3 Fundamental UX Changes Coming to Facebook

​Perhaps you heard about the Facebook phone this week, well we’re not here to talk about chat heads, or Facebook Home today. Though we will soon.

Today, we’re going to review three fundamental user experience changes that are coming to Facebook this year. In short, they include the following…

  1. Graph Search
  2. Newsfeed
  3. Threaded Comments

Graph Search – Your social data uncovered

Graph Search provides search of user data (however accurate or inaccurate it may be).
Graph Search provides search of user data (however accurate or inaccurate it may be).

What is graph search, and why do I care? Graph search is Facebook’s search engine of user profil​​e data. In all fairness, they would likely suggest it is a search engine of the entire social graph – your profile info., page info as well as like button and other off-site user activity. However you define it, Graph Search is poised to shake things up.

Graph Search is not meant to be a Google search replacement (in the short term).  It is a different kind of search. Today it is a potentially confusing tool. Users have noted the strangeness in the areas of both the search functions and structure, as well as question the usefulness of the information available by the service. There is much yet to be discovered by Facebook and it’s users around the potential for Graph Search.

Graph Search has something to provide both advertisers and users. By including Facebook’s Nearby Places service, the social network looks to create more local reviews of businesses from users within a close geographic proximity. Incentive programs, useful information and the opportunity to champion a new area of the online space makes Graph Search + Nearby Places an enticing offer for local businesses and online marketers alike.

Once more test cases prove out; once more sharpness in the system arrives, Graph Search will fundamentally change the Facebook user experience.

Newsfeed – Unifying the experience with a mobile lead

Newsfeed will unify the mobile-tablet-and-desktop experiences for users.
Newsfeed will unify the mobile-tablet-and-desktop experiences for users.

Newsfeed is a unification of the experience with a heavy mobile lead. It will, predictably, become one more somewhat minor user interface updates in a whole series of enhancements as Facebook iterates it’s layout, design and user experience to be more and more mobile-friendly.

Today, this change seems fairly significant, but I predict in the not to distant future newsfeed will be just another update in a long continuum of updates (don’t they all seem to go this way?).

Overall, this will provide a more seamless experience across device types. I’m interested to see how they handle (if they address) click options differently. Commonly, mobile interface, or design features big buttons to accommodate a users ‘clicking’ with their thumbs. Desktop hyperlinked text phrases and other ‘click’ options don’t require such large buttons (or accommodation). In this age of the responsive website this aspect of the user experience is pretty fascinating.

Combined these UI changes  – navigation changes, information retrieval and display processes – have and continue to change the look and experience of Facebook, we’ll see what this unification does to put Facebook into the mobile-future for users.

Threaded Comments – Our coversation re-organized and renewed

Threaded Comments will launch for all pages in July.
Threaded Comments will launch for all pages in July.

Already started for many larger pages, threaded comments also stand to shake things up a bit.  I see this update as one that may help further lead the web-space into a frenzy of personal conversations going in a million different directions.

Threaded messages ‘help organize’ conversations by fragmenting them into new and subsequent conversations. This update alone, I don’t think will turn our world upside down. However, I do look at this as one more iteration in a continuum of updates that (combined with a tech-thirsty, wired-world) will demonstrate further how we are moving swiftly into an age of communication that might even more readily be classified as ‘controlled chaos’.

Google Makes 50 Changes to Search, Pinterest Leaps to 3rd Among Networks and Consumer Privacy Debates Continue: News Summary

Internet news for the week of April 1 – 7, 2012

Google made 50 changes to how its search engine ranks and scores websites recently. Some noteworthy changes include anchor text changes, better indexing of Google Profile pages and freshness improvements as Phil Buckley at 1918 points out. Notably Google spent the week in the press with the public debut of Google glasses. The sci-fi augmented-reality glasses, aka Project Glass are a reality that have some already speculating about the brave new world the glasses represent.

Google: Project Glass +

Google co-founder Sergey Brin sports augmented reality glasses at a charity event yesterday. (Credit: Thomas Hawk)

It is fateful news as Google attempts to maintain both – high credibility in the public eye AND its advertising empire (an empire that brought in an estimated 35 billion compared to Facebook’s 3.7 billion in 2011 ad revenue). The increasingly ‘social network’ influenced changes to its search algorithm (including most recently and notably – Search plus Your World) have, however, had some – even brand faithfuls – sharpening their proverbial pitchforks. Lately, some technologists have been asking if the search giant is or will be violating it’s ‘don’t be evil’ motto as it seeks to protect its future against consumer data advantages it may be losing to Facebook. (Note: this debate has been going on for quite some time. It’s a tough motto to keep).

You can see a demo video of Google glasses here.

Pinterest Joins Facebook and Twitter

Photo curation site Pinterest has been in the news lately as comScore puts the network in 3rd place (in amount of traffic) behind Facebook and Twitter, surpassing LinkedIn and Google Plus. Spin-offs of the hugely popular site continue to arrive in droves (much like daily deal sites did in the wake of GroupOn and LivingSocial). Pinterest did make noteworthy profile design changes recently, and continues to be a hit in the predominately female market.

