Have you checked your Facebook today? If so, you may have been inundated by a tidal wave of complaints about Facebook’s new design. In case you’ve been living in a hole somewhere, Facebook rolled out some new features that have stirred up quite a bit of controversy. I believe, Facebook had good intentions with these new features; however, the way they went about releasing the new features is nothing short of an epic fail. Hey Facebook, ever heard of a focus group?
Annoyance #1: The Ticker
The “Ticker” is a new feature that shows up on the main Facebook page. It appears in the upper right corner of the screen above the chat window. From what I can tell, the “Ticker” has done little more than tick a lot of Facebook users off. For starters, you have very little control over what you see in the “Ticker”. Let me give you an example. I have a friend who had his birthday today. This friend gets a lot of birthday messages on his wall. The friend proceeds to “Like” every birthday message posted to his wall. This shouldn’t be a big deal, except now I see row after row of this person clicking “Like” on all these messages. I am happy for him, but do I really need to see every time he hits the “Like” button. Also, if someone who isn’t your friend, posts a picture on a friend’s wall, and they have their privacy settings set to allow friends of friends or public to see the picture, then it will show up in your “Ticker”. In theory, you were always able to go to that friend’s wall and see a post like that; however, it took a concerted effort for you to go to that friend’s wall to see the post from the non-friend. Now, with the “Ticker”, everything is sort of in your face. If we had a Facebook engineer in the room, he would probably argue that they intend for you to use your new “Lists” to manage what you see and what you don’t, but come on; get real guys.
Annoyance #2: Top News
Here is a quote from the Facebook blog, “When you visit Facebook, you should see the things you’re most interested in, like status updates from your family and closest friends.” Well that’s great! I mean, who doesn’t want to see the things they’re most interested in about the people they’re most interested in? The problem is, who gets to decide who my closest friends are? How does Facebook know what is important to me? Never fear though, they’re going to try anyway. We now have this new feature called “Top News” to contend with. If you are away from Facebook for an extended period of time you will get the “Top News” from your friends. “Top News” posts are denoted by a blue triangle in the corner. Once you have read through the “Top News” and stay on for a while, then Facebook will revert to showing you more recent posts in chronological order. But seriously, what crystal ball are they looking at that they can know what I consider “Top News”? Hear me on this one Facebook – people are OK with looking at their news feed chronologically.
Annoyance #3: Smart Lists
“Smart Lists” is an automatically generated list based on a certain criteria. It is supposed to help you categorize your friends into smaller more manageable groups. As with all of these new features, I believe the intent was good, but its implementation was poor. Most people don’t want to spend time sorting their friends out into separate little categories. Most people post to their friend list at large. They don’t want to go through the mental hassle of choosing which group should see what. In a sense, Facebook is becoming a lot of work. Take this as a warning Facebook. People migrated to Facebook because it was easy and fun! Take that away then you’ve got problems.
When we get down to the nuts and bolts of the situation, you have to look at all of this in the light of a couple of things. Number one, the F8 conference for developers is today in San Francisco and you can bet there will be a lot of changes coming down pipe. Facebook wants to be the central hub of your web experience. Why do you think there is this “subscribe” button all of a sudden? I believe it is because Facebook wants to be so much more than just a hang out for friends. Look for major announcements coming out in the next couple of days. Facebook wants to be the place you go to subscribe to news. It also wants to be the central place for all your music and entertainment.
The second thing you have to consider is that Google+ became open to the public this week. You’ve surely heard that all press is good press. All of this controversy has kept Facebook the topic of conversation, whether it be good or bad. In a way, it is genius of them to stir up the controversy because it has certainly kept the buzz away from Google+.
At this time, I still think Facebook is the gold standard in social media, however, I believe they are not being considerate of their base when they make changes. Every good marketing strategy should employ a focus group, consisting of a random sampling of users, to test out new features and get feedback, in my opinion. If they continue making these wild sweeping changes, I believe they are going to frustrate their users to the point that they will simply quit using the service.
What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback about the new features?