Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The World's Most-Viewed Image
November 14, 2010 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Facebook needs a facelift. The Pros and Cons of Facebook's Design. A concept redesign by Bruce Mau Design.

Facebook Design "like" page.
Why Doesn't Facebook Look Like this? - iA's 2006 Facebook design proposal (redesigned)
posted by azarbayejani (59 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know....he could have just linked to MySpace instead of drawing that redesign...they're conceptually the same thing.
posted by schmod at 11:01 AM on November 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


If Facebook is really a vehicle for its users' identities, Doyle wonders, "why does my Facebook page look the same as your Facebook page? Why doesn't my Facebook have a fake-wood surround? . . .

Because then it would be MySpace and who the hell wants that?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:02 AM on November 14, 2010 [47 favorites]


And doesn't the iA Facebook design proposal look like New Twitter? There really is nothing new under the sun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:03 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: Yup, I actually said the same thing to my friend when talking about it. Although, I think it's less confusing than New Twitter, because the right column is static. When first using New Twitter I didn't even realize that the right side was changing at all and was confused as hell.

That said, my friend brought up the issue that we, as longtime Facebook users, understand what those arrows pointing to the right side mean, whereas a new user would probably be pretty confused by them, which is not really a hallmark of great design.
posted by azarbayejani at 11:08 AM on November 14, 2010


I know it's cliche, but I really do hate that. I like my long feed full of everyone's news -- it's mindless, fast, works on screens of various sizes, and I can adjust it with two clicks to kick off anyone I stay connected to (usually for networking reasons), but could not give a shit about their lives.

Also, I like the smaller images because they load faster, are uncluttered, and I can still ID who they represent. We don't all have up-to-the-minute processors and/or connections. It does what I need it to do already, and switching over to clicking on images would actually increase my time spent on the site. Well, spent on the site and cranky.


Because then it would be MySpace and who the hell wants that?


This, times a thousand. I do not want a fucking customizable facebook page. That's what the entire rest of the internet is for. I want something that's clean, spare, and not openly hideous.
posted by kalimac at 11:11 AM on November 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


Clearly Facebook, with their 500 million users, have no idea what they're doing as far as their design is concerned. If only they would listen to the Washington Post, whose website you could *never* criticize for being overly gray, bland, or boring to look at.
posted by chasing at 11:11 AM on November 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Screw the way the goddamned site looks - add some rich text formatting, and a frackucking edit button, and the rest will be fine. I mean, wtf, who's in charge over there? Oh, yeah, fbtards. Sorry.
posted by dbiedny at 11:17 AM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Facebook really needs more faces and books.

Ideas for faces:

A haunted tree's face. (John Kerry will work in a pinch.)
A Faces of Death VHS tape.
A "Scream" mask.
A daily apology, where someone saves "face."
Those really cool theatre masks — you know, comedy and tragedy and all that.
Someone who's facial expression is all like, no way, you're pregnant?!
Jim Carrey as Fire Marshall Bill.
Some nice detail shots of Mike Tyson's face tats.
Shit, Facebook needs more face tats in general. (I'm thinking that guy—or gal, can't remember—that had the Earth Crisis face tats.)
An open faced roast beef sandwich with steak fries.
John Goodman with a neutral facial expression.

And as far as more books, I was thinking they could just steal all of the Bible's from the desk drawers of shitty highway motels and use those.
posted by defenestration at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


grocer's apostrophe ugh
posted by defenestration at 11:19 AM on November 14, 2010


Facebook's GUI is like Craig's List: dumb and presents the minimal information to allow usage. Because of this, it will be very difficult to "improve" the site, users will resist change. It's happened before.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


as long as they keep changing the facebook homepage every few months so I never know how to use it whenever I log on.
posted by fuq at 11:23 AM on November 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is awful and stupid. Just for instance:

You only see a few "updates" at once, to fend off addiction. Yes this is exactly what facebook wants, less people coming to their website. Genius.

It invites you to come into real (or at least virtual) contact with the people you care about. This ignores the primary benefit of facebook, in my mind: Keeping in contact with the people in your life without having to fucking call them all the time.
posted by fungible at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


Did they ever comment on making the damn font smaller?
posted by smackfu at 11:34 AM on November 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, Facebook did recently change its design; I'm surprised nobody's talked about this here, and if I were a more boring person I would've looked around the internet for discussions of this. I know a lot of my friends were slightly annoyed – I certainly was.