Consumer Data & Internet Privacy Debates

The Wall St. Journal's interactive graph highlights 100 popular Facebook apps and the personal information they track

Interesting debates around the Selling of You (i.e. Consumer Data) continue to emerge. Even former funnyman turned US Senator Al Franken has gotten involved having brought to surface popular concerns with Internet privacy among social networks and search engines. Search engine expert, and Chief Editor of Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan however – says, not so quick Mr. Franken.

In a Debunking of Al Franken *sharp* rebuttal, Mr. Sullivan points out various issues with the Senator’s arguments (comparing credit card companies, retail stores and other ‘offline’ entities that not only gather and leverage hords of data about consumers, but that also provide consumers with no way of erasing data the way the search engines and social networks do). All said and done, both men seems to agree that privacy on the Internet, among other related issues, still needs to be monitored and addressed with judicious and economic acumen.

More News from April 1 – 7 (or thereabouts):

Facebook Timeline for Business Pages, Behavior Engineering and Online Privacy Debates

Quite a few Tech stories worth tracking this week in Tech.

Online Privacy, Ads and Tracking Debates

Google Cookie MonsterDebates around online privacy standards are in full force. Google is in hot water of late for merging the privacy policies of it’s various entities to use as one collective system. Some cry that this seems nefarious while others suggest it might just be of convenience.

The truth is, Google, Facebook and others use your user and profile data already to advertise to you. John Battelle offers an insightful and reasoned perspective on the subject in his recent post A Funny Thing Happened As I Was Tracked.

Essentially, Mr. Battelle uses an online search experience to document and showcase exactly what happens as ‘cookie’ advertising does it’s thing. The conclusion is that sites and blogs (this one included) have ads already; they may as well be relevant to the onlooker. A sentiment of which, I tend to agree.

More on this:

Forbes: Google, Obama and the Online User Manifesto

Federated Media: Bevy of Privacy Links

Facebook Timeline for Business Pages

I’ve mentioned the Facebook Marketing Conference scheduled for this Wednesday before. It may well be a date for announcing progress in opening a social apps platform or extending the social graph, and/or an opportunity to unveil the Timeline design for business pages.

Photo Credit: Time's Techland

First, the social graph will continue to gather and spread user information as apps from various non-Facebook developers will collect ‘activity’ data around what users are doing. Be it cooking, reading, walking or jogging, the new social apps will collect more user data allowing advertisers more opportunity to reach potential customers at the point of interest.

Introducing the Timeline design for business pages is something Ad Age suggested Facebook would likely do at this week’s invitation-only marketing conference. Others have written about the probability of Timeline for business pages, along with ways brands can be pro-actively organizing for the likely innovation. The conference will be livecasted and can be seen on Facebook.

More on this:

All Facebook: Facebook May Release New Premium Ad Product Feb 29th

WIRED: Facebook’s New Initiative Promises to Make Cross-Platform Payments Possible

Inkling Media: 9 Ways to Prepare for Facebook’s Timeline for Business Pages

From Tracking User Actions to Constructing Consumer Habits – It’s all Good

Lastly, I thought it could be fun to talk a bit about the ‘trigger’ that could be built into a Facebook users’ experience as the social graph continues to open and – more importantly – as the action buttons surface. Twice today I came across stories touting the advantages of orchestrating user/ consumer habits.

First, a news story on the book, The Power of Habit, highlights the work that advertisers did in inspiring the habit of daily brushing teeth in order to sell more toothpaste. It’s good story and it sounds like an interesting book. Listen or read How You Can Harness the Power of Habit.

Second, Nir Eyal shares a post on the potential money-making power of creating consumer habits. Nir writes about behavior engineering and has contributed to Tech Crunch and Forbes on the subject. Nir shares some thoughtful advice in promoting reasons and means for engineering behavior… (Read more at Nir and Far: Habits are the New Viral: Why Startups Must Be Behavior Experts)…

“Early online media enterprises like AOL and Yahoo! sold their users’ attention to advertisers in the form of ad impressions. However, Web 1.0 companies measured themselves on pages viewed and CPM rates, rather than the strength of their user habits. As millions of dial-up customers came online for the first time, these companies were lulled into complacency as their user numbers grew.

Such self-assurance left them vulnerable to attack from social media companies, which plundered their user base as the web evolved. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, armed with an arsenal of behavioral engineering weaponry including hot triggersvariable rewards, and social proof eventually dominated the Social Web.”

 AND, eventually… 

“Increasingly, companies will become experts at designing user habits.”

What’s your take? Are there bones you have to pick with the privacy changes at Google? Elsewhere or in general? How about Facebook business pages, psyched or ‘oh jeez’ about that?  … Thanks for reading. Take care.