Friendster Revamps: Now What?

Friendster just launched a new look and feel that makes it look more like a site that belongs to the new decade. But is it enough?

Friendster’s steady decline decline and getting leapfrogged by competitors MySpace and Facebook are well-documented and this latest move can be seen as a way to increase its value since there are talks that Friendster is about to be acquired by an Asian firm.

Now, what about the redesign?

The new design sports a 3-column template, changed from a 2-column design. From my perspective, this decision was sparked by better advertisement placement. The new design is able to place a large rectangle ad in a more prominent position in the right-side column. This change seems to be a nod to Facebook’s 3-column layout.

Another thing worth noting is the addition of the “Activity Stream,” or the list of updates presented in reverse chronological order. This feature is quite common in major social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) but it feels more like the one in Multiply.

Visiting the other sections of the site, there’s little departure from the original design as the photos, friends, and profile areas looks very much alike the old design. The addition  of an expanded games section may be hint to where Friendster is going.

As the grand-daddy of social networking sites, Friendster is trying to play catch up with Facebook in terms of the look & feel and features. But given Friendster’s prominence is South East Asia, it remains to be seen how the folks from the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia would react to the redesign.

World Usability Day 2009 in Manila

We had an event for the fifth World Usability Day event here in Manila yesterday, along with 123 other locations all over the world. Entitled “Design/Sustain,” the Adobe User Group – Philippines (AUGPhil) and the UST Information Systems Society (UST ISYS)  hosted the event with a focus on the theme “Designing for a Sustainable World.”

We had a great roster of speakers and topics. Dr. Rosemary Seva of the De La Salle University talked about “Usability and Sustainability”, Rey Mendoza of AUGPhil talked about “Affordable Usability Tools” , and Illac Diaz of My Shelter Foundation shared their projects in sustainable architecture.

Apart from students, the event attracted members of the Philippine usability community and there was talk of developing the community and establishing a Philippine chapter of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA).

Hopefully by next year, the World Usability Day event will be co-presented by our own local UPA chapter. 🙂

Here are some pics:

Design/Sustain: World Usability Day 2009 in Manila

For the fifth year, the World Usability Day will be in Manila. 😀

I’m working with the Adobe User Group – Philippines (AUGPhil) and the UST Information Systems Society to organize “Design/Sustain: World Usability Day 2009 in Manila,” the Manila event leg of the World Usability Day. Coincidentally, this is the last pending event I’m heading as the User Group Manager of AUGPhil. The event will be held on November 12, 2009 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Center (TARC) Auditorium at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila from 2-5pm.

The theme this year is “Designing for a Sustainable World” and the roster of speakers is quite impressive and will be speaking on topics centered on the theme. Here’s the program:

  1. 2:00pm: Opening
  2. 2:10pm: Welcome Remarks & Introduction to World Usability Day – Anne Michelle Santos
  3. 2:25pm: Illac Diaz of Designer Village Challenge – “Designing Houses for Climate Change”
  4. 2:55pm: Short Q&A
  5. 3:00pm: Rey Mendoza of AUGPhil & Shutterfox – “Affordable Usability Testing”
  6. 3:30pm: Short Q&A
  7. 3:35pm: Dr. Rosemary Seva of DLSU – “Usability & Sustainability”
  8. 4:05pm: Panel Q&A
  9. 4:30pm: Raffle
  10. 4:45pm: Closing Remarks – Regnard Raquedan

There’s a registration fee of PhP50.00 and folks can pre-register at The fees shall be collected on site.


The folks at let me used their service and had this blog tested for its usability. I plan on redesigning soon and I figured this is a good time to get feedback from various sources on how I plan to move forward.

The sign-up form goes directly to the usability test set-up where I’m supposed to put in the URL of the site I want to get evaluated, as well as the information for the evaluators. At this point, you should already have an idea what you want the users to accomplish and I think it takes a great deal of time to come up with a relevant list.

For my test, I chose this blog and I used this scenario:

Look at the site for five seconds. Then look away and answer these two questions (without peeking!): (1) What do you remember? (2) What do you think the site is about?

– Try to find a blog post that’s right for you.

– After you’ve found it, read the content.

– Did you find what you were looking for?

– If this wasn’t a test, would you share the blog to your friends via your blog or facebook account?

– If this wasn’t a test, would you click on the ads?

– Try read the 10 most recent posts. What do you think of the writing style and content?

– Evaluate the design of the blog. Is it appropriate? What would you like to see more of?

Moreover, you also have to define your site’s target audience. In my case, I targeted a young demographic that specified that the testers must have Facebook and owns a blog. For this review, I was allowed to have two people to test my blog.

