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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…

Simplify it

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

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.

Foursquare has built an entire social network around knowing where people are, and Google’s new Schemer app shows that it also wants to offer users a social experience based on their location.

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.

Conclusion

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?

David Moth

Published 25 June, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (11)

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Alex Willimott, Marketing Exec at Mr & Mrs Smith

BUMP! The amount of time I waste waiting for that bloody loading wheel to disappear, it's easily the most painful experience on my phone

about 4 years ago

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Ridet

Great post. I really appreciate your blog as it is informative and impressive. Thanks..

about 4 years ago

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James

@David Moth
In regards to "Put the posts in the right order" - in the top right hand corner of the screen, if you click this newspaper icon you can then chose to list updates as "most recent".

However, annoyingly, the app doesn't seem to remember this option if you close it. So you have to select it a lot of the time.

about 4 years ago

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Drew Kerr

Facebook need to concentrate on delighting their customers.

Instead, they are quite clearly going against what people want, to try and monitise their offering.

This strategy will fail. The speed and the linear timeline issues are both against customer wishes, and will lead to people using the site far less.

about 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@James, thanks for pointing that out. In which case, I should remove the 'Put posts in the right order' point and replace it with 'Make it clear how users can customise their newsfeed' ;)

about 4 years ago

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Lena Arkhipova

That's all true but if you want use Facebook you will and if you need mobile you'll use mobile. No matter how. Until one sunny day Facebook staff decides that app's not-really-comfortable in use.

Love and hate them for that self-sufficiency.

about 4 years ago

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Lynn O'Connell

I find the Facebook app beyond frustrating. Since Facebook is used by various people differently, why not let us each customize according to our interests? I know Facebook thinks they know best, but they clearly don't in mobile.

This could be done in a way that simplified and streamlined the user experience, even though it would be more complex behind the scenes. For example, ask a simple question -- What do you want to see when you open Facebook?
o new photos
o status updates
o newsfeed
o notifications
o your page (something a lot of fan page owners would like)

As I have a lot of friends, the notifications are absolutely overwhelming on the mobile app. Do I really need a notification for every single photo every friend posts? One by one as they post a bunch of photos taken that day? I don't think so, but maybe somebody else likes it. Let us tell Facebook what we want & it would both simplify and customize the experience.

No matter what they do, speed has to be addressed and photo display improved. Why do you even have to see all the album thumbnails? A Pinterest or Instagram-like interface works much better for images.

I am a heavy Facebook user on the desktop, but rarely from my iphone. It is just too slow and too hard to get anything useful from.

about 4 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

I’ve noticed that the Facebook app can be slow to load as well, although I would say that when it finally presents your news feed I think the current version is pretty simple and easy to use. However, I agree there are issues that need to be ironed out as the app could be more efficient for its users. From the list I’ve experienced slow loading times for viewing photos but I’m sure the app will go through a series of updates soon, especially as more people switch to timeline. Good post.

about 4 years ago

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Frankie

Facebook seems to thrive on telling its users what they want rather than listening.
The biggest bug bear I have in regards to the mobile app is when it tells me what it thinks I want to see eg stop putting the newsfeed as 'Most Popular' when I specifically and daily return it to 'Most recent'.
Maybe I'm being a tad blind and not seeing how I can change this permanently, but I still pushes my buttons.

Surely they'd learn from the numerous ways and times people complain: cater to the customer, don't force your decisions on them. That's the perfect way to lose clientele!

about 4 years ago

Chris Knowles

Chris Knowles, Web Developer at The Business Octopus

Agree generally that it needs to speed up but not by taking features away, one of the most frustrating aspects of early Facebook mobile was that it didn't do half of the things the desktop version did (so long as it remains a safe haven from game invites!).

about 4 years ago

Christopher Hipson

Christopher Hipson, Customer Experience Executive at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

Totally agree with these points, the iOS app is getting slower with each update.

On Android there are a few unofficial apps, like "Facebook Light", which apparently work quite well!

about 4 years ago

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