People are at the heart of everything we do at Facebook. Our people — our product designers — connect people and their family and friends, people and businesses, and business owners with their customers.
A connected ecosystem
Indeed, people are a vital part of our product-development process, from user experience researchers who observe and survey users to product designers and content strategists who work together to design solutions to our customers’ challenges.
As a product design leader on the Ads Interfaces Design Team, I help my team understand problems deeply and dream up solutions creatively. Facebook’s unique, multidisciplinary approach to design allows us to continuously explore thoughtful ways we can put people — and their diverse business needs — at the heart of every decision we make and product we build.
I actually think about the things we create less as single products in a development cycle and more as a connected ecosystem. Like all ecosystems, it consists of a community of individual elements that interact together to form a bigger force. On the ads team, that means we combine the technology that helps advertisers create effective campaigns — interactions, algorithms, optimizations — with the things only humans should be trusted to do.
Machines and people: a powerful combination
Software is great at analyzing data, but isn’t great at probing deeply, detecting emotion or expressing feelings. Computers may be able to process information at supersonic speeds, but only people can build empathy while applying creative and critical thinking.
For example, if we relied solely on human support to help businesses set up their ad campaigns, we wouldn’t be able to scale our free platform for the more than 140 million mostly small- and medium-size businesses who use ads to grow. Yet if we relied solely on algorithms, our platform would feel emotionless, senseless and unpredictable.
Even raw data needs people. People tell machines how to collect, structure and sort data. The data reveal hypotheses that people interpret using their critical thinking skills. People-powered product teams like mine design interfaces that facilitate deeper, more meaningful connections — and they also develop ways to measure the concept of “meaningful connections,” such as relevancy and engagement.
Finding the perfect balance to get the best out of both people and technology is important at every step along the way — stability is crucial to the health of any ecosystem. To maintain this balance, the system gives feedback. Sometimes the feedback reinforces and sometimes it prompts recalculation. Sometimes it frustrates by doing both. But the ecosystem is strong because it’s layered throughout with people who can examine, translate and improve.
Always learning and iterating
Now, “improvement” can be measured by machines that spit out charts and graphs showing areas of growth. But true societal improvement — the difficult, vulnerable, merciful kind — is on a different scale, as recent events have shown.
Both humans and machines can iterate based on new information, but only people can truly reflect on their decisions, acknowledge their blind spots, apologize when their choices lead to less-than-ideal outcomes, and take action to reduce harm in the future. Only people can admit their mistakes, address their failings, and create sensitive and responsible solutions.
Certainly at Facebook, we understand that we don’t get it perfect every time, and we have a constant desire to learn more and do better to build social technologies that enable the best of what people can do, individually and together.
The “yes, and” approach
Person-to-person interaction at every step is key to the advertising product ecosystem, in particular. We know that business owners don’t want to — and shouldn’t — spend their time sorting through the nitty gritty of all the data of their campaigns to figure out how to reach their customers or how effective their campaigns were. They’re much too busy running their businesses.
We certainly strive to create easily understandable interactions. We write straightforward language and design helpful guidance so business owners can create ads that reach their customers effectively. But we know that they sometimes need human help, so we proactively help by assigning them account managers, connecting them with on-demand marketing experts and offering other services to help them navigate their paths. This can include making sense of reporting, learning about target audiences, explaining and implementing A/B tests, and demonstrating a host of other ways they can make the most of Facebook’s Ads and Business Products.
I see this process not as either-or but “yes, and.” It’s only by doing both that we can give business owners the tools they need to unleash their passions and grow their companies.
Even in this increasingly automated world, human touch matters.
Evolving the ecosystem
At Facebook, people and human connections power our products. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can infuse human experience at every layer of product development. I am always challenging my team to think about designing not just individual products or systems, but about evolving our entire ecosystem — end to end, core to surface — for everyone from first-time advertisers to power users.
I believe that the most dynamic and enduring design opportunities — for Facebook and every other organization — will come from cultivating a rich ecosystem that harnesses the power and potential of people. Even in this increasingly automated world, human touch matters.
Join Facebook Design leaders Pamela Bailey, Product Design Manager, and Megan Fletcher, Director of Content Strategy, for an intimate conversation about designing effective business tools for people, by people.
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