Facebook Design Teardown (1 of 3)

I’ve been diving into all sorts of new areas and skills this past year, including two disciplines that particularly excite me: UX and design.

Recently, I’ve completed the Viking Code School Web Design Basics course (which I’d highly recommend), and for the final assignment we were tasked to conduct a design review of Facebook from a UX perspective.

The review is broken into three parts: UX Review (Part 1), Design Review (Part 2), and Mockups (Part 3).

UX Review

1) Who is the main user of Facebook?

People who want to more easily stay in touch with family, friends, and loose connections, and who want a simple way to share personal life updates.

This product is not catered to geriatrics as the text is on the small side (especially the left hand column) and navigation is not intuitive.

2) What are the top 3 critical goals for that user?

Once Signed Up*:

  • Scroll through the News Feed
  • Search through content of Friends (via their Profile)
  • Comment on posts/ Engage with content

(*Please note: This is after having already friended people, which is a critical goal immediately post-Sign Up)

3) What is the site’s approximate information architecture?

4) For your top user goal, what is likely to make the user’s experience particularly satisfying?

  • Continual engagement and feedback (I.e., Receiving likes, comments, etc. on a post and being tagged in photos/ posts is both addicting and can be interpreted as social acceptance or validation. We all want to be liked)
  • Large, colorful photos from the people you care most about or are most interested in. These types of posts catch the eye, and because they often are cut off at the fold they encourage the user to scroll down
  • No advertisements

5) To accomplish this goal, how does the user flow through the site’s architecture?

6) What style(s) of navigation is/are used? Do they answer the key questions (Where am I and how did I get here? Where should I go next and how do I get there?)?

There is not a clear, simple to read navigational system. There is no “bread crumbs” indicator (which shows you what level of depth you are in), though this makes sense since the primary exploratory tool is the News Feed (it’s a pretty flat hierarchy), and all “home” buttons lead back to this page. There is a “bread crumbs” system on a Profile, where the tabs are located.

The primary pages are News Feed, Profile, Search, Group/ Page. Header images and titles make it clear who or what page you are on. The top bar remains consistent, with two avenues back to the News Feed.

The overall layout could be daunting to a new user as the wealth of information that is presented is overwhelming and seemingly lacking organization. It’s akin to a tsunami of visual information.

On the other hand, this layout may encourage exploration (ala scouring through an off-price retailer for a gem or deal).

7) What does Facebook do well to allow the user to accomplish the top goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?

  • Never ending scrollability of the News Feed and posts in a Profile
  • Names of poster, friends, likes, etc. on posts encourages you to explore a users profile, and friends of friends
  • Large pictures in posts (they often consume nearly 1/2 of the viewable screen height-wise), which visually stands out from the otherwise text-heavy content
  • “Quick user profiles” that pop up when you hover over a name in a post allows for a swift scan of a person, shares a snapshot of updates, and provides an easy way to friend them. This supports further friend/ friend of friend exploration

8) What does Facebook do poorly when allowing the user to accomplish the top goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?

  • The Advertisements/ Suggested Posts disturb the experience. Often, the post seems incongruent with the rest of the stream. These type of posts pull the user’s attention because if almost forces you to be more vigilant about the source of the post (to verify that it is in fact not posted by someone you care about, which if purposeful, is clever. And annoying)
  • Personally, many of the posts I see are made by people on the periphery of my social circle, which diminished my interest in their content to some extent. This likely has more to do with my lack of activity on the platform (minimal feedback to the system for personalizing my stream), and limited use of filters/ defining the parameters of what type of content I want to see. They should encourage a user to sort friends, as a primary way to fine-tune who they are most likely to see content from
  • Overall, there is a lack of guidelines about how to use the service (from security settings to who can see posts), which can cause frustration when wanting to make change to the experience. When considering Facebook’s general lack of transparency, this can compound the feeling that Facebook is a bit untrustworthy