The New Facebook Profile Layout – Analysis, Critique and User Discussion

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The new Facebook profile design and layout are set to be revealed and discussed by Mark Zuckerberg later tonight on CBS 60 Minutes, but a variety of screenshots are now available and users can even activate the new Facebook profile layout here.

Since we love focusing on design and the principles of design here at CreativeFan, we thought it would be interesting to break down some of the design aspects of the new Facebook layout from a design and usability standpoint, as well as open the floor for you, the user, to discuss the advantages and improvements as well as the drawbacks and issues with the new design.

First, let’s preview some of the changes.  The first, and most obvious change, is the addition of a ‘user snapshot’ at the top, basically highlighting employment, education, location as well as some photos from the user.  Additionally, the use of thumbnail icons for employers, interests, likes and friends are even more prominent in the new design.  Many people have commented on the prominence of the dual sidebars, the removal of the ‘Say something about yourself’ box, and the almost Wikipedia style of the display.  Also of note is the increased number of advertisements displaying across the design.  The ever ambiguous ‘poke’ function, along with the message function, are moved to the upper right corner, and the tabs for viewing information are moved underneath the user’s profile photo.

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For photos, it takes a similar approach to the way that pictures currently display, with essentially dumping large numbers of images and content to the screen, with the goal of creating a visual connection between friends and users.

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Looking at the interests, likes and other user content, it focuses largely on implementing some of the AJAX functionality currently on the news feed, as well as moving to have thumbnails much more prominent.

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Now, for a comparison, here is the old vs. the new:

Old Facebook:

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New Facebook:

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Additionally, it seems likely that the changes will be affecting Fan pages as well, at least based on this particular screenshot from Ellen DeGeneres’ show fan page.

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Now, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the new design:

Pros:

  • Increased focus on user interaction, particularly with media rich content.
  • User ‘snapshot’ presents the most relevant information at the top of the page.
  • Overall, better organization of information such as friends and family.
  • Improved display of Likes and Interests for movies, books, television, etc.
  • The design is new, and Facebook tends to roll out design changes once or twice per year, so the changes aren’t so sweeping that users need to use a whole new interface.
  • Consistent use of fonts, colors and sizing leads to a coherent design feeling.

Cons:

  • The increased usage of media is a drawback on usability for a large number of users who have slower internet connections, expensive bandwidth costs, or mobile devices.
  • With the prominence of the two sidebars in the design, the site is feeling more and more cluttered, and one of the moves that Facebook may make is to increase the width of the design, neglecting users with smaller screen resolutions.
  • The larger number of ads on the sidebar leads to the cluttered feeling, as well as a potential for users to neglect the right sidebar completely due to the focus on ads (on Zuckerberg’s profile, only 1 relevant piece of information resides on that sidebar).
  • Information overload, particularly with the default display being the Profile and not the Wall.  Although it’s great that people can easily find out relevant information about you, it also increases privacy concerns, risks for ‘Facebook stalking’, and it feels as though it is almost a personal Wikipedia.
  • The general lack of whitespace on certain areas detracts from the visual appeal.
  • The decreased font size (starting with the News Feeds last month) may strain many users’ eyes, and it also will affect usability on mobile devices.
  • Facebook seems to be pushing for all users to use a specific app on their mobile device as opposed to the browser itself, which has both advantages and drawbacks by itself.

So, what do you think?  Let us know in the comments.  Do you like the design, hate it, don’t have any feelings about it?  Think we’re wrong in our assessment of the redesign?  We want to hear it!

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