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

25 Random Things about Graphic Design (and stuff)

February 6, 2009

scene from my childhood. note: I’m on the other side of the picture.

At a dinner party the other night, I decided to take advantage of a lull in conversation to discuss what I thought was a pretty interesting topic. “Facebook is on its last legs,” I said. “Soon it will become Myspace.” A conversation topic it did not make. The most I got was a shrugged shoulder. Not even two shoulders but one singular shoulder. Defeated, I changed the subject but I still stand by it; Facebook has indeed gone the way of Myspace and nothing supports my theory more than the 25 random things meme.

The idea goes as follows. You post 25 random things about yourself, preferably unknown facts from your childhood. You tag 25 of your friends. They in turn post their own note and tag 25 more people. As everyone on Facebook knows by now, it’s really caught on. So much so, in fact, that the backlash has already found its way into TIME Magazine – err website…whatever.

Well, despite my belief that Facebook has reached its tipping point, I still find myself on the site several times a day. Funny enough, the 25 random things are what keep me coming back. In honor, I’ve decided to do a 25 Random things about Graphic Design post. Why? Because it’s what Paul Joshua Pfeiffer would have done, you know, if he wasn’t busy being Marylin Manson and everything(I honestly don’t know if this is true. Wiki says it is not, but you have to wonder where the whole thing got started).

25 Random Things About Graphic Design

1. Claude Garamond, publisher and legendary type designer responsible for designing the letterforms that led to some of the most widely used typefaces throughout history, died in poverty at age eighty-one.

2. The Michelin man has a name, Monsieur Bibendum. He’s also a century old.

Monsieur Bibendum

3. The Nike swoosh was designed by Carolyn Davidson in 1971, while she was a student at Portland State University. She was paid $35.

4. Woody Allen uses the same typeface in the titles and credits of nearly all of his movies. The typeface is Windsor.

5. Peretz Rosenbaum is one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century. He is responsible for the IBM logo, the old and arguably most recognizable UPS logo, the Westinghouse logo, and many other design icons. You know him as Paul Rand.

6. According to Salary.com, the median salary for a graphic designer in the United States is $45,704.

7. The worlds first website(as we know them today) was launched in 1992. You can still visit the URL here.

8. What we now call sans-serif typefaces were once known by a number of names: Egyptian, Antique, Grotesque, Doric, Heiti, Lineale, and Simplices. I think sans-serif works just fine, thank you.

9. Walker, the sans-serif typeface designed by Matthew Carter for the Walker Arts Center has up to 5 “snap-on” serifs that can be attached to each letterform using keystroke commands.

10. Georgia, another typeface designed by Matthew Carter, is named after a tabloid headline which reads “Alien heads found in Georgia.”

11. Baseline magazine, first published in 1979, was originally intended to be a promotion vehicle for new typeface designs.

12. Newly defunct The Designers Republic was hired to design the in-game artwork, packaging and manual for The Wipeout video game series as part of a carefully marketed ploy to position the game among the “fashionable, club-going, music-buying” audience the publisher was trying to attract. The results make Wipeout games some of the most visually stunning ever.

13. Due to the incompatibility of the letterforms in the title of Avant Garde magazine, Herb Lubalin first created the typeface Avant Garde, with its many ligatures, out of necessity. It wasn’t until later that he created a full set of glyphs.

14. The term “Web 2.0” emerged sometime in 2002 (despite the claim that Tim O’ Reilly coined it in 2005) with Dermot A. McCormack’s book Web 2.0: the Future of the Internet. . .

15. The Coca-Cola logo was made using a style of hand lettering called Spencerian Script. (thanks for the correction Nick)

16. Jerry West is the silhouetted player in the NBA logo.

Jerry West taking it to the hole

17. The late Tibor Kalman once had a party in a supermarket to commemorate the arrival of his book Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist. As party favors, he gave guests signed canned goods.

18. The Great Seal of the United States was designed in the 1770’s by the then secretary of congress, Charles Thomson.

19. The Red Cross is known as The Red Crescent in Muslim countries. Its logo also changes from a cross to a crescent.

20. Raymond Loewy, known primarily as an industrial designer, also designed a crap-ton of logos including the logos for Hoover Vacuums, Exxon, and Shell.

21. Vince Frost is the shit.

22. Facebook uses a modified version of the typeface Klavika for its logo.

23. Myspace, Arial Rounded Bold.

24. Thank God this is almost done. *bangs head against wall*

25. I leave you with this.