Facebook Trending Topic Re-Design & UX Experiment

Accessing Trending Content on the Facebook Mobile app


  • Facebook Mobile App is not known for Trending News.
  • Change the UX: Remove the design hurdle and reveal the stories.
  • Users engaging with relevant content will increases engagements in other part of the app.
  • Need to introduce to users Facebook is the destination for trending content.
  • Video of Prototype — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAWJoYMDHbU

Problem & Goal:

According to the American Press Institute, the number one reason Twitter millennial users (43%) go on the social platform is to find out what’s “trending” and what other people are talking about. Ranking as the 5th motivation, 35% of Facebook millennial users cite seeing what’s trending as the reason to use Facebook. Only 4% of Facebook users said it was the most important way to get the news.

Three out of twenty users I interviewed know about Facebook Trending Topic. Of the those three users, zero use Trending Topic on Facebook Mobile. This is likely because the mobile version in hidden underneath Search. Furthermore, under this search view, trending list is competing with not only recent search results but also the OS keyboard overlay.

How can we further promote Facebook as the definite source for Trending Content and Trending News? How can we provide a more accessible entry for mobile users to view trending topics? Can we forge habit and behavior for users to visit Facebook to as their primary source of news content that informs them about the world today in real time?


Trending topics also received backlash regarding human-written description. Recently, trending topics is modified to a list of word tags, name, location, or hashtag. But the current appearance left users without context. Users are less likely to engage with topics if keywords do not resonate with or spark their interests. .

Additional reviews by critics highlight how trending topics are not necessarily news. Example:

  • Cats & Celebrity can be on the front page of trending but not worthy on the front page of a newspaper.



  • Snapchat now has 7 billion video views each day, rivaling Facebook.
    About 50% of all 100 million Snapchat users use Snapchat Discover as a source for newsworthy content on a daily basis.
  • Publishers on Snapchat have more control over the content that they deliver.
  • Over the past year, publishers have made it clear that their Snapchat channels have moved from experiments to core offerings. Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat Discover channel generated, on average, 19 million views per month, Poynter reports. Cosmopolitan.com generates 20 million unique visitors per month, according to its website. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has said views from Snapchat make up 21 percent of his company’s total traffic.


  • Twitter believe 5 million to 10 million are added to Twitter’s DAU number because of Moments.
  • Moments are created by publishers, and are promoted as “realtime” news.
  • Users go to Twitter to follow influencers as their curators and filter to the news.
  • Moments could contribute more than 10% of a $2 billion revenue growth.

Google News

  • Now with Fact Checking capabilities.

Apple News

  • Closest access to user via iPhone.


User Interface:

This feature named Project Peek will provide a full-screen experience to trending stories on Facebook Mobile app. Users can access Trending Topics via trending button on the front page next to the search bar. They are immediately shown the top trending story with the full title, sources, and the number of people talking about this story. Users can swipe left and right through stories and navigate to trending categories with the top menu panel.

Content Ranking:

To read more into the story, users can scroll down to view the feed of sources covering this story. This is similar to the current design of Trending Topic on the desktop. However to adapt to the mobile format, we want to reformat content type with hierarchy as ranked:

  1. Friends and family sharing this story first
  2. Shared in group
  3. Facebook Live videos & Media
  4. Top Posts with Instant Articles
  5. Top Posts
  6. Publishers with Instant Articles
  7. Publishers
  8. Individuals
Content position ranking start with Friends&Group, Live Video, or Instant Articles.

Users should engage with content shared by their friends and family — this promotes interaction on the platform. Next, we want users to consume content natively to Facebook. Time navigating out of Facebook reduce the overall user experience.

Growth KPI:

A study show Facebook users spent 107 seconds on reading long form stories. We would like to double that engagement time. We want to create an environment and a platform for users to receive newsworthy content that is both personalize and informative.

We hypothesize that users would open 60% more articles to read daily.

Growth Conflict:

Would average engagement time be taken from user time originally dedicated to spend on Newsfeed? It should not conflict as users’ access to trending content would create more synergy with Newsfeed activity — as users engage with trending news, these content would then be transferred to Newsfeed for the user themselves, as well as to their network.

Does the CTR on trending article cannibalize the CTR on Newsfeed article? It should not be a primary factor, as it both further promote Facebook as the destination for all personalize content.


Swipe, Swipe till you hit 10, and then you go to the next Category
Story is written in many different angles.
Scroll down to see articles. Hide Categories on scroll down. Cards are ranked.


Enlarge View:

Demo — https://marvelapp.com/179g5h5/screen/15563646

Marvel Project — https://marvelapp.com/project/937486


User Experience:

  • Out of 20 users I interviewed, 10 know about trending topics on Facebook.
  • Out of those 10 users, only 3 know about trending topics on Facebook Mobile App.
  • Out of those 3 users, none of them actively use trending topics on the mobile app.
  • Out of 20 users, 8 of them spotted the new Trending Topic button on the top left.
  • Out of the 20 users who tried the new UI, 8 of them swiped. The other 12 users clicked the Next, Prev, or Read button as navigation.
  • Out of the 20 users who tried it (tried what?), 5 of them noticed and clicked on the Categories tab to navigate.
  • Out of the 20 users who tried it, none of the users noticed the changes in content type ranking.
  • Out of the 20 users who tried it, 1 user noticed the X button on the top right of a trending story.
  • Out of the 20 users who tried it, none of the users clicked on the Search bar.
  • Out of the 20 users who tried it, none of the users found “20k people talking about this” as important.
  • Out of the 20 users who tried it, 18 users clicked the title of the full screen story. And then realized they needed to click Read or Scroll Down.

