Refacing Facebook

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Just when you thought you'd figured out enough ways to be amused on Facebook, the service is rolling out redesigned profile pages. Before the redesign surfaced, we asked several prominent designers what they would do to the massively popular social networking site.

It appears, as of now, that only those with the Developer application have access to the new look, but if you'd like to check out the new features install the application and head to A Facebook representative confirmed the test group involved developers only, but that the service will give users a chance to opt in to the new look as it rolls out in the coming weeks.

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The biggest change flips the whole feel of the page from vertical to horizontal and brings the newsfeed front and center, along with status updates and posted items. Tabbed navigation can move you between the Info, Photos and Boxes (where your Pirates and Ninjas and other applications go). Pencils in the upper right of most layout items enable you to tweak what those layout items contain or the data they display, opting to show (or not) your website up front and center (well, front and left, but you know what we mean).

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Click to enlarge

Another new addition to the main profile page, below your photo, is "Write something about yourself," presumably a more enduring self-definer than the status update, like the difference between the Spanish verbs ser and estar, for those that can remember back to Espanol 101. Another new feature (though it appears to be non-functioning) is "Create a Profile Badge."

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Click to enlarge

So what would the pros change? Read on.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners GCD Christian Haas mocked up his vision--click the lower right corner of the embedded player (above) to check it out in full screen mode.

Conor Brady, ECD, Organic, New York
I have to own up—I am not a big Facebook user, but there is a reason for that. It has always felt a little cold and un-engaging to me. I feel like I am clicking my way through a big Excel spreadsheet with tabs and drawers. Considering the name of the brand, it really doesn't have a lot of personality. It feels functional rather than fun, designed by a developer rather than an experience designer. I have seen "power" users' pages with categorization of their information and tools, and they are virtually indistinguishable, from page to page and between content types. If I were redesigning it, I would hopefully want to address the following categories.

It feels corporate. Blue and grey is corporate America and banking. Given how and what people use this site for, I would consider expanding the feel of the brand from both the look to the language and taxonomy. Jet Blue kiosks are a good example of this—the greeting of "Hi" at least suggests a personality in line with the brand. "Status Updates" doesn't really reflect what is happening in that area—like one of my friends buying a toy piano with chromatic keys on eBay.

The representation of the "heat" or activity on my page is hard to find. It is lost in information overload. I would love to come to my page and have the latest and greatest, most relevant content be front and center. Maybe even categorize that information based on my relationships to those people—close or distant friends. But more importantly visualize it in a way that is more engaging than lists and icons.

What do you want me to look at? I know they are talking about collapsing information behind tabs in the redesign—but is that really going to be enough to address the lack of hierarchy? Will it allow me to organize between friends and work, close friends and acquaintances, actions needed and information to read?

Brand Clutter
With the 20,000-plus applications and tools that are now available on Facebook and no alignment over how they function or look, this creates a very uncomfortable experience. I only have to add 10 to create what is essentially a brand quilt with little commonality.

Would be nice if there were some movement—it would go a long way to adding some personality. A little bit more focused and dynamic with Ajax would also be a great addition.

Andreas Combuechen, CCO/Chairman/CEO, Atmosphere BBDO
I wouldn't redesign it. Facebook, as a social networking tool, is about communication and one of its main strengths, which they should continue with, is simplicity of design. It translates into ease of use for the entire community, for both the current active users and Facebook's newest adopters (those over 35) who might not be as familiar or interested in customizing their pages for instance. In this highly minimalist interface, your content and network are really the main drivers of self-expression rather than on myspace, where the ability to highly customize the look and feel of your page makes the site feel cluttered and more about you than about you within the context of a community.

Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder/ECD, Happy Cog
I'd fix outstanding usability problems and remove the evil. I wouldn't rush to change the look and feel. At most, I'd make minor adjustments. For instance, the typography could be improved without greatly changing the overall layout, and without randomly changing brand elements associated with Facebook.

Small improvements aside, I'd leave the visual design alone and focus on things like poor usability of messaging and commenting or the incomprehensibly bad user experience that happens when an engaged member tries to create a network.

DL Byron, Principal, Textura Design
I would introduce social media favoring that values updates from my friends. Problem is, once you figure out that Facebook's friendly magic is rather robotic, it gets really tedious and annoying. For example, Rita is just someone I know, not that well, and I'd only like to hear from her once a month. Now whatever Zeldman posts, I want to know right now.

I despise the ads so much; I started a mini disinformation campaign and posted totally random status messages to skew their ad demographics. Despite what they're claiming, there's nothing smart about their ad placement. I don't want a timeshare in Florida, a Wordpress theme, or Buzzmetrics for my blog. There's talk online about Facebook jumping the shark—any new media company should focus on what they're good at. For Facebook, that's finding your friends. I'd make that an amazing app to go across social networks.

I've also been lamenting presence online recently. All these networks want me to re-create my online presence. Why can't they import my flickr photostream or YouTube videostream? Until that's possible, I'm not planning on spending any time uploading my photos to Facebook so they can run freakin' ads on them.
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