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Category — facebook

facebook usability fail

A few recent subtle changes to the facebook experience have left me wondering if they employ any usability (or UX) specialists at facebook.

The golden rule of online usability is don’t make the user think. This means create a click path that is not only intuitive but also minimal. A user shouldn’t have to click more than once to get the most useful or important information on the site for example.

By swapping out an easy to read text list of friends available for chat with mini-thumb nails of their profile picture, facebook has made the experience less intuitive and made it way more difficult to chat with somebody. The thumbnails are so small that I have to scroll over each image to see who is there. Instead of a quick glance and one click, I now have to scroll then click then wait for the window to open. Sometimes clicking on a person sends me to their profile page where I then have to click a second time to chat with them. How is this supposed to be a better / improved experience from what we had before?

The other subtle change that drives me bananas is how your photo albums are now handled. Although it’s neat to see my friends pictures, it should not have to take 2 clicks to get to my own pictures. “My uploads” is also far less intuitive than “My pictures.” I get why they did this – they want to encourage a deeper integration of your social graph with your friends by forcing you to view their pictures first, but it’s at the expense of the overall usability of the site.

If you’re as frustrated as I am over some of the new site features, I recommend you spend less time on their website online and more time on your mobile device. facebook mobile is actually a great user experience and isn’t cluttered up by some of the other changes we have been seeing online. Well, at least not yet.

November 2, 2010   3 Comments

bacon to facebook – bring back the birthday!

I’m a big fan of the current facebook user experience online.

I’m actually an even bigger fan of their latest iphone app that allows better access to groups and pages and improves the overall user experience.  Adding the ability to sync with my contact list to add pictures and links to my iphone contact list is the best example of an App integrating with a device yet.

It’s just missing one key feature – the birthday push

The last few iterations of the facebook platform have moved birthday notices below the fold of your screen – which means I almost never see who is celebrating a birthday anymore. I was having a wobbly pop the other night with my good friend Jason who suggested that having your calendar also sync with facebook events you’ve already opt-ed in for would be brilliant.

I couldn’t agree more. Let’s go one step further and bring the birthday back as either a push message from facebook on my iphone, or as an iphone event reminder as synced by the facebook app.

I’m terrible with remembering birthdays – so having a push message on my iphone would help me be better a friend :)

January 22, 2010   No Comments

ABSOLUT® Vancouver launches as the last of it’s kind

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After a six week teaser campaign on facebook soliciting entries and proposals from BC based artists for a $120,000 local arts competition, we launched Absolutvancouver.ca which we also used as our platform to the world to announce the introduction of a limited edition ABSOLUT® Vancouver bottle.

The ABSOLUT® Vancouver bottle label was created by celebrated BC artist Douglas Fraser with the process facilitated by BSTREET.  Once the 60,000 bottles are only available in BC and once they are sold it will mark the end of an era with ABSOLUT® as they will no longer be commissioning or allowing their bottle to be modified for campaigns around the World.

Although we will continue to support the 1,600+ fans on facebook with content updates, the microsite becomes the focus over the next 3 months as we solicit consumer feedback on each artist submission through an online voting system we created.

Efforts to engage, educate, and amplify the bottle and the arts competition have also extended to twitter @AbsolutCanada where we’ve been asked to manage that account while ensuring integration of message and content with other digital channels.

I wanted to thank my digital Absolut team for another great job; Michael Palmer (CD), Daniell Hill (AD), Jason Jang & Hal Wong (developers), and Lauren Davis who has been our community manager for all 3 digital channels.

November 16, 2009   3 Comments

“Did you know 4.0″ barely keeping up with the pace of change in digital

Reflecting the pace of growth and evolution online, the fourth version of the famous “did you know 2.0″ video has been remixed as part of the third annual media convergence forum.

Like the others, many of the stats are very American-centric – although still very relevant for the rest of us.

There are some smart integrations of new data around twitter and social media, some sound bites have been retired from previous versions and mostly importantly mobile has finally made the cut as an integral part of marketing communications – both now and later.