After a few hours, I got my test results. They came in two formats: the narrative that contains the summary of the findings of the usability evaluator and a video of the evaluation session.

As for the the results, I’m wasn’t too happy with the narratives as one was very curt and only the other one was helpful. The “thinking aloud” videos had more insight and I appreciated them more. Here’s one of the videos of the usability tests:

As you can see,  it was pretty helpful and I now some idea on how to go about in redesigning my blog.

For a price of $58, the usability test and the results from were pretty OK, and I think the value is in the feedback, the video and the insights from people you don’t know. And remember, simple usability testing beats zero usability testing all the time. 🙂

Write an Essay on Usability, Win a Kindle!

Human Factors International is sponsoring an essay writing contest for the upcoming World Usability Day 2009. The top two essays will be taking home a spiffy new Kindle reading device from

Since the theme of this year’s World Usability Day is “Designing for Sustainability,” the essay should answer the question:

How can the User Experience Community support the future of sustainability?

Each essay submission should be between 100-300 words and it will be judged on the merits on Practicality,  Strategic View,  Human Centricity, and Magnitude of Impact. All usability essays should be written in English.

The deadline for submission is on November 6, 2009 and the winners will be announced on World Usability Day, November 12, 2009. Once you’re done writing, you can submit you essay at the contest website.

World Usability Day Logo

Speaking of World Usability Day 2009, the Manila leg of the global event is slowly taking shape. I’ll keep everyone posted on World Usability Day Manila. 😀

3 Ways to Improve Your Web Usability Mojo

In cult favorite films like Rocky or The Karate Kid, the hero underwent a training regimen that improved their skills that enabled them to succeed. (Well, Rocky in the first film lost). But thank goodness that it doesn’t take a massive training like that to improve your knowledge on web usability.

Web designers and developers can do three simple steps to improve their working usability skills:

  1. Know Your Users – This step puts almost everything into context. By using any available method to elicit feedback from the target users, you can have a better what they really need to do effectively on the website.
  2. Design For the Users – Upon having a better idea what the users need,  the next step is to make it more easy for them to complete their tasks. Let’s take an online store for example: Place critical links in easier to access areas and make prioritized buttons like checkout or emptying the cart more conspicuous.
  3. Test! – A wise man said that simple testing beats zero testing any day, so try to test your design. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate lab set-up, but having an open mind get weird and unexpected from a user helps.

By doing those the simple things, your web usability will definitely be better. How much better? Well, that’s up to you. 🙂

My Y4IT 2009 Talk: Web Usability & User Experience Design

As I said in my previous post, I was invited to speak at the 2009 Y4IT Conference held at the University of the Philippines – Diliman in Quezon City and my talk was held yesterday.

Although it was my third year in a row to speak, it was my first time at the big stage. My talk, “Web Usability & User Experience Design,” was held at the University of the Philippines Theater and that capacity of that venue, by my estimate, is 3,000. Last year, I was at the UP Film Institute’s Cine Adarna, a place with at least 1,000 seating capacity. But regardless of the venue, both places were crowded and extra seats had to be provided to accommodate all the attendees.

As far as my talk went, it was pretty OK. I didn’t get nervous since there as an intermission my Pinoy Dream Academy finalist Liezel Garcia before I went on stage. The energy of the crown was pretty positive as I started. And this was helpful as I wasn’t feeling 100% at that time.

One thing I learned in presenting to large audiences is that the start has to be great. And with a crowd that was at least 3,000, I knew my start had to be better than great.

So I started to loosen up on stage and addressed the audience very casually (the attendees were primarily college students in their junior and senior years). Interestingly, I started off by telling the crowd that my talk was about, gasp, love.  Anyways, I got their attention and proceeded to transition to the meat of my talk: web usability and user experience design.

The most frustrating part about my talk was that when I asked the audience who did web projects in school, a very small, and I mean small, amount raised their hands. I could only see the negative in this. Either a) the audience wasn’t listening to me, or b) Information Technology students in the Philippines today are NOT into doing any web design or development. If the reason was the first, it meant I failed to do the necessary research about the audience and if it was the second, it meant that the future of web design in the Philippines doesn’t look good.

I also got feedback from a blogger who was part of the audience that the slide deck in Powerpoint that I used was great. (Although he was not convinced the audience was ready for my talk). But in anycase, any type of feedback is welcome. 🙂

Over-all, the experience of speaking before 3,000 people about usability was a blast. I hope the audience learned a thing or two about web usability and user experience design and I get to do this again next year. 😀