Why The New Facebook Doesn’t Suck. Part 2 of 2

March 24, 2009

brought to you by the Zuckerberg Appreciation Society

In part 1 of this article, I pointed out some of the changes that made the new Facebook a little, if not significantly, better than the old Facebook. If you’re still not convinced the new Facebook doesn’t suck, I’m not sure what else I can say to sway you, but here are some more notable improvements.

I recently had a client request that I design his Facebook page. “Why would you want to do that?” I asked. My stance was that Facebook pages weren’t all that effective. On Myspace, there is no distinction between a regular user profile, and a musician profile; A musician profile can interact with others in the same manner as regular profiles. It is this direct connection with their audience that prompted musicians, such as David Hasselhoff, to create Myspace pages.

cover for Hasselhoffs hit single, Hooked On A Feeling

On the other hand, Facebook’s band pages were little more than a page on Facebook that served no real purpose. Sure a band (celebrity or business) could message users who became “fans” but beyond that, they couldn’t really interact with users. The overall effectiveness of the page was questionable. I suspect most bands created Facebook pages just to make sure all bases were covered.

The new Facebook has done away with Pages. Instead, profiles for organizations or public figures are no different than regular user profiles. The owner of such a profile now has the ability to become an active part of the information stream on user homepages. This means their messages have a much better chance of reaching their intended audience. Moreover, it forces them to actively engage their audience, which is crucial to successful new media marketing.

While an average user may lament a marketer or organization’s ability to “infiltrate” their content stream, it is important to note that for this to happen, the user would have to have already added the organization as a friend. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, with the click of a button, users can silence an overzealous marketer. This is far more effective than the old Pages model, where contact was made via messages that may or may not have been opened.

The other change, which I have to admit I’m not entirely crazy about, is the Highlights section. This acts somewhat like the old newsfeed in that it shows “photos, notes, and other content you probably don’t want to miss” over a longer period of time. While the stream is updated in realtime, the Highlights section only changes when something you might be interested in is added.

My issue with the Highlights section is that it’s not customizable. Unlike the stream, a user can’t determine what and from whom she wants highlighted. The whole thing seems kind of arbitrary, which was my problem with the old newsfeed. It’s a good idea, but unless they make the section customizable it’s working against what they’re trying to do with the rest of the site.

The last change I’m going to note, and I’m not really sure if this was changed in the last version of Facebook, is the toolbar. In the last version of Facebook, I found it thoroughly confusing that there was no obvious way of seeing all your events, or going to all your applications. If I wanted to go to an application, I’d do the ass-backwards dance of viewing my profile and clicking the app there. To see all my events, I’d look in the right column, and under whatever events were happening that day, there was a “see all events” link.

When the new Facebook launched, I found the link had been removed. After cursing aloud, and even considering writing a Why The New Facebook Sucks post, I realized all that information was easily accessed via the toolbar. This may have been the case in the old Facebook, but the fact that there were several other places to access the same information was more confusing than it was helpful. Now, if I want to access my applications (not that I ever use them. Well, only that cool bookshelf one.), I know to look at the bottom of the browser, on the toolbar.

I also noticed Facebook widened the rightmost column. It may look a little clunky but it makes sense from an ad space perspective. I don’t know much about Facebook’s click-through rates, but I suspect they’re pretty low. Anything that can be done to make it better is a good move on their part.

Well, that’s all I have to say about that. If you still don’t believe the new Facebook is an improvement, you should consider not using it. There are tons of other social networks out there. You’ll just have to convince everyone else to join.

read part 1 of this article

Why The New Facebook Doesn’t Suck. Part 1 of 2

March 21, 2009

A few weeks ago, when Facebook announced it was going to once again be changing the user home page, I had no choice but to hunker down and prepare myself for the onslaught of complaints that would inevitably fill my newsfeed.

Only months before, Facebook launched their first new homepage. It was drastically different from the home page that users had grown accustomed to. After starting off as a site where friends could stay connected, with simple functions like an address book, and a “wall” that functioned somewhat like a dry-erase board, Facebook had slowly been evolving into something else. The newsfeed, a sort of play-by-play of what a user is up to, was our first glimpse of the driving philosophy behind the direction in which Facebook was going: from a social network centered around staying connected, into a robust platform for users to not only stay connected but to willingly (and not so willingly) share information about themselves.

When the newsfeed was added, many people were understandably concerned about privacy issues. As expected, some folks didn’t like the idea and they either stopped using Facebook altogether, or complained about it for a bit but eventually got over it. Others simply adjusted the way they used Facebook to accommodate the changes.

At the time, I was working at a social-networking site, so it was absolutely necessary that I stay on top of what was going on with similar sites. As much as I bitched about the newsfeed and the new profile, my job essentially made it impossible to do the obvious thing and stop using Facebook. Over time, I inexplicably found myself not only using Facebook more, but actually, feeling somewhat enthusiastic about what the company was doing. In my eyes, they had successfully overthrown Myspace as the social networking site of choice for the average person. Part of what made Facebook special was the inclusion of the newsfeed, and to a lesser extent (thank God!), the inclusion of apps.

