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Analyzing Facebook’s Forthcoming Redesign

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Last week, a source emailed us two screenshots of Facebook’s forthcoming redesign. While it’s still a work in progress, it shows some simple yet major enhancements that reveal where the world’s largest social network with over 350 million subscribers might be headed. For starters, Facebook seems to be returning to its roots, emphasizing fidelity instead of noise in its news feed.

Here are some of the changes:

  • The navigation bar is reorganized, and thankfully, it seems like Facebook is removing the duplicate profile link. The name and profile links didn’t make much sense to begin with.
  • The search field is now next to the Facebook logo, a clear sign that the company wants search to play a major role in the future. Searches for brands, events, companies and celebrities will be more prominent.
  • By combining settings and login in an all-purpose “account” dropdown, Facebook is making the overall experience cleaner.
  • The sidebar is scaled down and takes a lot of cues from Facebook Lite. In fact, the new design takes inspiration from Facebook Lite in the way News Feed, Friends, Events and Photos are displayed.
  • Bookmarks is a smart way for users to add links to their favorite applications, fan pages or whatever.
  • Facebook IM is still firmly ensconced at the bottom right, but app quick links and notifications are gone.

Josh Brewer, a web designer friend of mine, believes the new design is actually pretty good and will help people consume a lot of information easily, without being overwhelmed. “I think that the changes Facebook is planning are solid, calculated design decisions based on a ton of data and research,” he said.

What are your thoughts?

66 Responses to “Analyzing Facebook’s Forthcoming Redesign”

  1. Lisa Cech

    I happen to be one of the guinea pigs picked at random to use the new interface. Two things about it have really messed up the functionality for me:

    1. There are no application filters. I play several FB games, like Castle Age. If I need to fill my Elite Guard, I can’t just filter all the Castle Age notifications to see who has called for EG. Since I have close to 1000 friends, the feed shows less than 1/2 hour of notifications without a filter. It’s really annoying to have to scroll through 30 screens to see who has called for help in the last 3 hours. With the old layout, I could filter all requests by application.

    2. The bookmarks only appear on the home page. Again, since I play several FB games, I can no longer go from one app to the other. I have to go back to the home page to get to my bookmarks. This seems like a huge step backwards.

    There are other annoyances — the first icon next to the FB logo is for friend requests, but you can’t assign a group by accepting through that icon; you have to go to the confirm requests page. The second icon is messages received, but you can’t read them from that icon; you have to go to the inbox. But those things I can live with.

    • Oh i don’t like the lack of filters at all! I do have a question for you though (on the current version of FB) since you seem to be the type that would know this. I take it since you have so many friends (many of whom you may not know personally, but have as friends for your game apps ie mafia wars, farmville, etc.) you probably don’t want to see all of their status updates along with all the other useless info (so and so became friends with someone you don’t even know)…so my question is, can you hide these people on your live feed, but still have them show on your application filter? Or somehow set it up to where the only info you see of that person is their posts associated with that app?? I’m dying to know this!

  2. Hmmm….
    * Looks like more space for ads. Maybe inevitable, but awful.
    * Notifications is a KEY features. I understand that putting it at the top of the page is “promoting” it – but you’ll now scroll away from it. When it was at the bottom it was sticky so you could use it as a primary form of navigation.
    * As many people have pointed out, filtering the content coming at you is too tough. Personally, I believe this to be a holy-grail, really, really hard type of problem and whatever company really figures it out will have a huge leg up. (It ties into alerts and a lot of other things…). I don’t think FB has even scratched the surface on this topic.

  3. Users of service providers such as FB (and GOOG, YHOO, AAPL, MSFT, and their ilk) have shown much “righteous indignation” toward these service providers at times, for various reasons.

    However, these service providers have shown a history of ignoring righteous indignation.

    And users act in ways that belie their righteous indignation: they support the service providers in $clicks$ when not in words.

    So the service providers may easily yawn.

  4. looks a lot better, although my initial thoughts are that people will once again be very annoyed with yet another FB redesign.
    I did like FB lite although I felt like there wasnt quite enough information on screen and that it was a little too lite. I think the proof will be in the pudding. Metaphorical pudding of course. FB pudding would taste skanky.

    • Wow that is cool! What is that? Something you can download (like you could change your appearance on MySpace) or someone just tooling around making a mock FB page with a ton of cool enhancements (perhaps as a suggestion to the designers)?

      • That is not what the new facebook looks like. Look at the screenshots at the top of this page. I have the new facebook and that is not it. Facebook is using me as a “test dummy” for the new look.