A few weeks ago, they pushed out a tweaked reformatting of the standard feed; now the font is a bit smaller, and there's a linebreak after your name. Which frankly annoys me slightly largely because those cheeky third-person statuses now make little to no sense at all. Ah well. Not really a huge deal, I guess. I think there were other changes, too, but those are the two things that jumped out at me.
posted by koeselitz at 11:36 AM on November 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Theory: The new font-size on Facebook is to weed out old people.
posted by azarbayejani at 11:39 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I noticed that too, koeselitz. And I thought it was odd because I remember when they introduced status updates they were supposed to be read as "amethysts is ____". They even had the "is" in there for you automatically. I guess I understand the line break because not many people do that anymore, fine. But making the font smaller I don't understand.
posted by amethysts at 11:41 AM on November 14, 2010


Theory: The new font-size on Facebook is to weed out old people.

It didn't work. *mwahahahaha*


Meanwhile, they just need to leave the format ALONE as I am tired of having to explain and reexplain over and over and over again how to do anything on the site.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:42 AM on November 14, 2010


There are so many people on it because your parents are on it, your parents are on it because it is not myspace, it is not a personal HTML webpage, it is not complex-look at old buicks, they have few flashy-bits, but yet older people drove them... why? Simplicity for simplicities sake.
Change it, and you change why you are liked; many perennially predict immanent death of FB, if it comes about, it will be because they let people make their pages annoying to look at.

Also, it is recognizable, I KNOW that someone is using fb by the colour, the layout, the signs.
Lose that 'brand-continuuty' and, well, again, you have myspace, which, not to beat that horse again, as much as it is the holding spot for some great web, and free hosting of good artistry- people have generally abandoned it.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:44 AM on November 14, 2010


Which frankly annoys me slightly largely because those cheeky third-person statuses now make little to no sense at all. Ah well.

It annoys me more than slightly!

Fine, lots of people don't do the third-person thing anymore. Whatever. But I do, dammit. If I wanted to start my status updates with nouns other than my name on a regular basis (I did do it sometimes, I admit) I'd use twitter.
posted by kenko at 11:45 AM on November 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, they just need to leave the format ALONE as I am tired of having to explain and reexplain over and over and over again how to do anything on the site.

The most recent tweak was fairly minor, and I doubt that anybody is going to suddenly misunderstand the site as a result. Personally, I think that the changes improved legibility, and offer a better balance of whitespace on the page.

On the other hand, we could totally have a debate about the relative merits of Facebook's redesign fetish -- no other site insists upon completely reinventing itself every year or so.
posted by schmod at 11:53 AM on November 14, 2010


And doesn't the iA Facebook design proposal look like New Twitter? There really is nothing new under the sun.

There's nothing new under iA, more like. They are to design what social media gurus are to friendship.
posted by bonaldi at 11:57 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


now the font is a bit smaller

That was jarring. I thought I had just SUDDENLY AGED OVERNIGHT, MY EYES OH MY EYES. Apparently, I accidentally reduced my browser's default font size around the same time, so until I figured that out, everything everywhere was smaller. FB was well nigh unreadable.
posted by Elsa at 12:00 PM on November 14, 2010


My redesign for Facebook would involve the numeral 404...
posted by Thorzdad at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry Bruce Mau, but if you were the designer of facebook, you'd have designed facebook.
posted by doublehappy at 12:17 PM on November 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


That Bruce Mau redesign is hideous. The iA one looks promising, but I'd have to play with it fur reals before passing judgement.

At any rate, I think Facebook has done quite a good job of presenting a huge amount of information in a relatively organized and intuitive way.

No, it doesn't wow you aesthetically, but it's not supposed to. Before the article even got to Facebook's explanation for the design—that's it's meant to be unremarkable, to get out of the way and let the content take center stage—I was already grumbling something to that effect at my screen. Like, duh.

"It's hard to design when you have absolutely no control over the content."

A thousand times, this. So many times, I've gotten a Photoshop file from a designer full of perfectly square thumbnail images, color-coordinated with the rest of the site design; blocks of text that are just the right length to make everything line up vertically; etc.

Which crashes and burns as soon as it gets anywhere near the real world. Users never, ever upload perfectly square images (and why would you expect them to?). Not all text content can be properly expressed in a length that's convenient for a given design. The greater the percentage of user-generated content, the more of an issue this becomes—and almost all of the content of Facebook is user-generated.

Blue is psychologically neutral. That's exactly why it's a good choice for Facebook: the designer has no idea what colors the site skin will have to coordinate with at any given moment.

