Would you want to drive a car whose controls moved and changed every few weeks, forcing you to re-learn how to use it? No! Well, that’s what Facebook is consistently doing to users. And it’s driving them away. Do you agree?
Facebook’s User Interface is a nightmare, and here are 4 reasons why:
1) It’s Inconsistent Between Users
Facebook is continually rolling out new features to users, but they do so in waves, not all at once. So the user interface is not consistent across all users. You may see the new news feed, but I still see the old one. Even though it was announced months ago!
They build up anticipation and make big announcements about what they think are exciting new changes, but then most users of the site don’t even get to use them. Users will see changes randomly pop into their design, and ask others how it works – but they can’t find anyone to help them because no one else sees what they see. Facebook runs a lot of user interface “experiments” to small segments of users, and runs tests against how it affects how they use the site. So at any moment, you may have feature A and B, but not C and D, while someone else has E and F.
There is no one single Facebook user interface. Everyone sees their own version of it, and it can vary quite extensively. That’s terrible!
2) It Changes Too Frequently
There is always a lot of grumbling about new News Feed design changes, etc. But it’s not just the big changes I am talking about – it’s all the constant little tweaks and features that are being added and removed weekly or even daily!
The location of my icons may shift left or right, change colors, etc. I may get graph search one day, and it looks different the next. Even basic functionality may work on the news feed but not on Timelines. A new box may appear one day and be gone in a week.
It’s like we are caged rats, being experimented on continually. When users need to constantly re-learn how to use the site, it leads to mental fatigue. Most users don’t even care about all the little tweaks that Facebook seems to think are important. Which leads me to point #3…
3) It’s Filled With Bad Design Decisions
Some of the design changes rolled out to users seem incredibly stupid. Is this really the best they can do, or do they just let random interns push out code changes to production?
For example, the recent changes to comments to “rank” them and put the most relevant ones at the top completely ignored basic needs of many users. It made comments almost unusable for Pages, as there was no way to find new comments from users, as I wrote about in this blog post. Does anyone at Facebook actually use Facebook? How could anyone have thought this was a good idea?
There are lots of other examples where Facebook made changes to the interface that just seem to make no sense. Confusing to users, features no one wants, features that don’t even work correctly half the time. Where is the sense of design and vision about what is good and bad? Or is there no time for that in a “hacker culture”?
4) It Has Intrusive Advertising
We’re used to ads on the web, but Facebook is going too far. Its ads in the news feed, disguised as regular stories, is too much. It’s distracting from the content that we come to see. As they continue to expand the visibility of ads on their site, and push ads into the places where our content is supposed to be, the whole interface just feels more cluttered.
I think many users would even be willing to pay for Facebook if we could hide the ads. Wouldn’t that be win-win? Facebook still gets the revenue, and users can avoid the distracting ads. But they have said they aren’t considering that. Bummer.
I realize it’s kind of cliché to complain about Facebook. Everyone seems to think they are doing things wrong, but they keep coming back like drug addicts. I think that Facebook takes this for granted, and assumes it is immune to criticism because they have everyone locked in.
But I think that is naïve. Users have no loyalty to a platform. They will switch when a better option becomes available, just like they migrated away from Myspace. Sure, Google+ may be a ghost town right now, but its slow and steady momentum may just creep up on Facebook and surprise it to win the race. If Facebook doesn’t get their act together, users will start leaving just like their investors did.
What do you think?