  5. yea i also thot notifications was “gone”. It went on the top though. It should have been where it was because we are used to seeing notifications in bottom right corner – be it IMs, new mail, etc. That’s where our eyes go!

  6. It looks better.

    I do have to complain about moving the notifications – I thought it made sense keeping that next to the chat widget, since chat and notifications are two things I monitor most frequently. I guess search and notifications are conceptually more similar and I do use search often to jump to people’s page, so I’ll probably get used to it.

    On a similar note, it’s still senseless how a lot of core functionality – events, chat, inbox, notifications and search – is scattered all over the screen. It’s almost funny to think that Facebook’s clean design/navigations were key differentiators over Myspace a few years ago. Compared to the efficient screen organization of the best Twitter clients ( included), Facebook is now the kludgey/poorly organized social network.

    • I agree that I’ve always been confused that the three things I care about first when I log in – notifications, requests, inbox, and chat – are all in different places. I wish Facebook would give me a two-paned “dashboard” of sorts that shows my friends’ activity (live feed) in one pane and my incoming “stuff” (notifications, requests, chat, and inbox) in the other. I don’t see a ton of difference between requests and notifications anyway, so I’m not sure why they’re separated to begin with.

  7. It’s misleading to say “notifications are gone” even if you only mean from the bottom right. YOu didn’t discuss the three icons between the logo and search bar that handle notifications. Perhaps you haven’t seen those screenshots?

  8. Om,

    The screenshot a lot of folks are looking for is a simple sharing settings area that is pervasive across all elements of the service — period.

    Security Elements Everywhere (SEE)

    [a] “Public” (Anyone on the Interwebs)
    [b] Facebook (Anyone on Facebook)
    [c] Friends Only (Anyone I added as a friend)
    [d] FoF (Anyone my Friends add as Friends)
    [e] Private (only I can see this)

    Note for any FB vanity search wonks reaching this comment: feel free to steal “SEE” backronym

    Pictorially showing the exposure counts for information would be worthwhile — i.e. your information will be shown to (a) The Internet! (b) 450M users (c) 4609 people through your friends (d) 230 of your friends (d) just you

    Unfortunately, this SEE design runs counter to the implied goals of the FB product management to opt-out sharing. Ramming opt-out on a base of FB accounts is the latest reason I (and others) question FB motives.

    Also, in the wake of the recent FB privacy change [1], no pushing of the live feed to the left/right/top/bottom changes the damage inflicted to any perceived trust of the FB platform. FB as a place for friends is a far away reach. Regression testing must be really, uh, hard. As a result, FB reserves the right to just dump everything about you into a search engine somewhere as part of “progress” or so-called iterative design improvements.

    [1] no major epiphany here because the privacy policy is basically the fine print with most of what gets tossed out with every credit card terms of service or privacy notification for other service you might sign up for these days — where everything about you is up for sale

    • Jay

      I guess since you follow me on Twitter, you by now know that I agree with most of your suggestions and have been worried about FB’s privacy policy. So you won’t get many arguments from me. But thanks for listing out your points.

      “Unfortunately, this SEE design runs counter to the implied goals of the FB product management to opt-out sharing. Ramming opt-out on a base of FB accounts is the latest reason I (and others) question FB motives”::: I would like to wait and see what FB actually launches and then comment on it.

      “Pictorially showing the exposure counts for information would be worthwhile — i.e. your information will be shown to (a) The Internet! (b) 450M users (c) 4609 people through your friends (d) 230 of your friends (d) just you” That is a great suggestion.

      • “I would like to wait and see what FB actually launches and then comment on it.”


        I understand. I just have higher expectations now knowing the FB team has been receptive to feedback (controversial) in the past.

        My outside attempt to look find a clear developer roadmap for permissions granularity found self referential links to the FB blog posts. Circuitous routes indeed. I’m sure they see implications I cannot fathom as an outsider.

        As such, I don’t want to paint FB team with too wide of a brush — my critique of FB notifications as the sole mechanism for email use notwithstanding.

  9. apphackers

    When are they not creating a new redesign. It’s ridiculous how often they redesign. Whatever usability benefit comes with each redesign is defeated by having to learn a new ui all over again. It’s pretty stupid.

  10. The challenge with repeatedly redesigning the site is there is usually a lot of frustration with learning to re-navigate the site.

    It’s surprising that Facebook doesn’t allow for people to opt-in to an upgraded version to avoid the backlash of the frustrated masses.

