Facebook’s new clothes

When applications had a really nice part of the screen real estate

When applications had a really nice part of the screen real estate

 

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.
Where we find the apps on the new Facebook navigation bar

Where we find the apps on the new Facebook navigation bar

 

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.

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2 thoughts on “Facebook’s new clothes

  1. David Nattriss July 22, 2008 at 5:05 am Reply

    The ‘new’ Facebook is available to all, now (not in a few days). Users just need to go to:

    http://www.new.facebook.com

    It’s not a national roll-out as far as I know.

    “the ability to get your application link prominently displayed on every page the Facebook user saw” – only until they installed another couple of apps, which would push ‘your’ one down onto the ‘more’ section.

    Personally I think if anyone is relying on just screen real estate to get users using their app(s), they need to look at making it/them much more involving and engaging, that draw(s) attention via the news feed, mini-feed, notifications, updates and e-mails, or by just creating a great experience that makes the user want to come back without needing a reminder (my own example of this is Flixster’s Movies app, which I use whenever I’ve seen a film [so I can rate/review it] or am considering seeing something [to see what my friends thought of it]).

    Or if they’re really desperate, start buying some advertising on the site (like you would on a search engine), but as any good sales manager/entrpreneur knows, a great product sells itself!

  2. Toby Beresford July 24, 2008 at 10:44 pm Reply

    Good comments, thanks Dave

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