Recently, Facebook made a lot of changes to their user interface and they’ve promised more changes to come. The changes have met with some very harsh, well-deserved criticism. Oh, I’m sure they had focus groups who voiced their opinions of what needed to be changed, and beta testers who love taking apart Chinese puzzle boxes in their spare time.
Are Facebook critics screaming because we all are resistant to change, forever preferring that which is familiar to us? I’m sure the Facebook developers and decision makers believe that’s the problem and that given time, we’ll like the new interface. Are they going to undo the changes? Roll it back to how it was before? Probably not. They’ve invested a lot of time and money in what they believe is a better interface.
Was the old interface a little bit kludgy? a little bit unwieldy if you have hundreds, thousands of “friends”? Yep. No doubt about it. But it was fairly easy to figure out. Back in the day, software developers strived to make their software “intuitive to use.” This concept seems to have been forgotten by the Facebook developers.
Hearing the words “that’s the way it’s always been done here” makes me want to scream. I know that, at some point in the past, someone came up with a “brilliant” method for completing a task or organizing a project. I am always the first to encourage a rethink as new technologies or other changes affect that beloved and familiar procedure.
But the internet is a tool. And while it’s true that you can’t visit too many websites these days without an Adobe Flash Player add-in, it’s time for a little “old skool” thinking.
1. Is it intuitive to use? Could Grandma get on this website, find her way around, and look forward to coming back because the site didn’t make her feel incompetent?
2. Is navigation easy to understand? No mystery-meat icons instead of words, no need to click more than 3 or 4 times to get where you want to go? I have no doubt that Facebook would have met with less resistance if they’d left the title bar alone. FB users all knew home, profile, account sequence in the upper right corner.
3. Is it easy to customize the user interface? Not all sites need this, but a site like Facebook definitely does. It seems that the newsfeed/home page has become much more “one size fits all” Even my web-based e-mail screen allows me to group, categorize, sort, and filter information.
I have no doubt the Facebook world is in mourning the loss of the friendlier site FB once was. Take heart, my friends, a year from now, we’ll be used to it. We won’t think it’s any better than we do now, but we’ll have learned to live with it.
Last word: I hope website designers everywhere are taking notes and learning something from Facebook’s introduction of “new coke.”