Recently, social media lovers woke up to a whole new Facebook – and most of them weren’t at all pleased. With the redesign everything looked pinched, the ads were given more surface area, the news feed no longer showed nicely, big photos took over on both sides of the page, and there seems plenty of unused space which could have been better utilized to move things away from the news feed so it could be bigger.
What happened to the photo-centric Facebook I grew to love?
When Facebook launched its redesigned layout last year, some feared that it would give way to more annoying ads. I was one of the lucky ones who got to enjoy the redesigned Facebook, and in my experience, the ads remained mostly on the sidelines, and I only ever saw one or two sponsored posts when I logged in. It’s not that annoying, plus the emphasis on photos made everything bearable.
But now, the service looks old. Gone are the beautiful photos but the ads seem more prominent than ever before.
According to entrepreneur Dustin Curtis, sources told him that the reason for the redesign was that the old design was working so well that it resulted in people spending less time on Facebook itself, and it also meant they spent less time exploring other areas outside the news feed. The sources claimed that the photo-rich design gave users everything they wanted, thus they spent less time doing other things, such as browsing their friends’ profiles, and exploring event pages. This change in user behavior led to less advertising impressions, which resulted in a decrease in Facebook’s net revenue, which, as we know, is almost totally derived from its advertising.
By going back to the simple design that features less photos, it forces users to click on a profile or page to find out more about the person or brand they are following, thus spending more time on the service. This gives Facebook the opportunity to bombard users with more ads.
That’s what Curtis says anyway, but yesterday Facebook product designer Julie Zhuo denied those claims, saying that there’s a much simple reason behind the site’s redesign – most of its users are old fuddy-duddies using ancient computers.
You’ve probably noticed that there are a lot more older people using Facebook, unlike when it started, when the site was predominantly used by college students and expanded to the younger working generation and teens. These days, we find our teachers from grade school, our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles… all of them are using Facebook.
Zhou explained that the change was done to cater to these older users, who are most likely using older computers. These computers have monitors that aren’t pixel-rich and probably still run on Windows XP, and that means they were likely previously unable to appreciate the beauty of Facebook’s photo-centric design. Simply put, Facebook just wanted to make older users happy and get them to use the service for longer sessions.
“It turns out, while I (and maybe you as well) have sharp, stunning super high-resolution 27-inch monitors, many more people in the world do not. Low-res, small screens are more common across the world than hi-res Apple or Dell monitors”, wrote Zhou.
“And the old design we tested didn’t work very well on a 10-inch Netbook. A single story might not even fit on the viewport. Not to mention, many people who access the website every day only use Facebook through their PC—no mobile phones or tablets. Scrolling by clicking or dragging the browser scrollbar is still commonly done because not everyone has trackpads or scroll wheels. If more scrolling is required because every story is taller, or navigation requires greater mouse movement because it’s further away, then the site becomes harder to use. These people may not be early adopters or use the same hardware we do, but the quality of their experience matters just as much.”
Zhou also stated that the photo-rich design may have been better for Facebook revenues, but did admit that users were less likely to share content.
Though you have to commend Facebook for considering the user experience of its older users, one cannot help but think that this could prove problematic for the company in the long run when a social-startup arrives that doesn’t have to worry about making older users happy, because they won’t have older users to worry about.
But unfortunately for younger Facebook users, the site’s design isn’t the only that’s changed recently – apparently, even its algorithm has been changed, and this is not sitting well with some people…
In a blog post, web-based food and delivery service Eat24 stated that it was ‘breaking up’ with Facebook because of these drastic changes. Eat24 previously paid for promoted posts, investing in outreach through the social network. Eat24 recounted that at first, everything was fine, though it questioned why Facebook suggested its page to users from all over the world – including people who live thousands of miles away and could never become customers.
But if that wasn’t bad enough, things got worse when Eat24 noticed that its posts were no longer reaching all of its followers. It also noticed it had to wade through a bunch of ads before reaching the content of interest. In its blog post, the company stated that it had discovered that Facebook’s algorithm was changed recently, thus the site was behaving differently. The breakup letter is quite lengthy, but a worthy read. You can check out the breakup letter here, but needless to say it’s likely made a grump of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Eat24 states in its letter that it’ll be deleting its Facebook page since it’s no longer serving its purpose, but that decision could change depending on how people react to its goodbye letter. Eat24 is set to delete its Facebook page on Monday 11:59PM (the time zone was not stated). Eat24 fans can still use its mobile app to order food, or simply go to its web page to learn more about the service.