    I also agree with the other posts regarding the confusion over the Live Feed/News Feed feature. And I also agree that ensuring the “birthdays” feature is best kept prominent as well.

    Hopefully the redesign will be intuitive and not bury some of the useful applications devoted followers know and love.

    Leslie Hughes

  11. I love it. Redesign – intelligent IA is one of the most important factors in the longevity of a social network, and I’m glad Facebook continues to move in that direction, ignoring all the constant criticism.

    I’m also loving LinkedIn’s redesign – also necessary and way overdue.

    • Yea, the three icons to the left of the search bar do represent notifications. the first one is Friend Requests. Then second is Mail. The third are your normal notifications that used to be in the bottom right. I have the redesign already as it seems that I am a “test dummy”. Thus far I am loving it. Just wish that you still got notifications for status comments for your status’s and others that you have commented on.

  12. It still has the inscrutable twin feeds. Is there no news in the Live Feed? Is the News Feed less live? Why is the “update” button for both feeds called “News Feed?”

  13. I wonder which privacy features they will remove this time, under the stealth cover of a redesign? Also, the News Feed is still there. The design itself is okay, cleaning up some functions a bit and making the search bar more prominent.

    • Ditto. I know FB didn’t care a whit about user feedback. So I removed, for now, all Personally Identifiable Information. Making myself a very boring FB person indeed. If FB removes yet more granular control over privacy, I wonder what good it’ll be to retain FB membership. I know FB is partially about linking up with “friends” but it’s also about becoming “fans” of news sources and participating in “apps” and DETAILED control over the very specific items to which these “friends” (and other unfriended searchers and the world of the unfriended web) have access.

      • I want the ability to hide my friends from other people seeing them. I don’t mind them seeing mutual friends, but they don’t need to know how many I have and who I am connected to.

  14. Totally agree with the comment on live/news feed; FB needs to release the magical algorithm that determines which content is “interesting” as per their description. “News Feed aggregates the most interesting content that your friends are posting, while Live Feed shows you all the actions your friends are making in real-time.” Clearly this feature has merit when you have hundreds of friends (many hundreds, even thousands).

    I also wish they made the security (who sees what post/info/etc) a bit easier. Now that I’ve gone the trouble of categorizing all 300+ friends to multiple lists (I made up these categories – Work, Work+, close friends, family, workout friends) I wish they had a list for “news feed” so that I could have more control of what could be a useful feature.

  15. I am in total agreement with Silus on the News Feed/Live Feed problem. No matter hot many times I set my default to Live Feed (because I am in fact one of those people who like to see everything from those who I don’t “hide”), it changes back -almost daily now.

    News Feed always features stupid Mafia Wars/Farmville alerts but rarely captures my friends commenting on their bad day or posting cool links. Or it has posts 12 hours old that I’ve already seen!

    Basically, Facebook should allow us to granularly select the types of posts we want in our feed (links, updates, videos, who is friends with who etc etc), and whose posts are seen on our feed. It shouldn’t be Facebook’s job to determine what we should and shouldn’t see.

    Like Silus, I use the iPhone app to make sure I don’t miss things.

    The rest of the changes are basically meaningless to me. I did like the status alerts in the lower right corner before though.

  16. Some solid advances and no apparent missteps.

    I’m especially liking the creation of bookmarks, as it will hopefully be a short-term fix to the on-going problem of “lost” pages. Various areas of the site seem completely inaccessible except by chance — like the Room of Requirements, only more fickle and with a sadistic streak. Now, when I actually stumble across the EVENTS creation page, I can bookmark it!

    I’m saddened, though, by the persistence of the NEWS FEED/LIVE FEED dichotomy. It’s completely lost on me, and many other people. I simply don’t see a difference between the two. And worse, the two feeds STILL don’t cover all the updates available to me. Now, the only time I feel confident that I’ve actually seen all my updates is by surfing my wall on the (maddeningly frustrating) iPhone app.

    Facebook: the Site I Hate to Love

  17. As usual, I love the new Facebook redesign. Of course there will be a backlash, however that’s to be expected.

    My biggest problem is how far down events and Birthdays still are. I would argue that they are more important to users than “Suggestions” or the sponsored links, however the former are more important to Facebooks’ bottom line.

    The bookmarks are a great addition, and I am guessing I am going to like having notifications on the top left.

    Cutting down on the length of the chat bar is a much needed improvement- having it stretch across the entire page used to break Ctrl+F searching (since the chat bar always covered up the found terms).

    Overall, I’m looking forward to the new design- I can’t find anything about it that I wouldn’t consider an improvement.