Saturday, 16 August 2008

Why I Hate the New Facebook

It was on July 21 that Facebook rolled out their new design. Currently, Facebook users can switch to the new Facebook if they choose and switch back to the old Facebook if they don't like the new version. At the time Facebook said that they would be opting everyone into the new Facebook over the next few weeks as its trial version comes to an end.

The new Facebook is a dramatic change from the old. The left sidebar is gone and most things have been moved to the right sidebar. One now accesses his or her applications, information, on his or her profile by clicking tabs instead of scrolling down. A new Friends page was also created. In theory, the new look is supposed to be cleaner. To give you an idea of the changes, here is my profile on the old Facebook:

You can't see it, but if you scrolled down you would see a box for my friends, boxes for various applications, my Wall, and so on.

Here is my profile on the new Facebook:

As it turns out, many Facebook users are less than impressed by the new Facebook. In fact, many actively hate it. Googling the phrase "hate the new Facebook" brings up an extraordinary number of results. Typical is a post in the University of Southern California's "On the Record" blog, a review in which the writer proclaims "I'm sorry, but I hate the new Facebook...." In the Tech Oberver blog of the Conde Nast Portfolio.Com, Kevin Manley asked, "Is it just me, or does the "New Facebook" design look like something out of about 2001?" The Diamondback Online, the web version of the University of Maryland's independent student newspaper, had an article entitled "Facebook's new layout met with mixed reactions." on the displeasure of many Facebook users. An article in the Beta News on user reaction to the new design was titled "Facebook users unite in outrage over changed layout." So far a number of groups on Facebook have arisen against the new Facebook, including "1,000,000 Against the New Facebook Layout (which currently has 57,934 members)," "People against the New Facebook System (which currently has 41,961 members)," "Petition Against the 'New Facebook (which currently has a whopping 180,973 members)," and several others. While there have been those who have pointed out that the membership of these groups is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the total user base of Facebook (which is currently at 90 million users), one has to wonder if the outrage has not been larger simply because Facebook has not forced people to use the new Facebook yet. If Facebook does truly adopt the new design, even more Facebook users could be angry.

Of course, there are probably many Facebook users who hate the new Facebook simply because they do not like change. Many people when forced to adopt a change will react with anger and resentment. While I have no doubt this is true, I suspect there is much more at work here with regard to the anger of Facebook users. Quite simply, I count myself among the number of users who hate the new Facebook. To me it is simply another example in the ongoing trend on the World Wide Web towards unattractive, awkward, and down right poor deign (IMDB's new look was another example).

My primary objection to the new Facebook is because, quite frankly, I find it awkward, unwieldy, and downright unhandy. One of the things I always liked about the old Facebook's profile page is that almost everything is accessible from a single page. True, I might have to scroll down the page a bit to reach it, but I am still dealing with just one page. Having to click on tabs to reach my Information, my Photos, or my Applications is simply inconvenient to me. I rather suspect this is the objection of many Facebook users, who perhaps prefer things being easily accessible on one page rather than having to click on tabs or links.

Another objection I have to the new Facebook is that it seems to me that one's profile is not nearly as customisable. I have found no way to place one's application boxes into any sort of discernible order as I could with my old Facebook profile. Worse yet, there is no way to simply put everything one wants (Info, apps, groups, and so on) onto one page. Another problem is that there is simply no way one can collapse the news feed, a feature I understand caused a good deal of uproar among Facebook users when it was first introduced around two years ago. I rather suspect most people are like me. They want to be able to arrange their Facebook profiles the way that they want them to be.

Another objection I have is that the Wall and the news feed have been combined, so that one's comments and the various news stories are all mixed together. For those of you who don't use Facebook, the Wall is the place on one's profile for his or her friends to leave comments. By combining the Wall and the news feed, Facebook has made it more difficult to find comments to one's Wall because of the various news stories. I only have around twenty friends on Facebook as it is--I'd hate to see how someone with 100 or more friends would deal with the Wall and news feed combined.

Another problem that I have with the new Facebook are the ads. Now even in the new Facebook the ads are small and, when compared to other social networking web sites, few in number. That having been said, they seem to be bigger than on old Facebook pages. Worse yet, while old Facebook pages only had about one ad per page, the new Facebook pages boast about two ads at times. While admittedly even in the new design Facebook has fewer and much smaller ads than other web sites, I don't like there being any more ads than there have to be.

Ultimately, to me the new Facebook is a prime example of poor design. It is simply unwieldy and inefficient. Fortunately, one can switch back to the old Facebook, which I did after looking over the new design. It is difficult to say whether Facebook will hoist the new Facebook on its users or not. On the whole, Facebook seems much more responsive than other web sites to its users' concerns. Unfortunately, it seems possible to me that unless user displeasure over the new look grows even greater, Facebook will force it upon them regardless. I am still sore over IMDB, which in the end did not restore the ability to use the old IMDB design even after a good number of its most faithful users objected to it being taken away. In the end, Facebook users may be yet another group of web site users on whom a bad web site design is simply forced upon them for no good reason.


1138 said...

Systems that fail to respond to the needs of the userbase tend to, well fail.

I won't cry for defacebook, it's been perverted from it's altruistic roots.

dennis said...

Dennis says design is very important. VERY.

Snave said...

I was just realizing the other day that I have no idea what Facebook really is... So I'm glad I happened onto your website! Good post, it might get me started in that direction!