"Why doesn't my Facebook have a fake-wood surround? … Your image choice is completely different from mine, so why do we both have a blue box on our page?"

Because that's a fucking terrible idea that flagrantly violates the most fundamental principles of interface design? That "blue box" is part of the interface, not part of the content. Whatever color the interface is, it should be consistent and predictable. It shouldn't arbitrarily change color/texture/layout on every page.

Facebook has almost too many visual flourishes: Those nesting boxes in varied blues at the top of each page; all those hairlines, single and double, boxing-in data and fields; the little dingbats that stand for friends acquired, comments made, links posted and, of course, posts "liked". All this busywork functions as decoration …

Those aren't visual flourishes or decoration; they're information. Hairlines and different background colors establish a conceptual separation between different pieces and kinds of content. (Negative space is often a cleaner way of doing this, but when you're dealing with as much information as the main Facebook page, negative space will only get you so far.) And removing those "dingbats" (they're actually called "icons"; perhaps the author has heard of them?) and corresponding numbers would make the page less functional.

Would it be possible to make Facebook more attractive without making it less functional? Probably. But the WaPo article makes totally wrongheaded arguments about how to accomplish that.
posted by ixohoxi at 12:21 PM on November 14, 2010 [27 favorites]


Heh. Facebook recently sent me an email along the lines of "you haven;t visted us lately, come visit us and do some great interacting and stuff", which drew from me a verbal response of "fuck the hell off".

That said, the redesign isn't doing much for me. Really, if you wanted to draw me in to facebook so that I actually used it you'd want to go the other way - remove as much fluff around the column of text as possible, and then trim all the unnescarry spammy crap out of the column of text so it was just status updates, so I could see what people were up to.

Of course, that's Twitter, more or less.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe Diaspora can borrow from these designs.
posted by mecran01 at 12:35 PM on November 14, 2010


Facebook's GUI is like Craig's List: dumb and presents the minimal information to allow usage. Because of this, it will be very difficult to "improve" the site, users will resist change. It's happened before.

Also see: MetaFilter. It's minimal design is actually a reliable feature.
posted by ericb at 12:38 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do like the free iPad app: Flipboard and how it presents Facebook content.
posted by ericb at 12:42 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


My main problem with Facebook these days is that about 6-8 months ago I thought they'd hit a sweet spot with the newsfeed. I could tweak it so that I only had read things I was interested in--mainly status updates and links people posted--and not have to deal with endless iterations of "Jimmy Joe Bob is now friends with Gerald Jimmy-John." But they've changed it since then, and now I can't force the newsfeed to sort updates that finely: I can sort who I want to hear about and who I don't, but I can't sort what I want to hear about from those people.
posted by colfax at 12:45 PM on November 14, 2010


also btw The Real Life Social Network, which waxy sez is a "great presentation on social network design by Paul Adams, a senior UX researcher at Google," cf. zadie smith
posted by kliuless at 12:45 PM on November 14, 2010


I just realized something, Twitter could replace facebook via a simple redesign/rethink of their "profile" pages, make it more robust, allow a sort of "Micro-personal-web-homepage", but all that cruft outside of the simple layout of the "Twitter" we know, (and forbid any "applications" [simple, boxes for text, image space, links-boxes])

Twitter length 'status updates' will one day be realized as what they are; Chicago Style essay footnotes, wherein our lives are the Chicago Style essays... deep, interesting, vivid, imaginative, creative and honest, with the "tweet length" things being the "pull quotes", the harbinger of "more inside", no one believes life is as 'unimportant and facile' as status updates. There is a life being lived in between them. Those are the teasers, the 'extra bits' that are like the commentary on a really great DVD program, they are bite-sized morsels of more inside.
This metafilter; it links things with a reliably minimal, intuitive design aesthetic?
posted by infinite intimation at 12:50 PM on November 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


The redesigns completely miss the point. The page layout is not the product. The appeal of facebook, for me, and I'm not a big user or fan by any means, is the content: friends, relationships, photos, chat, whatever, all in one place. Low volume users can just get the filtered news feed and occasionally look at photos, high volume users can view relationships and profiles and add apps and customize their content. Users decide content, facebook decides structure.

