook’s new look, which emphasizes a stream of Twitter-like status updates, is almost universally, howlingly negative. Why isn’t CEO Mark Zuckerberg listening to users? Because he doesn’t have to, he’s told employees.

Mark Twitterberg, wake up.

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Comments»

1. Deems - March 24, 2009

I think this is definitely a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” for Facebook. When they first launched their home page was VERY busy, bordering on that MySpace crap but with better layout. Then they revamp’ed the home page and a lot of people were confused or didn’t like it – yet it had just the right amount of information visible in nicely cordoned off areas.

Now however, it’s just a twitter-like stream with even less info than before. Gotta agree with the other 94% of users (including, as you said, Facebook staff) that the current home page, sucks, big time.

I think the fame and fortune (are they breaking even or making a profit yet) has gone to old Twitterberg’s (lol) head!

2. Juffs - March 26, 2009

I realize I may be criticized for this but I must say – I don’t feel as strongly on the issue as it seems most people do. Maybe I’m just too accepting I don’t know.

I find that I have developed a dependence on Facebook in order to keep in touch with the rest of the world (as I’m sure most of us have to some extent). In my case, this is something that cannot really be affected by changes to the UI. What keeps me coming back is the fact that so many people I know regularly use Facebook, and thus I can access information about them and communicate through use of the site. I find the way this information is presented on the site generally doesn’t hinder my desire to look for it.

I do not necessarily think that the changes are good, but since I use the sight so regularly, I do appreciate the fact that I can now expect my homepage to actually show me something new when I view it. I have also used Twitter, and must admit when I first signed up I didn’t really see the point. It was after reading an article about the social networking phenomenon (referring mainly to Facebook and Twitter) in Popular Mechanics a while back that I realized just how cool Twitter could be. As I see it, 2 things are required however:

1) many/most/all of your friends should be using it
2) everyone should be “tweeting” often

Unfortunately in my case, so far I haven’t managed to connect to many friends on Twitter – not even Kev yet 🙂 Thus I phail on criteria 1 and thus couldn’t really be bothered to tweet often because few people are gonna see it anyway. For this reason, though I still use Twitter from time to time, it has kinda been put on hold until more of my friends start using it – if they do of course.

However, Facebook is now so widely used that most of us are already connected to huge networks of friends and family. Maybe the new UI is an effort to try and encourage people to do status updates/publish more often? i.e. to help people in terms of criterion 2.

I reckon the change must in some way be motivated by a desire to influence the way people use the site – can’t see why else they’d bother. Whether it be to keep people on the site for longer, to visit the site more often, to make space for ads/make ads more prominent – I don’t know.

But as far as I’m concerned, it’s a free service so I’ll accept minor changes that keep the developers happy (or in this case maybe not so happy since it sounds like they weren’t in agreement with Mark) and simply adapt to them. If I were paying to use the site then I could expect the developers to actually care whether I like it or not.

Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong or am missing the mark totally.

baldricman - March 26, 2009

Juffs, you’re wrong… 😛

Just kidding, you raised some really excellent points. In particular, the 2 “criteria” for successful social networking are spot on, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that that is why I haven’t been “hooked” by twitter. (In Twitter’s case, I still don’t see huge personal need, but thats another story!)

With regards to stopping using Facebook, I also “rely” on it a fair amount. I also don’t *really* see myself dropping it, but my usage of it has lessened, and changed dramatically over the past few days, much like you alluded to. But I can’t see how my changes could be beneficial: all I have done is change my status, and comment on other people’s statuses. I never really used to do either, but I DID do a lot of other stuff, which I now don’t do.
In my opinion, Facebook has moved away from a “grazing-friendly”, full-bodied experience, to a more jerky, narcissistic, say-whatever-first-pops-in-my-head kind of experience, which is a) more like Twitter, and b) the problem with the internet in general these days. :-p

Finally, I understand its free, but my complaint isn’t one of “how dare they change MY facebook”, which seems to be an almost prevaling notion in the complaint groups. Mine is actually a “professional” complaint, if I can use the term – I still haven’t met anyone who finds the site more accessible and usable and attractive than previously. The best I’ve heard (and no offense intended) is the following:
a) its change, nobody likes change. But I’ll be different
b) its free, so I can’t/won’t complain
c) it *must* be better, surely, or else they wouldn’t have changed it… surely?

The changes in FB break numerous fundamental principles of UI usability and appeal, such as confusing purposes, obfuscating mappings, mixing messages, and not clearly defining “areas of function”. Textbook stuff that they’ve done wrong (UPDATE: They are now making small changes, daily, in response to many similar complaints). Facebook, a few months ago, was an example of one of the best and most user-friendly sites around, in my opinion. Now, its heading dangerously close to becoming an example I will use of how NOT to design a user interface.

3. Juffs - March 26, 2009

I think we are pretty much in agreement then – your points are valid and you are far more qualified than I in terms of judging whether the user interface is good or bad.

However, I do tentatively want to put it to you that I think it is wrong to say that the change has resulted in no improvements. I agree that much of the functionality has been decreased, and I also find that I now have to go looking for stuff which normally would have been easier to get to. However I don’t think I have been using Facebook less. And though the content of interaction, comments etc may decrease in quality in some cases as a result of the changes, it does seem to generate more traffic and in many cases more interest.

I reckon by design there are certain aspects of Facebook which will always remain chaotic to some extent. Those of us who want to use the internet more sensibly and interact in a more structured manner are able to express ourselves in the form of personal blogs, with the associated well thought out and appropriate comments 🙂

baldricman - March 26, 2009

Great stuff 🙂
I will then say that the change has resulted, in my opinion, “in no functional or aesthetic improvements, to the user”. In part, and by nature, this statement is a little subjective of course, but I’ll stand by it.

Juffs, thanks for the engaging comments!


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