The more things change…

Here’s a quick summary of this week’s Facebook user interface changes, particularly those apt to affect the Facebook for AAUW document that may be useful to AAUW members across the country who want to introduce Facebook to attendees at their state conventions this spring:

  • The icons to access various Facebook applications have moved from the lower left to the left hand column (where they used to be). They replace the “quick links” to show the news from subsets of friends.
  • The “notifications” icon has moved from the lower right to the upper left (and is now almost invisible). I’ve yet to see any notifications come in, so I don’t know if it will be move visible when it’s active.
  • The only thing left that uses the bottom of the screen is the chat application (which also appears in the left hand menu). I don’t use that, so I’m not sure if there are other changes.
  • The confusing News Feed/Live Feed options are still there — but can now be accessed on the upper right of the main content window as “Top News” and “Most Recent”.  By default, as before, Facebook shows the “Top News” chosen by some proprietary algorithm that no doubt uses some metric about how “close” you are to a particular friend and how many other friends have commented on the post. If you want to see everything, click “Most Recent”. [There used to be a way to make “Most Recent” the default. If I find out what that is, I’ll post here.
  • Access to your list of friends has changed from the top menu to a topic in the Account menu (at the top right). That’s where you’d go to search for new friends, edit your friend lists, etc.
  • The friend lists that used to appear in the left hand column are now a click or two away under the Friends link in that column.

With gajillion Facebook users feeding data to the Facebook developers, I have to believe that these changes were based on usage patterns. For instance, it’s possible that few people “found” the icons at the bottom of the page, and that few people actually used the prominent access to friend lists in the left hand column.

Obviously, change is unsettling — we all have other things to do with the energy it takes to adapt to these changes. But since all gajillion of us do use a single interface, our choices are to adapt as Facebook solves problems that no other company has ever had, or go off and start our own networks where we have more control (and have to spend considerably more energy on the information architecture, user interface, recruiting participants, and other issues). My choice is to stay here — where there’s a much greater probability of finding the folks I’d like to talk to.

For more on the reasons behind the changes, see the Facebook blog.

If you want to help update that “Facebook for AAUW” document, please contact me or one of the other folks listed in the document.

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