Facebook have made some pretty radical changes over the past couple of days and have even more radical changes coming…. They’ve chopped their controversial sidebar in half and now included latest updates in the top half. They’ve also ditched their recent news / top news filters in favour of a more automated / suggestion system… but that’s only the start of it…
Before i heard about today’s updates…
I’ll be honest. When Facebook revealed their sidebar / latest news changes yesterday i wasn’t happy. So i started writing a blog post but didn’t publish it because i wanted to make sure i genuinely didn’t like the new changes and that it wasn’t just my gut talking nonsense. I don’t like to be someone who doesn’t like change because when you’re working in IT, you see nothing but change. I woke up this morning and no, i still didn’t like it… so here’s what i had written and was just about to post before Facebook’s F8 dev show today where they revealed some more radical changes.
Today, i feel Facebook is MORE cluttered, confusing and distracting than ever before thanks to these latest updates. It’s not pretty to look at, it’s not easy to navigate through and it’s confusing. I feel sorry for someone using facebook for the first time, trying to figure out what the hell everything is & does.
For me, the updates in the right column /sidebar are too narrow to read, which frustrates me. The fact the topbar & sidebar now stay in a static position regardless of whether you scroll or not is also ‘unnatural’ to me.
Then we have the sidebar / chat itself… i didn’t mind the sidebar when they introduced it (i usually defend facebook updates) as i could see the sense behind it – it helped to increase interaction with friends. What i didn’t like however was the fact it broke the symmetry of the site and again made the look and feel ‘unatural’ for me. Yesterday they broke the symmetry of the sidebar itself by splitting it up in to latest news and only chat buddies.
So now, the sidebar appears cluttered. It’s as if Facebook want to roll out as many features as possible on to a user’s homepage but they’re running out of space and ideas on how to reduce clutter.
That was written pre-the F8 dev conference. After the F8 dev conference i was catching up with the latest changes they were making and got word of a ‘hack’ (if you can call it that) that enables the ‘new’ profile page. That worked for me and i got to see the new profile page for myself.
My initial reaction (and i’m talking 5 seconds here) was ‘WTF have they done?’ – i was almost laughing to myself because i thought the changes they made were so radical that there wasn’t a hope in hell of user’s ‘liking’ it when users typically complain over the smallest of changes i.e. a new button. I thought facebook had just killed themselves and handed the social networking war, on a plate, to Google+.
When i got over that initial fear / wtf moment and started browsing and using the new profile i slowly started to understand it (i didn’t read the tutorials & i missed most of the f8 conference myself so i was clueless as to what to expect or how it worked). From birth to the current day, you can update your profile with milestones, events and photos from your past. That is huge and it’s something i’m sort of working on myself at the minute…. you see social networking is all about the present and the future. We’ve no way of publishing the past and the past is extremely important… ‘past’ up until now was about 2004 onwards on Facebook. Now, it’s the year you were born.
So how the hell does that work? Well, it’s clever. Your profile is now a timeline. It starts with current day stuff and as you scroll down the page you eventually come to your birth. You can fill in stuff on your timeline along the way. Let’s say i broke a bone… which i did actually once upon a time… you hover over your timeline, you get an action menu and can add a ‘broke a bone’ event.
You can add photos / videos to go alongside that event and comment on it etc… so basically it’s a way of publishing your past. New cars, new houses, births, deaths, break ups, anniversaries… you can now add all that stuff & more to your profile. It’s very clever but like i said, i’m working on a similar idea so i’m gonna stop talking about it for fear of revealing it’s true potential 😉 I don’t think this is gonna be used as much as facebook would like it to be, but it’s the first step any social network has ever taken towards allowing users to share their past in something other than an ‘about me’ textbox. That concept in itself is a one up on Google+ and i’d imagine they’ll respond.
Is it too radical?
If you thought, like me, the homepage changes of a couple of days ago were radical, this is on another planet. It could backfire… it might just be ahead of it’s time and people may hate it, but i can only assume Facebook have done their homework and know what they’re doing. I can guarantee people won’t like this and it could prove to be a wreckless move by Facebook in a bid to knock out Google+ but as with all Facebook changes, they seem to keep motoring on even if there’s millions of people upset & angry over changes. This is quite possible the biggest change yet though which is why i can’t wait for the day this goes live – because watching people’s reactions to this new way of thinking will be fascinating…
It gets the thumbs up for me but i’m still not a fan of their recent homepage & sidebar revamp which is arguably more important than profiles. It remains to be seen whether they’ll make any more changes to them but as a user i’d like more control or the ability to revert back to top / latest news filters… auto filtering & suggesting what you see is never a good idea, especially if the whole algorithm behind that isn’t known.