User Feedback:

  1. 8 out of the 20 users mentioned seeking diverse source and viewpoint on Trending Story.
  2. 7 out of the 20 users asked how often does Trending Topics update.
  3. 18 out of 20 users mentioned not sure why something is trending and how it does not resonate to them.
  4. 12 out of 20 users ask how to personalize the Trending Topics.
  5. 6 out of 20 users said they would like to use Facebook as Trending News.
  6. 17 out of 20 users mentioned the cover story black overlay made the text under and above the title hard to read.
User can personalize option to Hide and Unfollow topics.

When asked what they think they will see when they press the Trending Topic button:

  • 45% of them reply “Celebrities” as their first answer
  • 20% of them reply “News” as their first answer
  • 15% of them reply “Politics” or “Trump” as their first answer
  • 10% of them reply “Cats” as their first answer
  • 10% of them reply “Not Sure” as their first answer


What Needs Improvement:

  1. Users had a negative impression of Facebook Trending as their source for what’s happening around the world.
  2. Current behavior for users is still scrolling down on the Newsfeed to receive the “news”.
  3. Users were not fully aware of the new header navigation or the Trending Topic button.
  4. Users have preference just scrolling down vs. scrolling horizontally. It would be a new interaction not all users are familiar with.
  5. Users do not intend to go to Facebook Mobile for Trending News. Users question if Facebook offer trending, as defined as whats real time content with the world.
  6. Users find Trending Topics to not be relevant to them.
  7. Users are not familiar with the option to Hide content. Hide is always hidden under the X button.
  8. Two out of 20 users suggest to spin Trending as its own app.
  9. After scrolling down, users were unable to scroll horizontally to navigate to the previous or next story.
  10. The cover image for the stories need to be higher definition.
  11. Users were unsure why the Read button lead them to scroll down and select an article.
  12. Users noticed the category icon but not completely clear what each icon represents.

What Worked:

  1. Users were more engaged with each article and were more intrigued to scroll down and explore more.
  2. Users were more interested to see what’s Trending next time they open the app.
  3. Users prefer the swipe or slide because they can browse stories faster.
  4. Users were responsive with the X button.
  5. Users were responsive with the Prev and Next button.
  6. Users were responsive with the Read button.
  7. Users were more intrigued with the title of the articles, subtitle of the articles, description of the articles, comments of the article, etc rather than reading the actual article.

Post Launch:


  • Competes activity time from user scrolling down Newsfeed.
  • Competes activity time from searching, because users will search less.
  • User will view Facebook Live more frequently as publishers adopt native use. However this will speed up draining users’ mobile battery. This was an issue with Snapchat Stories.
  • Users might be unaware how to exit or go back to previous screen because Trending Topics is a full screen experience apart from the Newsfeed.
  • Viewing Trending Stories would reduce time on Compose feature.
  • Project Peek’s UX will limit the amount of trending stories to view in comparison to the existing list.

Growth Opportunity:

  • Project Peek inform users about what’s going on, and will promote them to engage, comment, share, and their friends can see it.
  • By replacing word tags, we provide context to each story.
  • Project Peek introduces swipe as an interaction.
  • With Facebook being a destination for trending news, more publishers would adopt Instant Articles, native media video and media format to deliver a better UX for Facebook users. This will also push for new partnerships and business investment into Facebook as oppose to other social media platforms.
  • Project Peek offer option for users to hide trending topic on mobile. Currently it does not feature this option.
  • Project Peek categorizes the stories into the 5 categories. Trending on the mobile currently is not categorized.
  • Project Peek would also create more synergy with Messaging. Trending content will be shared and discussed with friends.

Next Step — Conclusion:

With Project Peek, more users will visit Facebook for trending news around the world and make Facebook the destination for latest information around them. Users would be more likely to engage with the news and trending content, thus promoting more activity inside the network with family and friends.

The new UX also provide a new way for mobile users to view trending content with context and simple navigation.


  1. http://www.journalism.org/2015/07/14/the-evolving-role-of-news-on-twitter-and-facebook/
  2. http://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-scaling-back-human-intervention-of-trending-feature-1472246994
  3. http://qz.com/676677/facebook-drives-more-traffic-to-articles-but-twitter-users-spend-more-time-reading-them/
  4. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/05/twitters-moments-follows-in-snapchats-footsteps.aspx

Gary-Yau Chan is a SaaS entrepreneur and currently lives in Brooklyn NY. You can also message him on Twitter @garyyauchan. Or catch him at The Startup Chat Facebook Group or checkout his portfolio.

Tags: Product Analysis
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