Kara Swisher

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Facebook Responds to Redesign Furor, Um, Feedback–Sort Of!


Facebook cried uncle this afternoon–but just a teeny, tiny, little bit–by announcing in a company blog that it had made tweaks to its recent redesign in response to massive user unhappiness over the changes.

We’re talking very tweaky, though, and not back-to-the-future stuff. As in: The new look is here to stay.

That’s true in the Highlights section, for example, which Facebook said will again look more like the old News Feed.

And the social-networking site also said it would give users more control via better filtering tools of the stream of information that Facebook has focused on making more prominent–and which some say makes the service looks too much like a morbidly obese version of the hot microblogging site, Twitter.

It also said it was “working on a few design changes to help” users find what they want, another complaint about the new look.

But, as Product Director Chris Cox noted in a section of a called “Old Vs. New”:

“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.”

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

Here is the whole blog from Cox, after the jump:

Responding to Your Feedback

by Christopher Cox Today at 5:01pm

Since we launched Facebook’s home page design, we’ve received thousands of e-mails, Wall posts and comments from you along with direct feedback from all of our friends and family. If you’ve already given us feedback, thank you. Hearing what you have to say, whether criticism or praise, helps us build a product that serves you better.

Whenever we build something new or tweak something old, our motivation is the same: to help you share with the people you care about and find out what’s happening with them. Before we launch any new product, it first must pass a process of design, development and testing with a more limited user audience. If those results are satisfactory, we then release it for all of you to use. We know that no amount of testing is as valuable as what you have to say. For this reason, we will always look to you, our users, to tell us what is working and what isn’t so we can continually make improvements.

Here are the top four things we’ve been hearing from all of you about the changes, and the areas where we’re focusing on improvements immediately and over the next several weeks.

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.

Old vs. New

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.

With the recent home page changes, we’re trying to present the right balance between what’s happening right now and what’s interesting over a longer period of time. We realize that both are important and getting them both right is crucial for the product to work. In the last few weeks, you’ve seen us shift the main emphasis towards real-time conversations and updates as the entry point to Facebook. We’re working hard to make this stream more valuable, and also to build out the richness and relevance of the Highlights section.

Your feedback means a lot, and we sort through everything we receive. The best way to give us direct feedback—to ensure that we can consolidate it—is through the feedback link on the home page tour. In the meantime, thanks for your support.

Chris Cox is Facebook’s Director of Product.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik