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Facebook: Changing for the better?

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What do you think about the recent changes at Facebook?

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has made some significant changes.  These range from the hook-up with Skype, to the addition of a subscribe feature, allowing you to “follow” people in a similar way to Twitter or Google Plus.  Today, Facebook has changed the way the news feed looks and works, to include both top news as well as the most recent items.

Many people have questioned whether these sudden changes have been made to improve the user experience, or as a reaction to Google+ and the attention it has gained recently.

The challenge with change

In my experience, people generally embrace progress but they dislike change.  They love to see things improve but they value the comfort of familiarity.  So, if a change is made to a product or service, it needs to offer a significant improvement to reward the discomfort of the change.

  • If Facebook has changed significantly with no real benefit, let alone a drop in user experience, it will lose market share.  As we saw with MySpace, no one is too big to fail if they get it wrong.  Additionally, Google Plus now offers an interesting alternative for disgruntled Facebook users.  Interestingly, Google+ today became open to all, with no invite required.
  • If Facebook has changed and improved significantly, it will retain most of it’s current users and attract new users too.  It will also increase user engagement; essential for their monetization model.

Personally, I have found Facebook’s changes to be useful.  Very useful.  Although I am an avid user of Google+ (since day 3 of it’s beta testing), I am connecting and sharing more on Facebook right now, than ever before.  You are very welcome to connect with me on my Facebook Page.

What can we learn from this?

All innovation should be driven by a desire to improve the customer experience or product.  When the marketplace believes that your intention is to make their experience better, they are massively more likely to be receptive.

However, if they think you are in a feature war, where the changes being made are driven by the need to be newsworthy, rather than the desire to improve, they may feel very different.

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Jim Connolly

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15 Comments

  1. Admittedly, a little off-putting at first, because, like most change, people take it personally: “What have you done with MY Facebook?” But, like all the previous times it’s changed, I’ll get used to it, and probably won’t end up the worse for wear.

    However, even though I likely won’t stop using Facebook altogether, what this recent spate of changes DID do is prompt me to sign up and start using Google+.

    See ya around, Jim. Thanks, as always.

    • I wonder how many other people did the same as you, Brett?

      Ironic that by trying to borrow from Google+, Facebook may have actually pushed some users TO Google+.

      Thanks for the feedback, sir.

  2. What annoyed me Jim is the way facebook only decided to make the privacy and usability changes, when forced to by a serious contender.

    I’ve stopped using facebook completely and deleted my account. It’s Google for me now unless they too become idiots when google plus takes off.

    • Hi there Jon. You have echoed one of my initial thoughts regarding the Facebook privacy changes. It’s myopic to wait until a rival forces you to improve user privacy. Thanks for the point.

  3. I don’t like the way FB created lists for me – and if I want to add people THEY will be notified. I thought lists were for my convenience. I don’t particularly want my friends to know which category I want to place them in.

    I do like the sticky menu bar, however — the one that stays while you scroll.

    I also think FB is implementing too many radical changes, too often — and doing too many at once. It becomes overwhelming after a while.

    • Hi Sara. When “smart lists” really are smart, they can be very useful. Sadly, this isn’t often the case.

      It’s very strange that Facebook introduced so many changes, so close together.

      It’s hard to determine what change created what impact, when you do more than one thing at a time. I know they tested the changes on small groups, but to go live with so many changes at once is very irregular.

  4. All these knee jerk reaction changes are annoying the majority of my friends on Facebook, from the young friends I have to even my very tech savvy Granddad.

    The trouble is they had to do something as they knew Google were going to open the doors to general public soon.

  5. Is it possible that our resistance to changes on Facebook are because they aren’t initiated by the user? Uninvited change may be less appealing than change we have initiated ourselves?

    • That’s a great point, Olwen!

      Many of the recent changes seem as if they are not based on feature requests from users. That makes a huge difference.

  6. It seems like each time Facebook changes, people have fits for days then it quiets down. I don’t like them either at first but now I’ve come to expect them so I don’t mind as much. Yes they take getting used to but in the long run they have also been much better. I’m not a fan of the lists either but then I don’t like the circles on G+ much. I liked that we could make our own friends groups. I’m sure in the end I’ll like them better.
    I have no plans to switch over to G+ totally.
    I am going to take you up on your friend invite.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Tammy.

      FYI: The link in the post is not asking for a friend invite, it links to my Facebook page (not Facebook account.)

  7. Facebook knows people don’t like change and seems to take the approach of simply forcing it on them. I’m sure they lose people each round but I think most people hang in there. I do think that part of their success with this approach has to do with testing out some new features with a small number of users to gauge their response. (That and everyone’s friends are there – it’s hard to get people to move to another network.)

    I saw the facebook “news ticker” back around July 1st – 8th and I know not everyone saw it so there are things that Facebook does sort of beta test on a small groups of people.

    I don’t know how they select which features to do this on, which not to and how they choose people. I know only a few of my friends (mostly other web designers) were seeing that ticker at the same time I was back in July.

    Facebook lists however already existed (though not “smart” lists) and they simply made them more useful. I remember creating a few way way back and then forgot about them. And when I say they have existed for awhile I mean a really long time ago – back when you had app tabs at the top of your personal page. Back when Farmville was just starting to get popular. Facebook would not have auto generate a “Wofo High School” list for me when the school’s real name is “Woodford.” :)

    I personally think most of facebook’s changes are fine this go round. I’m even fine with the “news ticker” but there is a way to get rid of it in case you find that too distracting: http://lifehacker.com/5842578/how-to-kill-the-facebook-news-ticker

    And Thursdays rollout – I think music will be integrated into facebook (a la spotify) and I think we’ll start seeing the changes 1pm EST (f8 facebook developers conference in San Francisco starts then.) That’s my prediction at least. :)

    • Hi Hilary. I have to admit to being a little surprised at how negative the response to Facebook’s changes have been.

      According to Ben Parr at Mashable, the announcements later today at F8 will be the biggest change to Facebook since it’s launch. He goes on to say it will antiquate every other social network and leave current users shell-shocked.

      Let’s see what they deliver. A little bird tells me Amazon could be involved (but that’s just between us!)

      • I’ve been racking my brains since you shared that Mashable article on Facebook Jim, and I did think maybe they would get Amazon involved with maybe offering cloud storage to users for free. The trouble is the author writes about emotion and Facebook not releasing whatever it is for revenue reasons it seems.

        The thing is, the missing link between brands and users of Facebook is the ease of buying what a brand is selling. If indeed Facebook was to work with Amazon and bring eCommerce inside the site it would be a game changer that would please, as he mentions, developers, users and yeah the competition would look quite ancient with your typical revenue streams.

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