Facebook Doesn’t Know (about usability and design)

So, waiting perhaps 36 hours more than some people seemed to have to wait to get their Facebook update rollout, I’m now stuck with something I don’t like. Which is surprising to me. Unlike the majority of the Facebook population, I was in favor of, and liked (for the most part), the past couple of updates and redesigns. But there’s something about this new layout that irks me. I’ll try to put my finger on it: a usability nightmare?

Rounded Images
Here’s a challenge. Look at pretty much everything on Facebook and tell me what type of corners everything has. Square. Now there are a few exceptions, but for the most part those have just been implemented. So why would Facebook change our user-icons to have rounded edges—it just looks awkward and un-aesthetical. My guess: twitter has squares and we can’t look like we were trying to copy twitter.

Wall Posts
Take a look at your news feed and quickly try to find a wall post. This might be because the news feed is now FULL of status updates (more on that later), or it might be because they display almost exactly like a status update. There is one difference and that is the tiny grey arrow, which to me doesn’t delineate a conversation at all. Suggestions: two pictures, quotes…doesn’t matter, just do something about it.

Facebook’s thought process of this one is startling. Before Facebook had two places for notifications, the sidebar and the numbers next to the inbox. Now Facebook has three places: the sidebar for birthdays, the welcome banner for friend, application and event requests and the numbers next to the inbox. They couldn’t make this any more confusing.

Highlighted Items
Huge problems here. First off, by whose definition are these highlights highlighted. Personally I couldn’t care less what or who ‘ssenmodnaR’ is, or what ‘rar-rar’ is. Perhaps Facebook thinks I do, but I really don’t. You might have noticed in you’re news feed there is an option to hide a friends updates. Well you can’t hide a highlight. Here’s an idea: stop thinking for us Facebook ( And hiding ads in the highlights).

Again, questionable thought process here. Facebook: ‘hows about we get rid of all those icons that mark out what type of update is what, no wait here’s a better idea, hows about we get rid of all of them, except put them in the highlights bar’. Pick a design standard Facebook, this mix is confusing and un-aesthetical.

Not Enough Mix
Suddenly I’m stuck with a never ending list of status updates I don’t care about. What I really want is a decent mix of status updates, and to not have decent items I may want to view getting bumped off the bottom of the page by dumb updates like ‘don’t like new facebook’. I think you had it right last time Facebook. Keep it to three or four statuses at the top of the news feed, and have a separate section (like live feed) where you can see everyone’s up to date status.

Design Structure
Take a look at your profile and tell me how the content is divisible. Tabs. Well if this is the dominant design paradigm for Facebook, why have they done away with them on the homepage in favor of something completely different? It makes me think that Facebook has become so managerial and bureaucratically driven that separate divisions and brains are designing different pages at different times differently. Design structure unity is key to a good interface and good usability.

Combining publisher
Anyone on first glance wonder where the publisher went? I smiled and thought they’d abandoned the idea (I’d never used it except to update status). I was wrong. Turns out it’s hidden for on-click in textbox only. This is a usability flaw and a half, I always thought the idea was to have things as easy to access as possible in web design. Thought process: if I want to post a picture, I’m not going to type anything; I just want to click one button. Now I have to pretend to type a status update to get anywhere.

‘What’s on your mind?’
Basically, you need a different phrase. Of course you can’t use ‘what are you doing’ (twitter’s), but ‘what’s on your mind?’, to me, limits exactly to what I’m thinking about, and if that’s the case why haven’t they auto-inserted ‘is thinking about’ to every status box. Of if they’re mind/thinking updates, then their not status updates anymore.

We Will Adapt
The denizens of Facebook will undoubtedly adapt to the complicated, un-aesthetic and usability nightmare that is the new Facebook homepage. But right here and now it feels scraped together, a mish mash of a hundred different thoughts with no clear design patters, and no clear direction. It feels like Facebook when I first joined, which is a giant step back for a webpage, no tool, that hundreds of millions of people around the world use consistently everyday.

1 comment:

  1. Nice analysis! I think this may be a stage in an iterative design change. I'm sure Facebook has a clear goal in mind, but getting there in one step will alienate too many users.

    -- Chandima.