I opened Facebook this morning and I was greeted by a new user interface. The site owners did send a notice a few days back about an impending change on the layout and interaction design of the social networking site. But for some reason, the design has left me scratchign my head.
On Facebook’s redesign last year, I thought it was a more gradual change and a better transition. When I saw the new interface last year, there more tooltips and helpers that guided users on the new layouts.
As for the user interface itself, it marked the return of the three-column layout in the user’s home page. (3-column layouts are utilized in other sections of the site). This move could have been a response to an insight that user’s monitor resolutions are getting bigger (or it might have been a response to the whole “Facebook copied Multiply’s design” issue that have festered since last year).
Either way, Facebook’s new design could disorient a great deal of users. For one, the site now mashes together the status updates, link sharing, note writing, and photo & video posting into one “Share” box. This could help power users, but the hidden labels could cause some user frustration.
Another is the combination of application events, photo comments, event announcements on the right column and calling it “Highlights.” Again this is another form of a generalizing strategy where Facebook thinks that the main column is better used with more status updates and less “noise” by default.
In my opinion, the most useful feature of the new interaction is the use of the right column to filter the stream appearing on the main column. It takes some getting used to, but it’s powerful, in terms of making the main news stream more relevant.
Over-all, Facebook could have made the transition a little smoother. The generalization philosophy and filtering mechanisms are great, but could be frustrating without the proper introduction.