Lessons To Be Learned: How Facebook Is Reviewing Its UX 2

Lessons To Be Learned: How Facebook Is Reviewing Its UX

If you’re a regular Facebook user, you may have noticed your news feed getting clogged up lately. As you scroll down, you will come across more irrelevant posts, silly videos and external content than ever before. This can become frustrating, because you have to sift through tons of rubbish, just to get to a few posts here and there from your friends and family.

Mark Zuckerberg has noticed that people aren’t spending time on Facebook doing the right things. The social media giant has realised that people’s attention is drifting onto other things, half-heartedly watching videos. Which, according to research, isn’t all that good for us.

Interestingly, Zuckerberg claims they’re cutting down on the number of viral videos they show – despite knowing it’s cutting down the time people spend on Facebook.

In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.

Occasionally it pays to go back to basics – to where it all started

Facebook is in a very delicate situation at the moment. It feels as if the site’s future really hangs in the balance, with the brand even noting that 2017 was a particularly tough year. When people start to lose sight of what your brand is about, and your site gets so successful that you forget your core principles – user experience can take a nosedive.

If you feel your site is evolving too quickly, go back to the drawing board. Consider what it was that originally started attracting people to your website. This is what Zuckerberg is doing. Facebook, in the beginning, was all about interactions with friends and family.

We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Mark Zuckerberg.

Never forget your website’s purpose and brand vision. Your core values and principles should come across in the user experience. At every touchpoint, aim to remind users of why they’re on your site. Reinforce your message through smart content and design. If you’re considering a complete redesign, make sure it is still in line with your branding and the kind of experience you want your visitors to have.

Constantly research and listen to your audience

It’s no good reluctantly digging into Google Analytics every couple of years. Knowing your visitors inside out is a constant process. You should be checking your website stats and touching base with your audience on a regular basis – as this is the only way you can ensure you’re still meeting their expectations.

Facebook has started to get complaints that the content they are serving up isn’t what users want, so they are looking to change this. If a huge chunk of your website users are reporting similar issues or abandoning their cart for the same reason – you need to adapt, and fast. This is especially important for Facebook when they are facing tough competition and people are starting to question how valuable their social site really is.

Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

And to figure out how to meet people’s needs, they’ve not only spoken with their customers – they’ve also conducted studies to ensure any future changes are backed by solid research.

We’ve studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.

Whilst most brands won’t have the kind of budget Facebook has to carry out this sort of research, it’s still important to delve beyond website analytics and ask your audience to give constant feedback and fill out website usability forms.

Less is (sometimes) more

You might be wondering why Zuckerberg would be motivated to reduce the number of viral videos. However, they have done so strategically. They focused on reducing videos and articles that are consumed in a passive way by users. Which means videos that people don’t comment on or share. These videos clearly aren’t adding anything to the user experience, other than cluttering up their experience and making it less focused.

I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.

Sure, someone might spend less time on the social site because there is less stuff to look through, but when they find a video they like, they may interact with it in a deeper way. These sorts of situations can play out on websites too. Say you’ve got a whole load of new pages on your site. If after a period of time you realised that your audience wasn’t looking at half of them, you’d probably take them down, right?

Figuring out what users want – don’t be afraid to fail

Trial and error is a massive part of user experience. Sometimes, you just don’t know how your audience is going to react. Something you assume they’ll love might not play out how you think. Facebook may have assumed that their audience would love an injection of viral videos, which they probably did, for a period of time, but then they began to miss what initially attracted them to Facebook – connections with real people.

It’s all a learning curve, but it’s how you come back from a setback that will determine how successful your site and business is. It’s fair to say despite Facebook’s success, they’ve had a few failures – yet here they are, still dominating. It’s because they have a knack for figuring out what users really want.

I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.

You can read the full post that Zuckerberg shared on the 11th of January 2018 here.


Andrew Machin
Andrew Machin

With over 15 years’ experience in web design and digital marketing Andrew has helped many brands, both in the UK and US, create exceptional digital experiences, from websites to in-store retail experiences, such as John Lewis, Jet2, Virgin Holidays and Interflora.

Through the success of such projects Andrew has received accolades that include high-profile awards that span innovation, strategy, design and results such as the Dadi Grand Prix Award and the Digital Impact Award for Innovation.

This experience has led to Andrew judging digital design awards, been featured in .net magazine, lecturing at Leeds university and speak at seminars and conferences across the UK.

Follow Andrew @The_Machin

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