user experience

Facebook shows Focus

facebooklogo_thumb2(Part 2 of 2) The new Facebook is coming. Facebook, the product that brought a whole new meaning to information and application overload, is about to release their new Facebook vision, one with focus.

After adjusting to (and it took a few days of frequent interaction) the re-worked and refined Facebook experience, 2 themes stood out above all others, namely…

  • Encouraging greater communications and sharing
  • Discouraging “excessive” application installation and usage

Last week we explored the Focus on Communication. This week we…

Focus on Applications

Right away you can see the first signs of de-emphasis of the applications on the Home page, by way of the movement of the application bookmarks from the left-most column to the right-most column.

1 and 2

On the Profile page, the typical primary residence of the Facebook apps, the applications have been moved to the periphery of the page. Some applications can be placed in the narrow left column (similar to the narrow column in today’s default implementation).

3 and 4

And, more installed applications are accessible via the introduction of the tabbed interface on the new Profile page.

05 tabs

A user’s applications can be installed, renamed and removed from the Tab bar directly from the tab interface. By clicking on the ‘plus,’ the applications that are available for inclusion within the Tab section are listed.

06 tabs plus open

For those that don’t want to lose all of the clutter, wishing to maintain a “backroom” of disorder, and for those applications that can neither go in a Tab or Sidebar there is the Boxes tab (forth from the left).

07 boxes tab

All of the remaining applications are available via the bookmarks section of the contextual Applications drop-down. If you are within an application, the tab allows for the editing of all of the current application’s settings within an inline pop-up.

08 contextual application dropdown from within 

09 inline popup app settings

The rest of the time the following is accessible…

10 app dropdown from homepage

From here you can also access the application configuration section, where you can customize…

  • The Applications, themselves,
  • Bookmarks,
  • Privacy Settings,
  • News Feed and Wall Interaction,
  • Miscellaneous Access (e.g. publish, email, offline capabilities), and
  • 3rd Party Interaction with Facebook.

11 all app settings

The new Facebook experience has put a good deal of effort into aggregating the different Facebook application concepts and corralling them into distinct sections. As a result, the direct and visual aspects of Application interaction are streamlined, with chaos reduced. Where, in the old Facebook, users used 20, 30, or more installed Applications, these refinements are clearly intended to discourage such behaviors, and instead encourage the user to focus on an order of magnitude fewer applications, in the hopes of fostering better (smarter?) Application selections and achieving richer experiences with those selected Applications.

Those few lucky apps that get selected for inclusion within the Tab bar should also expect longer and more frequent interaction resulting from the newly enabled and present focus. The tabbed interface allows individuals to focus on each app, one at a time, isolated from the many other-app distractions. Furthermore, all of the other apps will not just fade, but remain in the background, out of view; muted will be the viral effects felt by those apps that don’t provide true value. Everyone should expect more apps to fade away, and the people of Facebook to congregate around a select few.

12 app open - causes

The new experience increases the difficulty involved in simply browsing one’s installed Applications. Today, all one’s installed Applications can be seen (e.g. current state, latest information) on the Profile page. Now, in the new Facebook, this is one or more degrees removed.

Also, as the chaos of primary interaction with the Applications has been reduced, the opposite can be said for the ability to configure the layout and settings of the apps. Where previously, all of the apps settings and the bookmarks could be configured from a single page, with layout being customizable directly from the Profile page, the pending new Facebook experience has broken all of these touchpoints into multiple and separate pages of configuration. In today’s Facebook, one can configure 90% of the applications, along with their look, feel, and accessibility, from a single web page; in the new Facebook, users have to search for and navigate through many, many more pages.

Focus on Facebook

The new experience, currently in beta testing, but soon to become the default Facebook experience, is cleaner and moves towards a more organized and social vision.

The purpose relating to the increased blurriness of layout and settings customization, becoming much more complex and difficult to manage, escapes me. However, it may, hopefully, be a mere side-effect of the other chaos reducing, refinements. If that is the case, I am certain many will welcome, when, in the near future, Facebook adjusts attention on and brings into focus this important area of user control and empowerment.

The changes, expectantly, have incited groups and petitions both in favor of, and against, the new Facebook. With these and many other changes everyone’s focus will be on Facebook, watching to see if these admirable goals prove successful or merely educational.


Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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