Over at PCWorld, I had fun looking back at the fruitless nature of Facebook redesign backlash. No one is surprised anymore when a redesigned Facebook home page–such as the one that rolled out today–causes an outrage.
But that made me wonder: what design, exactly, do people want? Was there ever a single home page layout to which Facebook users, given the choice, would happily revert? In other words, have we cooked up in our minds some ideal vision of an “old Facebook” that never really existed?
I’ve been looking at a lot of screenshots from old Facebook redesigns, and I think the layout below, plucked from a March 2009 TechCrunch article, is my favorite:
Compared to today’s home page, the one from March 2009 is pretty clean. The page has a pleasing amount of white space, and it’s easy to see where everything is at a glance. The main timeline is chronological–a sore point among many users today–but you can still see highlights on the right sidebar.
But of course, a lot of vocal Facebook users despised this design. The detractors created a group called “Petition Against the New Facebook” that quickly amassed more than 1.7 million angry users. The backlash was so bad that Facebook made some hasty changes to settle the mood. Users, however, just wanted the old design back.
Here’s what that old design from fall 2008 looked like, courtesy of Inside Facebook:
It’s not bad, but I don’t see how it’s significantly better than the design that followed. And by today’s standards, keeping status updates in a tiny slice of the right sidebar simply would not suffice. I do like the use of gray to segment different parts of the page, but I don’t think that was a sticking point with the redesign that followed.
Besides, people hated the fall 2008 redesign as well.
Can you honestly tell me this is the best-looking version of Facebook that ever existed? It looks kind of cluttered to me, and it retains the “News Feed” that got users all riled up in 2006. Also, what’s with all the poking?
Maybe people would be happier if Facebook reverted to its original layout …
… But I think not.
I can only guess what’s going on here:
- Facebook needs to redesign its website to introduce new features.
- Users had enjoyed Facebook without these new features, so they view the corresponding redesign as pointless. Backlash ensues.
- Users come to enjoy the new features but fondly remember the old design, forgetting that old and new are incompatible.
- The cycle repeats.
Tomorrow, Facebook is holding its f8 developers conference, where it will introduce new features that take advantage of the new design. Some users will realize they have an alternative in Google+, and will leave. Everyone else will settle down as the new design proves its worth–just long enough to prefer it over whatever redesign comes next.