Why the New Facebook is Wrong

Dafydd Vaughan on 23 July 2008

On Monday, the social networking site Facebook released its new design to a selection of its members.  Over the next few weeks, this major update will be pushed out to everyone registered on the network.  Yesterday evening, a discussion began on Twitter surrounding the new Facebook image – with a number of users who don’t like it, and just as many who do.  I was part of the former, so I thought I’d explain where I think this latest design went wrong.

Right from the beginning, Facebook were open about their intentions.  They set up a group which they regularly updated with concepts, thoughts and reasons.  They also gathered a lot of feedback – some positive, some not so positive (you’ll never please everyone). Â  Some of the early ideas and plans were fantastic.  Some even made the final cut – such as the new tabbed profile page.  However, other not so great ideas also made it through such as the new combined mini-feed/wall.  But at some point, the design has gone off the rails and seems like it is trying to be all things to all people.

The old Facebook design was very simple to use.  Its consistent appearance and layout kept it clean and professional – a feeling surprisingly absent in the latest incarnation.  The designers have attempted to further simplify the simple site navigation by moving everything into a much thinner masthead at the top of the page (you can see old and new below).  This has been achieved through the use of drop down menus.  However unlike the previous design, the presence of these menus is not obvious – for some bizarre reason, the arrows that informed the user of a menus existence are gone.  Even more annoying is the continued reliance on JavaScript to make the menu visible.

Facebook Navigation - old vs new

Facebook navigation – old vs new

New facebook profileThe new profile design is a vast improvement on the old layout which had become crowded and difficult to use.  Implementing a tabbed format for the profile means I no longer have to wait forever while several hundred thousand applications load before I can see someone’s details, or post on their wall.

The big annoyance however is that the layout completely changes when you swap between tabs.  The ‘Wall’ and ‘Info’ tabs have a large profile image, with information and buttons underneath.  However the ‘Photos’ and ‘Boxes’ tabs, have a small profile image and the content takes up the full page width.  This lack of consistency is exacerbated further when you realise that the boxes tab (where all the applications have been hidden away) doesn’t even make use of the full width in most cases.

This latest design is 161 pixels wider than the old layout – yet I’m left wondering where this extra space is used.  Looking at it in a bit more detail, the column that houses the profile picture is no wider than before, but it is now positioned much further to the left, occupying the area that used to house the search and adverts.  The space saved by moving that to the left is taken up but the slightly wider content column.  But still, the site only takes up the same space as before – why the extra 161 pixels?  The answer – adverts.  A much more prominent advert column has been created to the right of the page.

Facebook profiles – now include more prominent adverts

After looking at some of the bits that annoy me, I get the feeling that it isn’t that bad.  There are actually many bits about this new design I like. I would put it down to not liking change – but I know that isn’t true. Overall, I think the designers have missed a trick by not creating a consistent structure and layout to the site – at the moment it just seems like a miss-match of styles, columns and widths.  Hopefully over the next few months, some of these issues will be ironed out.  Although something tells me we’ll just have to get used to it.  But please Facebook, bring back the link to my list of recently updated friends!

Any views stated here are my own and not those of my employer unless otherwise stated.