Hi Jaryn, thanks for checking out my article. It’s great to see your ideas and thoughts about how Facebook’s UI could be improved.
I thought it might be helpful to give you some feedback on the redesigns you proposed. Since I don’t have Facebook’s internal knowledge about their design, I’m mostly spitballing—so feel free to disregard all of my comments below. These are just the kinds of things I’d think about at Basecamp if we were considering changes like these, so you can get a sense of what’s behind the curtain.
My profile page has so much detail that I never touch or want to fill out. Why do I need to showcase all this information right away? I put all of that info over by my name. Now you can hover over an info icon and learn a little bit more about me.
There are a couple of potential gotchas with a change like that…
First off, not all devices support mouse hover events. (Like a Surface Pro without a keyboard.) So in general you shouldn’t rely on hover for anything other than supplemental interactions, like highlighting a menu link when someone hovers it with a mouse. You could just use a click event to show the info instead.
Also, hiding information behind an icon makes it less obvious, so you have to weigh the reduction in clarity against the visual simplification you gain by hiding it. If those profile details are indeed rarely used by the majority of users, then putting them in a submenu or something is a fine choice. You could check usage metrics to help determine that — like if 90% of users ignore those profile details too, then it’s probably OK to bury them more. If that number’s closer to 50%, then it’s better to keep them right upfront.
And lastly, you might think a little more about why you don’t want to fill out that information. Perhaps the current design is partly to blame. What if the information was bubbled up more prominently, or displayed in a different way? What if you had more incentive to fill it out, maybe by being prompted in a fun way and then immediately sharing it with your friends? It might be more useful then.
Photographs and my status updates should be the most important thing on my profile. Let’s make that larger! I understand if you change that structure then you lose the ads on the side — that’s why I included ads within the feed of your profile.
This is one of those cases where the user’s interests and the organization’s interests collide. As a user, those ads are somewhat annoying. But if you’re Facebook, those ads pay your paycheck. So you have to tread very lightly when you change their positioning.
It could be that moving them into the feed is fine, or doing so might drastically alter clickthrough rates and reduce your revenue. There’s no way to know in advance, so at Basecamp we would A/B test changes like that, to ensure we didn’t inadvertently hurt our bottom line.
I hate going through my page and filtering through all the unwanted noise just to find that one funny post I care most about. I changed the structure so now you can click back and forth between status updates, posted photos, videos, shares, etc.
This is a cool idea (I think I would use this too.) The only trouble is that Facebook is now all about algorithmically showing you things they think you’d like, in some magic order they’ve predetermined. So a filtering UI like this is sort of counter to how the app is currently implemented.
To actually launch that design, you’d have to change the implementation in a significant way—which is a big undertaking. It’s also the kind of change that tends to make users cranky, since they’re all accustomed to the way it works right now…even if the new UI is ultimately better in the end!
I also cleaned up the groups, trending, and events sections on the side by making some ghost buttons.
This is a nice visual simplification, but it comes with a cost: it’s now more clicks to get to a certain group or event, etc. This is the sort of thing I was getting at in my “messy interfaces” article…at a glance, the current left column in Facebook looks like a huge mess, but it’s also quite fast and easy to drill right into any of the topics shown. You don’t have to guess where to find something because it’s all listed right there.
Reducing that UI down to a few simple buttons is objectively much nicer looking, but I’d bet it’d reduce engagement in those features too. That may be a fair trade, but again you’d have to keep a close eye on usage metrics.
(Worth noting, Facebook did test a simpler redesign somewhat like yours in 2013, and ended up scrapping it. There was a bit of controversy over why they scrapped it.)
Anyway…Sorry to drop a bunch of unsolicited feedback on you, but I hope it was useful! Cheers and all the best :)