Facebook Surrenders to Users' Redesign RevoltS

Congratulations, Facebook users! You've successfully gotten the message through to user-surly CEO Mark Zuckerberg that his redesign is made of fail. He sent product director Chris Cox to blog an apology.

Is it any coincidence that Facebook snuck out its message of surrender as President Obama gave an attention-stealing press conference? Possibly, but that suggests a greater degree of planning and strategy than Facebook's twentysomething brain trust deserves credit for. We hear, from inside Facebook headquarters, that Zuckerberg's staff has been consumed in "fire drills" trying to figure out how to fix the mess. This may just have been the fastest they were able to scramble to come up with fixes.

The motivation for the redesign was simple: Make Facebook more "real-time," like the short messages users post on Twitter, a site Zuckerberg tried to buy for $500 million. Having failed to snag Twitter, he set out to imitate it. The result was disastrous.

The fixes Facebook's Cox lays out highlight the problems posed by the redesign — disappearing photos and friend updates, spam from Facebook apps, and hard-to-find events and groups updates:

Add more control and relevance in the stream
One of the great parts of Facebook is the ability to share and consume different types of content, such as photos, videos and notes, all in one place. We've heard from you that you want even more variety and control in your stream, and for it to update automatically. Some specific improvements we're making are:

* Live updating: One of the most common requests is the ability to see your stream update automatically. We will be adding the ability to turn on auto updating in the near future so you no longer need to refresh the page.
* Photo tags: In order to surface more photos you might like to see, we'll be adding photos tagged of your friends to the stream. This will happen in the coming weeks.
* More choices for applications: We've heard feedback that there is a lot of application content appearing in the stream. We will be giving you tools to control and reduce application content that your friends share into your stream.

Currently, the content filters on the left screen allow you to select the types of content you would like to see. Over time, we'll continue to give you more control over what's in your main stream and how you consume it. We have the eventual goal of building filters that summarize this activity so you can see a more condensed view of what's been going on. We're also thinking about ways of filtering out some of the Wall posts and content directed to specific people to focus more on posts shared with everyone.

See more Highlights
Right now, we're making improvements to the Highlights section on the right-hand side of your home page. Highlights will update more frequently and will show you more content throughout the day to mirror more closely the content that the earlier News Feed provided.

Find things more easily
It's important that you are able to find everything you're interested in, or we're not succeeding in giving you the right level of control. We're currently working on a few design changes to help you find these things more easily, such as:

* Moving requests to the top of the right column: Friend requests and event invites will be more prominent.
* Easier way to create a Friends List filter: From the filters on the left, you will be able to create a new list of friends with which to filter the stream.

Application bookmarks continue to live in the toolbar at the bottom left of the page. You can quickly access your groups, events and other favorite applications from the bottom bar on any page.

So Facebook's fixing some of the problems its new design caused, but it's not returning to the old design. Cox elaborates:

Since Facebook started in 2004, we've been through several redesigns. Each was built with the intention of making it easier to share and understand what's going on with the people you care about. Redesigns are generally hard to manage, in part because change is always hard and in part because we may miss improvements that any individual user may like to see. We keep in mind that there are 175 million people on Facebook, and everyone uses the site differently. We listen to feedback from our users, data on how the site is used, and our intuitions as builders and designers to create the product that provides the best experience across the board.

Kara Swisher quips:

Translation: We're not going back to Kansas, Dorothy, so get used to the Yellow Brick Road motif.

Why the emphasis on "listening" to feedback? Zuckerberg, in an email to employees, recently expressed fears that Facebook would be "disrupted" by companies like Twitter if it listened to its customers, as opposed to following its gut instincts. Instead of getting "disrupted" by Twitter, though, Zuckerberg ended up disrupting Facebook himself. It's a lesson that will surely end up in the business-school case studies: Now not to not listen to your customers.

(Lolcats by Internet)