Facebook recently rolled out a new design that, in the eyes of some, represents a fundamental shift for the world's largest social network.

The new design places an emphasis on showing Facebook users real-time updates of their friends' latest online activities. Some suggest this is Facebook's response to the growing popularity of Twitter.

Facebook, of course, recently tried unsuccessfully to acquire Twitter.

Unfortunately, Facebook's new design isn't going over too well with users. A poll on Facebook shows that only 5% of the respondents like the new design. That's not very good news given that over 700,000 people have already weighed in.

Of course this is not uncharted territory for Facebook. When it rolled out News Feeds, for instance, users by and large hated them. Today they're considered one of the site's best features. Eric Eldon at VentureBeat suggests that the new design is likely to go the way of News Feeds and points out that many of the complaints have to do with user confusion, not the new features themselves. He argues:

Certainly, the redesign needs to make things more clear to users. But that’s a matter of Facebook taking iterative steps with the new version — which it is. What Facebook shouldn’t do is listen to a relatively small number of irate users and stop trying to improve the product in favor of what already exists. After all, Facebook is trying to focus on getting people to do more status updates in order to compete with upstarts like Twitter; going backwards is more dangerous than going forwards.

I think he might be right but I do think Facebook should be more careful about 'going forward'. Sometimes what a company considers progress is a step backwards for users. The risk for Facebook is that its leadership and product managers get too disconnected from their own users.

Perhaps Facebook users really do want the site to provide the kind of 'status updates' that Twitter has popularized and Facebook simply needs to do a better job of rolling out features and educating users on how to use them. But it's also possible that Zuckerberg and his team have confused their appreciation of Twitter with their own users' needs and desires and that users don't want Facebook to be a Twitter-like service.

If Facebook has made a bad assumption about how its users want it to evolve, that obviously won't be a good thing.

The truth is that Facebook can evolve and innovate without changing its core identity. Whether the new Twitter-like features in the new design represent evolution or an identity change is still unknown.

Whatever the case it will be interesting to see if Facebook users warm up to the new design. It will also be interesting to see how many times Facebook can upset large numbers of users before some of them leave en masse.

Photo credit: Jacob Bøtter via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 20 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)



To be honest, Facebook redesigns always inspired negative reactions. Many oppose change, I revere it.

I heard the mainstream media quote that 800,000 people had joined a "oppose facebook changes" group, yet offhand I am aware that facebook has 175M users, that's 0.45% kicking up a fuss.

I agree with Mr Eldon, perhaps I'm too product orientated.

over 9 years ago



A lot of people are missing the point about why we hate the new design. It's because of those stupid applications. My entire home page right now is covered with notices about easter eggs being sent and fighting irish being sent. Under the old design these notices would appear once- now they appear one time for each friend that was sent one of these stupid things. Additionally, under the old design you could delete them - now you can't delete them without hiding the friend completely.

Facebook needs to fix this. They push news we actually want off the page.

over 9 years ago



Thanks for the press coverage about this issue. Your article is well written and hits all the points I would make. But still I feel the need to emphasize that this is akin to McDonalds suddenly changing its menu because Taco-Bell was gaining popularity. Now when you go to McDonalds you are presented with Tacos everywhere.. and Mark Zuckerberg smiling saying "oh its only a small number of people complaining.. they will get used to the taco bowls.. We like them ;):" But they forget why people went to McDonalds, McDonalds menu hasn't really changed in decades.. Sure they add stuff, combine menu items, but the NEVER get rid of the Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, Chicken Nuggets, etc.. because this is thier core business and the reason why they have billions of customers worldwide. They know if they changed that, people would no longer go to McD's for burgers and would instead go to Taco Bell for Tacos.. Yes it makes perfect sense.

Mark violated 2 of the never should be violated major rules of business.
1) If it ain't broke, don't fix it.. There is a reason why this saying has been around for centuries. So what if twitter is gaining popularity.. they are apples and oranges. Never try to repalce an apple and an orange.

2) Don't Ignore your customer base...
sure the site is free but we are customers in the fact that we logon and generate advertising revenue. And ignoring 96% of the people who don't like the new layout is dangerous waters and sends a chilling message. (combine this with the recent privacy policy flop) and you have a recipe for another site emerging making facebook look like napster/friendster/hotornot.. They dont think its possible.. *grin*

over 9 years ago

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