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Facebook’s mobile app has long been its weak link, and despite constant updates it still offers a poor user experience.
Throughout 2012 it has been busy acquiring companies that had achieved some success in mobile, including Karma, Glancee and Instagram, yet improvements to the Facebook app have been negligible.
While app design is a complicated science, there are a few basic issues that Facebook could try to resolve that would vastly improve the user experience.
Hurry it up
When using 3G, Facebook’s app is painfully slow. My newsfeed seems to take an eternity to load and I am frequently presented with the ‘Connection Lost’ screen even when my other apps are working perfectly.
Speed is vital for the mobile experience, yet this is one area that Facebook has never successfully addressed.
While speeding things up may not be easy, Facebook could potentially knock a few seconds of the load time by simplifying its app.
Which brings me to my next point…
Most successful apps offer limited functionality. Mobile users want to be able to quickly dip in and kill some time. They don’t necessarily need complex apps with hundreds of different tools.
Take Twitter and Instagram for example. They have focused on individual aspects of what Facebook does and achieved success on mobile by being very good at one task.
Similarly, news apps likes The Guardian don’t try to give users all the same content as their desktop sites. Instead they offer a scaled down, curated version.
While it would be very difficult for Facebook to remove certain functions without annoying a large portion of users, it may benefit in the long-term form making a few hard decisions now.
For example, do I really need to be able to access all my photo albums on mobile? I have albums dating back to 2006 that I haven’t looked at in years.
Similarly, I don’t really need to be able to access all the groups that I joined years ago and haven’t looked at since.
These are obviously small things that may or may not improve speed and usability, but in general Facebook would benefit from looking at the top five things that people do on its app and stripping everything else out.
Photos are a key part of the Facebook app, so why do they never load? I often lose patience waiting for photos to appear, and when looking at album thumbnails they frequently fail to load at all.
Furthermore, in recent weeks I have had issues with the app not allowing me to ‘like’ or comment on photos.
These are small points, but interacting with your friends’ content is what social media is all about, so Facebook should really be focusing on improving how photos load within the app.
Accuracy of location information
Location services such as check-ins and local deals are becoming increasingly popular, yet this is another area that Facebook can’t seem to get right.
Facebook check-ins have come and gone over the years, and among my network they seem to be getting more popular.
However, there is one aspect of Facebook’s location service that clearly needs some work.
For example, one of my friends live in Henley in Oxford, yet his status updates say he is in nearby Cholsey. This is a small annoyance, but it is a glitch that needs fixing.
Worse is the constant mix up it makes with another friends who lives in Brixton in South London.
His status updates suggest that he lives in Balham, which in understandable as Balham is only a short distance from Brixton. However the Balham that Facebook refers to is actually is in the north of France.
Put posts in the right order
This may be to do with Facebook’s attempts to prioritise content, but it would do better to learn a lesson from Instagram and Twitter and publish posts in the mobile app in chronological order.
I noticed this last night, when updates about the England team playing well came above posts lamenting yet another loss in a penalty shootout.
Similarly, photos posted only a few minutes before were shown well below status updates from several hours ago.
Again I’m nit picking here, but mobile apps should be all about simplicity, so it would make sense to have posts lined up in chronological order.
While several of these points are minor issues, put together they contribute to a poor overall user experience.
Facebook’s main area of focus within mobile is working out squeezing ads into our newsfeeds, but improving the user experience should also be a high priority.
The lumbering speed of the app is definitely the key issue, which could possibly be solved by stripping out some of the less popular functions.
So what do you think, are there any issues I’ve missed? How else could Facebook improve its mobile app?