When I posted recently about how Facebook’s redesign was now being imposed on all users, several posters suggested that the evident resistance to change on the site was largely superficial, and that if people gave the redesign a chance they’d realise it was superior. While I’m sure that has played a part in many reactions, an analysis of the new Facebook design by Forrester Research suggests that there are still problems to be ironed out regardless of whether you were keen on the old design.Forrester examined how well the ‘new’ Facebook would work for an individual looking to sign up to the service and locate people she already knew. In this context, there’s no loyalty to the old design to be considered: it’s simply a question of getting the job done.
Several elements of the site were praised by Forrester analyst Bruce Temkin, including the ease of accessing core functions such as searching for and connecting with friends and easily locating relevant information.
But despite that, the overall result was a fail, with only four of the 10 criteria assessed by Forrester receiving a passing grade. Problem areas included the need to frequently re-enter information, difficulty in accessing privacy policies after initial sign-up, bad colour contrasts, and a poor choice of fonts: “Default text sizes measured well under the 10-point minimum commonly accepted as legible.” Finding some functions was also deemed difficult: “Many of the forms on the Facebook site were not located where users would expect to find them,” Temkin wrote, adding that buttons for saving and cancel were inconsistently placed.
Of course, there are other elements involved in Facebook, most notably the ability to add new applications, which aren’t considered in that analysis at all. But since one of the apparent goals of the new design is to re-emphasise Facebook’s core features — finding and keeping track of friends — while reducing clutter, it needs to do particularly well in those core areas.
Facebook appears unlikely to revert to the old design, but the Forrester analysis suggests that there are still some tweaks needed before it can truly claim to be effective. It will be interesting to see how the user reaction to Twitter’s new redesign is received, and if it can avoid the rain of blows that Facebook has suffered in recent weeks. Of course, Twitter has one starting advantage: because so many of its users rely on separate clients rather than the Twitter site, there’s always other options rather than putting up with the new approach. With Facebook, there doesn’t seem to be any other choice, so we can only hope that the glitches are ironed out.