A large number of people received the new facebook layout yesterday. I gather this was facebook’s “6th birthday present” to its users. Some had had it since earlier in the year and others still haven’t got it – but will.
There are a lot of ways of looking at the design, but the single biggest flaw is that things have changed. It’s not so much what they have changed into, but the fact that things people have become used to have been moved or tweeked for noÂ discernibleÂ reason.
This might not sound like a big deal to a lot of people, but I know of one user who’s dyslexic. For him to get used to finding something that’s moved from one corner to another is a big deal – he uses interfaces by memorising the location of things, not by visually recognising them. He has to relearn the interface from scratch – and for what purpose? None that I can ascertain.
I don’t use facebook to any great depth, so what I’ve spotted is likely to be fairly superficial. However, none of it makes any sense to me. First up is shifting the bottom bar around. The chat area is still at the bottom of the screen while the rest of the bar has been removed. Notifications are now in the top left instead of the bottom right.
This does give an extra line of screen real estate. I think. Or is the top now a little larger? However, it’s this particular move that’s caused problems for my dyslexic friend (and I’m sure many like him).
My particular bugbear is that I can’t be bothered with the news feed. It’s a mess and I really couldn’t care two hoots who is giving stupid virtual gifts to who, or who’s just got a highscore on some crappy game. I just want status updates.
In the previous version, I went to the correct area and dragged “Status” to the top of the list. Henceforth when I visited my “Home” area, I received status updates. This is no longer possible. “Home” now takes me to News Feed. It won’t even default to “Most Recent” so I have a completely useless splatter of informational crap that is of no use whatsoever.
I now have to go into “Friends” in the leftmost column. This in itself is badly-designed as there’s no indication whatsoever that “Friends” opens up sub-menus. There is a reason we have design standards, such as little boxes with “+” in them, or arrows with move from right-pointing to down-pointing. It’s simple design practise which facebook have chosen to ignore.
Once there, I’m stuck in the default Friends page and I then click on the newly-appeared “Status Updates” menu item to get what I used to find by simply clicking “Home” in the past. As far as I can tell, there is no way to set this as my default view.
Given that the press release from facebook read as follows:
A simplified home page to provide easier access to what you’re looking for on Facebook. You can now quickly navigate to commonly-used areas of the site from the top and left hand menus. From the Top Menu, you can now easily find new messages, requests, and notifications using the icons in the top, left hand corner. The left hand menu is now where you can find all of your applications, previously located in the bottom dock.
I would take issue with the use of “easily find”. Something that’s easily found should be immediately apparent, not located by means of a random search. I would also be tempted to say that the left hand columns isn’t a menu – it’s a list. Until you click on it and realise it just looks like a list.
Sure, it’s functional. There’s no denying the new look is tidier and reduces redundancy (there were so many ways on one screen to do the same thing before). But it’s very poor design. For a brand new user it lacks indication of the functionality of certain areas and for experienced users it’s moved things too far from where they were before with no obvious indication of where to look to find them.
As an aside, I think it’s badly programmed as well. This may just be coincidence, but when I left my browser (Chrome) on the Status Update page for about 11 hours yesterday when I was out, I came home to find that it was using stupid amounts of memory and froze. I never had this issue with the old design.
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