Magic happens when a big social network updates its layout. There’s always such an outcry of reactions. Whether it’s something subtle like re-positioning a div or as dramatic as adding hats to a user’s picture – there’s always a moment where your social-network zen gets interrupted with a flood of: “I LIKE/LOVE/HATE THIS CHANGE.”
Now, if you’re Facebook with 1.3 billion active users – there’s no surprise that a redesign can impact so many people and figures.
Sometime in 2013, Facebook proposed a different UI for its 2014 redesign. The layout, featured below, was called Newsfeed and contributed to an all-over new experience for the site. The content heavily focused on photos and news articles. It felt gorgeous for those who signed up on it’s wait list. As designers, there are a million things we can say about the formerly proposed layout and how it features and handles its content but at the end, it’s user experience that trumps everything.
Julie Zhou, a product designer on Facebook – shared some truths about why Facebook’s layout is the current one instead of the proposed redesign. On Medium, Julie writes:
Here’s what we learned: the design we tested a year ago wasn’t better for the majority of people.
It turns out, while I (and maybe you as well) have sharp, stunning super high-resolution 27-inch monitors, many more people in the world do not. Low-res, small screens are more common across the world than hi-res Apple or Dell monitors. And the old design we tested didn’t work very well on a 10-inch Netbook. A single story might not even fit on the viewport. Not to mention, many people who access the website every day only use Facebook through their PC—no mobile phones or tablets. Scrolling by clicking or dragging the browser scrollbar is still commonly done because not everyone has trackpads or scroll wheels. If more scrolling is required because every story is taller, or navigation requires greater mouse movement because it’s further away, then the site becomes harder to use. These people may not be early adopters or use the same hardware we do, but the quality of their experience matters just as much.
At the heart of developing any product is the question of what defines better?
Facebook’s current design is pretty far from the proposal and still feels like achingly familiar Facebook, but with improved accessibility and the thankful removal of the footer (endless scrolling + footer = a terrible combination!) – it also has more white space and an over all better flow then the former layout.
Julie Zhou proudly reminds us that:
This is about designing something that works for the hundreds of millions of people who use the Facebook website every day, from all over the world, on all types of computers.
What’s design that doesn’t take experience into consideration, after all?
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