Facebook is revamping its Web site with several new features that give users more information about their networks in real time. The changes have been widely compared to the updates people send and get via microblogging site Twitter, which Facebook apparently now views as one of its competitors.
The new site, which can be previewed here, allows friends’ posts to be streamed in real time. Changes you make are updated instantly on friends’ home pages as well, which are now called “profiles.”
Other changes gives users more control over what they see. Users, for instance, can create their own filters using Friend Lists. They can also filter by applications, like Photos.
Other tweaks include a change to the Facebook inquiry “What are you doing right now?” to “What’s on your mind?” It also eliminated the 5,000-friend limit; you can now sign up an unlimited number of friends.
The design itself is cleaner as well. Content is neatly laid out in a three-column format, with the main navigation engine on the left side. This follows traditional Web design guidelines, Hyun-Yeul Lee, an assistant professor at Boston University, told TechNewsWorld.
“Personally I am a believer in designs that have unique and consistent frameworks of navigation regardless of where or how it is positioned in the browser. However, in Facebook’s case, the navigation of the old layout was representative of a scatterbrain, link-all attitude. The new design gives it a little more orderly hierarchy, structure to all the information you want to quickly get to.”
For instance, the streaming clarity in the middle column is the juice of the interface, she said, which is also very representative of communication trends highly influenced by Twitter. “Real-time is important and the positioning of ‘me’ contributing to the stream keeps it focused and relevant, and psychologically ‘in the stream.'”
The third column encourages behavior that references points in time as opposed to what’s now, she continued. “This means that Facebook probably wants more traffic — more so that users become dependent on a Facebook calendar based on your network.”
In the Highlights section, Lee noted that Facebook has grouped the ad section with the type of content — photos, notes, and events — that users most care about. “In the previous design, ads were still on the right side … it was easier to ignore that space.”
Commingling Ads and Content
Besides keeping up with Twitter, the redesign also has several pluses for marketers — a constituency that Facebook wishes to attract in greater numbers — starting with the new real estate for ads.
Commingling ads with content is a obvious plus for marketers, Brandon Evans, managing partner of strategy and services for Mr. Youth, told TechNewsWorld. “Marketers are being included in users’ social graphs just as their friends are, as well as being able to publish information to their subscribers’ home pages.”
The potential downside to that, he said, is that brands will need to accelerate their comfort level with consumer chatter about their products. Some brands are already swinging the doors wide open, of course. However, “they all will need to do this in the next few years, and brands who want to actively participate on Facebook will need to get comfortable more quickly.”
The new “stream” feature that will show updates from friends in real time will be both helpful and harmful to marketers in other ways as well, Mike Howard, CEO of the teen social network Kiwibox.com, told TechNewsWorld. It will be helpful because it will provide a wealth of direct information on consumer behavior; harmful because a marketer’s message needs to be clear, concise and targeted. “This flood of constantly updated information may muddle their approach by having them try to do too much at the same time,” he said.
Ultimately, though, Facebook’s redesign is aimed at bringing more personalized, timely information to the top of the page, Howard said. “This focus of information can only help marketers in their gathering process.”