Facebook rolled out it’s new clothes last night with changes to the user interface. Due to hit UK users in a few days time here’s a guide to the things to spot in new look Facebook:
- user profiles now have a cleaned up home page with the wall and min feed being the priority – now it’s easier to see what a friend has been up to recently without the clutter of application profile boxes littered everywhere
- navigation is rolled up into a single top bar – this lets us imagine a future where I “bring Facebook levels of privacy and my friends with me” as I surf the web
- when communicating in multi-media with a friend the best way to do this will be on their profile page using the new “publisher” box – want to share a photo, post to their wall or post a video? then this is the place to do it.
Overall these are excellent changes to the user interface for the user – they clean it up and reduce the stress of loading giant profiles with mega amounts of crazy applications.
However there have been major changes to the way the applications platform will work:
- unloved third party application profile content is relegated from front page to the fourth tab of the profile under the poorly named “boxes”
- the left menu of applications is gone (see screenshot) and reappears now underneath an “Applications” menu item
- there is a space for 2 “loved apps” to get their own tab on the profile – this will be competitive profile real estate as apps jockey to get users to add them as a tab
- on the news feed home page the only real estate left for applications is the “Bookmarks” section nearly two thirds of the way down on the right on the home page
Personally I thought one of the greatest strength of the Facebook platform was the ability to get your application link prominently displayed on every page the Facebook user saw. “Wow” I thought – “I can write useful apps that will feel part of Facebook, users can get my features without having to learn my user interface, remember how to log in or remember where to find me”.
This Wow factor is still there but not as strong as before. It’s becoming harder to get my apps to be part of the Facebook platform and on a level playing field with Facebook’s home grown apps.
By removing the applications menu bar Facebook are risking being perceived as turning their backs on their “we are a platform” promise and returning to their roots as a vertical application. While it’s not a death blow for the applications it’s certainly a worrying trend.
I’m hoping that at the F8 Facebook developer conference on Wednesday in San Francisco I’ll hear some serious announcements that will restore investor confidence in the platform – like a proper mobile applications platform, plans for the payments API and some plug-in APIs for Facebook’s Groups, Photos and Events apps.