Also, I don't know anything, but I imagine what science there is behind the facebook layout is there to ensure facebook is easy enough for people to use while at the same time confusing enough to effect an online Gruen transfer. The number of fucking times I've opened facebook specifically to check an event time or someone's email address and spent twenty minutes looking at photos or reading a status update thread...
posted by doublehappy at 12:52 PM on November 14, 2010


Yes, the reason people don't like Facebook must be that boring interface, and not the monthly privacy overhauls.
posted by benzenedream at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


UX Week 2010 videos are here!
Hello, everybody. I have just a couple minutes and I want to share with you a very simple idea, something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately that is based on a quote that is often attributed to Pablo Picasso. He said at one point that good artists copy but great artists steal, and I’ve always wondered what really he meant by that.
Jeffrey Veen, co-founder of Typekit gives us 5 Minutes on Imitation in Design.
The irony here is that Picasso very likely, even if he did say this, which is questionable, but he probably stole it from something that was published a decade earlier by T.S. Eliot, who said, “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal,” and he went on to say, “The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that which is torn.” Utterly different.



An interview with Peter Merholz, President and Co-founder of Adaptive Path.
User experience design is, at its core, a philosophy that products and services should be designed so that they are pleasurable and easy for people to use. While that might seem an obvious design approach, it’s actually not the way many designers historically thought about making things. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1990s that an industry came together around this particular approach to design.

(Five minute version: The 5 Minute History of User Experience

A YouTube Playlist of some videos to help illustrate the development of Computer Interfaces

UX Week 2010 – Mark Coleran

For many years, Fantasy user interfaces (FUI) in film and television have drawn both acclaim and ridicule in equal measure. Credited with pushing boundaries about what is possible and dumbing down and misrepresenting a complex field of work and setting false expectations in the eyes of users. What is the truth?

GUI/FUI/Mark Coleran, Previously.

Facebook specific discussion here, Adam Mosseri on UX at Facebook.
At Facebook, analytics play a critical role in informing design decisions, but internally there’s a wariness of the idea of design by numbers. In this talk we’ll hear about three primary ways Facebook uses quantitative data.

This was the 2010 uxweek line-up, and this is the 2008, and 2009 speaker list
An abundance of video on the topic of User Interface Design (be sure to check out the fine talk by Temple Grandin)
posted by infinite intimation at 1:14 PM on November 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


I can sort who I want to hear about and who I don't, but I can't sort what I want to hear about from those people.

This. I am facebook friends with some really lovely people that I like a lot, and who have interesting status updates that I enjoy reading...but sometimes they will post many items on other friends' walls, and my news feed gets clogged up with this person's post to that person...and the other person....and that other person... and then another person.

If there was a way to not be able to see what one friend says on a mutual friend's wall, I'd be very happy.
posted by Lucinda at 1:16 PM on November 14, 2010


Infinite Intimation, why don't you make that a FPP?
posted by azarbayejani at 1:19 PM on November 14, 2010


I don't seem to have some of those problems. I use Better Facebook, which gives me a bit more control over the interface, include type sizes. (No, I am NOT associated with the project.)

But, like MeFi, a simple interface means it loads faster, which means it shows me the data faster, which is the reason I am on the site in the first place.
posted by Samizdata at 1:24 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had been working on it, but then it seemed really the same topic as this post, didn't know if that would be good to have two on the same topic at the same time- it would have been titled "this post is not about i-phones; Mostly." (because posts about i-phones often get a lot of comments), there was also a tangent about the role of "kiosk computing" on user interface design.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:37 PM on November 14, 2010


Fine, lots of people don't do the third-person thing anymore. Whatever. But I do, dammit.

I feel like everyone I know on Facebook just got the hang of writing their updates in the third-person, right before the interface changed where you looked silly writing that way. Oh, Facebook.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:40 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few months ago I created a facebook account because I'd gotten in touch with an old friend who is on fb. As soon as it was activated I started getting friend requests from people I'd never heard of (or at least don't remember; I'm the kind of person who is known to a lot more people than I remember myself). Being leery of another timesuck I pretty much haven't done anything with the account except ignore the friend requests that arrive in my email inbox with some regularity.

One day I got such a request from an actual person I remembered, so I logged into the actual fb account. I noted the pile of waiting messages, mostly friend requests, and logged out without doing anything.

Next visit to my email inbox was a message: "We notice you logged into your facebook account, remember you have 29 friend requests waiting..."