That being said, when Facebook launched the previous iteration of the homepage, I was not happy. I didn’t quite understand the Facebook ethos, so I viewed the changes from a primarily aesthetic standpoint. I had a gut reaction to the fact that Facebook no longer looked the way I had grown used to. I also didn’t like the fact that I now had to learn a considerably different user interface (UI). Alas, I once again couldn’t stop using it. This time, however, for a different reason; I was still working at a social network, but now I couldn’t stop using it because it had become one of the primary ways in which I stayed in touch with family and friends.

The more I used the new home page, I realized the new UI was quite good. Suddenly, I found myself using Facebook in different and more meaningful ways. It was far from perfect, but I was forced to admit that it was an improvement on the old Facebook. For instance, I found myself actually using the status update, something that up until then I had chosen to ignore. I also found myself uploading pictures and even using Facebook to share my recent blog posts with people who were actually interested in reading.

Where I think the previous homepage failed was the seemingly arbitrary way in which content was streamed. For some reason, the feed always seemed to focus on the wrong people. Maybe I just didn’t know how to adjust the settings properly, but it seemed to me that the people I actually cared to follow weren’t ever making it into my newsfeed. Instead, I had a million things from folks I hadn’t spoken to in years.

Out of nowhere, Alf was all up in my newsfeed. I knew I shouldn’t have added him after our falling out.

The newly launched Facebook homepage not only addresses that by making the newsfeed update in realtime, but also makes it easier to filter out the folks I may not be so interested in following. This feature alone won me over to the new homepage, but there are a few other things that I think are worth mentioning. The previous homepage’s newsfeed seemed completely random in the type of content it featured. Sometimes a friend would upload a video and I’d have no idea because, well, it never quite made it into my feed. The tabbed homepage addressed the issue but it wasn’t something I’d even discovered until recently. Not only that, but from a UI perspective, the tabs just weren’t clear enough. The new homepage basically takes the tabs idea, but makes it even clearer by moving it to the left and changing the nomenclature. They’re now referred to as filters. Suddenly, a user isn’t just sifting through content, but actively filtering content by who is posting it, as well as the type of content being posted. It’s a much more intuitive UI.

Many complain the new homepage is too much like twitter

The big issue most folks have with the new homepage is the fact that it’s somewhat similar to twitter. While I can’t say I’m all that familiar with twitter and the concept of micro-blogging, or “oversharing”, as my good friend Corey would say, I know that there are folks who love it and are more than happy to share what’s going on in their lives in a few short sentences. When Facebook first added the status updates, I noticed a lot of folks were updating it several times a day, in a way that is basically what twitter is. The new Facebook homepage, and the addition of this new realtime newsfeed, allows users who choose to share more do so in a way that actually reaches other users. Some folks go a little overboard with the sharing, which is why the new “hide” filter is, again, one of the best features of the new homepage. In one click, a user can effectively stop people from pooping all over their newsfeed.

read part 2 of this article

The Pusherman’s New Look: MenuPages gets a makeover

January 27, 2009

My friends and I have given 2009 a few nicknames already: Year of The Hustle, The Age of Responsibility, Year of The Penny-Farthing, and The Year of Unemployment. None, however, ring more true than one I came up with just this morning, 2009: Year of Not Ordering Take-Out Every Night Anymore. With “the economy” and recession being clubbed into our psyche on a daily basis, I’ll spare ye the budget talks but I will say, since I no longer order take-out every night, I seldom visit what used to be one of my most frequented sites — MenuPages.com aka The Pusherman.

Further proof that 2009 is/will be The Year of The Penny-Farthing

My roommate and I do sometimes get lazy, and fall back on our old habits. This past weekend we decided to order from one of the many Mexican spots in this section of Brooklyn. You’d be surprised how many there are. Because we had lost, or I had torn up in celebration of the new year, all our menus, I had to make a visit to The Pusherman. Imagine my surprise when I saw The Pusherman had gotten a makeover. Not only did he get himself a new logo, but a whole new interface. Pusherman, good to see you’re finally getting with the times. I must say, though, you’re looking a little wider than I’m comfortable with. Ya look good though. Truly.

The new logo was designed by Mucca Design. Brand New has also covered it here.

Change You Can Click On

January 26, 2009

click image to see it larger

I have to admit, before this past election, I didn’t even know The White House had a website. Okay, maybe I did, but I definitely never went to it. With the inauguration of President B. H. Obama, whose entire campaign platform was the promise of change, there’s no doubt expectations are high. The people want to see change, and they want to see it relatively soon. Well, word on the street was that at noon, inauguration day, the most important change (for the purpose of this blog anyway) happened, when THE American website was updated to reflect the Obama Administration.

Well, it’s no surprise the site looks good. What I did find surprising, however, was that, as you can see from the before and after shot, the Bush Administration’s White House site didn’t look all that bad. The new site does feel just a little sexier though. Maybe it’s the close up of Obama, giving us that Obamatude. Seriously though, the site is quite nice. I particularly enjoy the blog (not sure if that’s a new feature), and the fun facts page which features a photo of the former first kitten! I also dig that the “home” button in the navigation is the American flag. Nothing like a little visual pun when you’re feeling patriotic.

Oh, check out this shot of The White House site circa 2001. *shudders*

links: www.whitehouse.gov