Why is Facebook Successful? Usability holds the Key

If you trust and believe the statistics from Facebook (80 million users as of this writing), it is qualified to say become a global social networking success story. In all probability, you already have a Facebook account and have tried at least one Facebook application (oh, that darned “Photos” app). But what makes it successful?

There are probably tons of opinions about why it is, but I submit to you mine: Facebook succeeds because of its Usability.

Using Nielsen’s Five Attributes of Usability as criteria, Facebook fares very well:

  1. Learnability – Facebook is quite easy to adopt for its intended audience, and has a very intuitive and simple user interface (The individual apps may not adhere to this)
  2. Efficiency – The extensive of AJAX has helped users of Facebook perform actions quickly, from the friend recommendations to the displaying of mutual friends. Also, people can also find an application that will suit their more advanced needs.
  3. Memorability – Thanks to its consistent layout and use of graphic design, once you get a hang of using the app, it’s pretty set from there. Facebook rarely pulls any surprises.
  4. Error-handling – Again thanks to AJAX, most errors are captured on that level– users hardly ever see a blank screen with garbage. Feedback whenever something goes wrong is also immediate.
  5. Satisfaction – From a design and aesthetic point of view, I like its look and feel compared to the other networks I am part of (Friendster, Orkut, MySpace, and LinkedIn). The closest to its design would be LinkedIn and Orkut.

Apart from the instrinsic Usability characteristics of Facebook, it also succeeds because of its extensibility and good fit with its target audience (high school students, college students and yuppies). However, people have to deal with the issues relating to third party applications– crummy apps, cluttered look when the apps installed all over and non-standardized interfaces.

Let’s see if Facebook can maintain its nice course towards social networking success.