If I just log into an account and don't perform any actions, I don't expect this to be noted. I do not like this behavior at all and it makes me very wary of ever doing anything else with the account.
posted by localroger at 2:09 PM on November 14, 2010


I didn't even notice the third-person-breaking line break change until now.
posted by grouse at 2:12 PM on November 14, 2010


If I just log into an account and don't perform any actions, I don't expect this to be noted

Facebook notes everything, including whose profile pages you visit and when (you can see this by how those users pop up first in the search box).
posted by bonaldi at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2010


Yeah, you can see the results of some of Facebook's data mining on the most evil page on Facebook.
posted by grouse at 2:32 PM on November 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


bonaldi, that's kind of what I suspected; thanks for saving me the hassle of finding out for myself that I don't ever want to use this service for anything.
posted by localroger at 2:32 PM on November 14, 2010


what really creeps me out is how they store your entire password history..
posted by 3mendo at 3:44 PM on November 14, 2010


Yeah, you can see the results of some of Facebook's data mining on the most evil page on Facebook.

I'm normally not on board the Facebook hate-train, but that's outright creepy. Whomever designed that page needs to be slapped.
posted by schmod at 4:28 PM on November 14, 2010


I can't believe I'm going to take the side of facebook in any argument, but these proposed changes are ill-conceived crap. It's spec work level at best.
posted by Mick at 4:38 PM on November 14, 2010


Yeah, you can see the results of some of Facebook's data mining on the most evil page on Facebook.

Holy freaking crap.

And the freakiest thing is that it said Brandon Blatcher would miss me!!!!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:39 PM on November 14, 2010


BAHAHAHA, that deactivate page is hilarious. I'm sending that to everyone I know. Via facebook.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 5:47 PM on November 14, 2010


For anyone who dislikes all the extra crap Facebook puts in the newsfeed, check out the F. B. Purity script to obliterate it. Rather nice.
posted by nrobertson at 7:02 PM on November 14, 2010


Wait, so this article is basically designers saying "it doesn't pop" about a relatively functional, minimal design?
posted by tmcw at 7:28 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ohh, Paddy Harrington, "heavy Facebook user" and "design director of Bruce Mau Design, one of the world's most prominent and forward-looking firms," your addiction is not Facebook, it's DRAMA.
posted by desuetude at 8:54 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, Facebook is OK and their users would rebel against a redesign.

You know who has a horrible Web site? Amazon. Takes me 15 minutes to find anything through all the layers of different search types. There's no way to find only items sold by Amazon. There's no way to find your total bill including tax and shipping before you check out. There are 17 subsections on product pages (Frequently Bought Together, Product Features, Related Items, Sponsored Links, ...) with no particular order or table of contents. And why are there external ads on a shopping site? Argh!
posted by miyabo at 9:06 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know who has a horrible Web site?

Yes I do. Godaddy.
posted by Mike Mongo at 9:22 PM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Amazon probably has external ads because lots of people just browse around and may not buy anything.

Actually I bet you could design a lot of that UI just using the facebook graph API. The API calls for a list of friends is easy, once a user authorizes your app to access his data.

In fact check it out If you go to FB's developer API page, they give you a link to view your own news feed (ctrl+f 'news feed')

So yeah this guy could actually implement his idea if he wanted too. But, I doubt people would really be interested.
posted by delmoi at 3:18 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Facebook is one of my least favorite sites to navigate. The layout changes every few weeks, the dynamic stuff doesn't work half the time, there's tons of unnecessary crap on every page, and a lot of content is buried to the point where I have to use Google to find it. Unlike most of my frequently visited websites (hello, MeFi!), I have to expend a considerable amount of mental energy whenever I use it, even though I've been a member since it first appeared.

A redesign to simplify and streamline the interface would be long overdue.
posted by archagon at 4:44 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know who has a horrible Web site? Amazon.

OTOH, Amazon can A/B test every change. So it's likely that Amazon's design is intentionally that way.
posted by smackfu at 6:31 AM on November 15, 2010


bruce mau hasn't really thought about this. at least the iA approach makes sense.

this reminds me of the redesign of craigslist that wired commissioned. half of the designers went on to demonstrate they didn't know the first thing about usability on the web. Khoi Vinh is the notable exception as someone who did something that could theoretically be more useful but Matt Willey and especially Luke Hayman just went on to demonstrate their personal styles. to me, that's as bad as an architect building a house with a leaking roof just because it'll serve as a great shrine to himself. (yes, I did mean him.)
posted by krautland at 7:38 AM on November 15, 2010


« Older Ads that would never be allowed today. Van Heusen...  |  Jaimie Mantzel has a dream: Th... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments