Last week, Facebook announced the most comprehensive update to their News Feed to date. The social network will begin rolling out its updates immediately and interested users can join the waiting list to become one of the first to get the redesign (more information below).
Originally launched in 2006, the News Feed provides Facebook users with real-time updates of their friends’ activity across the network. While minor adjustments have been made – the addition of brand pages to the feed in 2009 and the ticker in 2011 – the News Feed has been relatively untouched compared to other pages on the site.
Mark Zuckerberg and his team, armed with the massive amounts of user data at their disposal, developed the new design with the aim of making the entire feed cleaner and better organized. As Zuckerberg explained, their goal is to make the News Feed “your own personal newspaper.” The Facebook homepage will now be even more tailored to each user’s preferences and the new look may have profound effects on both individuals and brands.
Choose Your Feed
Facebook is touting the new design as a less cluttered version of the old, with increased control of feed content given to users. There are now a handful of feeds users can choose from, each with unique types of content. From photos to music, games to groups, users can now view only what they choose. And of course, they can still decide to view all of the most recent posts (my personal favorite.)
For brand pages, there is a ‘Following’ feed that displays updates from brand Pages and people users choose to follow. The option exists in the current layout, but is buried beneath groups and very likely not used by most people. For businesses there is now even greater incentive to create engaging content on their pages, as they have an opportunity to reach their fans through a dedicated feed. The brands that are most successful at breaking through the noise will likely find user engagement increased thanks to the new feed.
Emphasis on Visual
According to data from Facebook, about 50% of posts on the News Feed contain a photo or video, up from 25% at the end of 2011. The Facebook design team took that to heart and created a look that showcases rich media like never before. Each story has been made larger and posts with photos, videos or links are now more visually striking.
For brands, this means coming up with new ways to share your content in visually compelling ways. Imagine how you can incorporate text into images to share a message while taking advantage of this increased footprint for media.
The richer, expanded content also reaches into ads. Ads will take up much more space and be more integrated into the standard News Feed going forward. Striking images will be important going forward.
Inspired by Mobile
Facebook now promises users a seamless experience whether they’re on their computer, tablet or mobile device. And the design itself was highly influenced by their recent mobile designs – larger images and ads, sidebar navigation, etc.
The entire feed has been designed to feel cleaner and more organized, making it much more suitable for a smaller screen. One wonders how much Facebook’s acquisition of the mobile app (now also a desktop site) Instagram helped them reimagine their own site.
If you had any lingering doubts about the influence of mobile users on the web, they should be put to rest. Going forward, don’t be surprised if user experience is designed with mobile in mind first, everything else following. The days of cramming a desktop site onto a smartphone screen are near over.
This doesn’t just apply to heavyweights like Facebook. Customers are learning to expect a seamless experience whether they view your site on their home computer or their phone. You may have noticed the newly redesigned Parthenon site (which we’re extremely proud of.) If you haven’t yet, check it out on your mobile phone. Let us know what you think.
And please let us know your thoughts about the redesigned News Feed. We’ll be thinking hard about how to best take advantage of its new features for our clients. We’d love to hear what you have to say.
If you want to sign up for the waiting list, or if you’d like to hear more straight from the source, head to the Facebook News Feed page.