One stat that didn’t make it into the final cut is the fact that facebook announced last week that they hit a few milestones:

  • 300 Million users now globally
  • 100 million are accessing facebook through mobile (up over 300% since January)
  • They are finally profitable – meaning they make more than they spend

September 21, 2009   No Comments

Facebook 3.0 iPhone App for Mobile is better than desktop version

Late last week I downloaded the latest iPhone app for facebook dubbed version 3.0. Within minutes of downloading this app it was clear that this was not only the best version yet for facebook, but one of the best apps period. Here are some highlights of the new app:

  • Brand new interface that better leverages the native iPhone interface which makes what was a good user experience even better
  • Better search that is also integrated into the entire experience
  • Updated news feed
  • Ability to “like” and “comment” more easily
  • RSVP for Events
  • Ability to create new photo albums, upload photos to any album, zoom, easier tagging, and profile Pictures albums
  • Access to pages – FINALLY!

This last upgrade is especially relevant to marketers who have been frustrated at spending time and energy in creating a business or brand page on facebook only to have it unavailable for viewing on mobile

You can now browse pages and even bookmark your favorite fan pages right to your main homepage screen.

What’s amazing here is that it’s now easier for me to access my top fan pages on my iPhone than it is on the desktop version.

What’s missing? Push notifications that could make your facebook app more relevant that your twitter app. Stay tuned for version 3.1 which should add this ability – which again will give marketers and brands a chance to better tap into this social community.

August 31, 2009   3 Comments

facebook and twitter connect now available for the masses


Just a week after self-congratulating our team for being  the first in our client’s brand category for integrating facebook connect into a website, I discovered how incredibly easy it is to add the same functionality with WordPress – the content management system (CMS) used to run this blog.

Within 15 minutes of finding this plug-in, I had converted this entire site to use this new application that will allow you to sign in using your twitter or facebook ID when making comments on any of my posts.

The benefit for you is that it becomes quicker to post comments. The benefit for me is that your comments can be shared with your own social graph on twitter or facebook – which will increase word of mouth on articles that you deem worthy of sharing. Naturally it’s only with your permission that this happens.

It’s truly exciting times to be working in the digital space as we are building sites in less time, for less money and with less people relative to even a year ago for the same robust types of sites.

This means we can focus on bringing great ideas to the table and reserve more of our budget for content and post-launch activities.

I guess this means the days of your I.T. group driving strategy and implementation are over.

I’ll double high five that.

July 22, 2009   15 Comments

Get your own vanity facebook URL before it’s too late!

For the same reason computer generated email adddresses never worked that great (think of the old 733511.10@compuserve.com address format in the early nineties), facebook is finally allowing users to register their own vanity name starting June 13th.

I was too late to secure my own name, but I managed to secure facebook.com/phryl – which is at least consistent with my other social media URLs and my own personal branding.

Brands looking to get their own vanity URL (so that they can finally promote how to find them in other media channels) need to have at least 1000 fans first on their public profile page (formely known as fan pages).  Don’t worry if you don’t have 1,000 yet – your trademarked name will be protected if you want it later when you finally reach facebook relevance :)

There are a few issues / questions that arise from this move:

  1. Wasn’t the whole point of facebook was that it was a closed community of people you already knew? If so, why do care if your facebook profile is now guessable / findable? I’m not sure everybody will want their profile to be fully indexed by Google now
  2. What URL do you stick on your business card or on your email signature? It’s getting crowded with my linkedin profile (linkedin.com/in/phryl), twitter account (twitter.com/phryl) and this blog. It may be time to look at a URL aggregation strategy to keep control of my personal brand. The same could be said for brands you are managing.

If you haven’t secured your own vanity URL yet, you can do it by clicking here.

What’s your vanity URL?

June 15, 2009   4 Comments

3 Reasons why brands and marketers should be wary of facebook

Social media in Canada still starts with facebook. With nearly 1 in 3 Canadians on facebook, it represents a platform for brands and marketers to reach their targeted audience in unprecedented ways.

I’m a big proponent of extending campaigns or branding initiatives to facebook, but I get uncomfortable when I see some brands abandoning their own website in favour of a facebook only presence.

I get that profiles, pages (now called public profiles) and groups are all accessible and searchable now even if you aren’t registered on facebook – but here are three reasons why brands and marketers need to proceed with caution:

1) You have no control. Brands and marketers who spent time and money into building custom pages to bring their message alive in the context of the facebook platform woke up last week to see that their page was now a profile and that their ability to personalize the experience was reduced significantly. As a weak consolation prize we can now default to the ambiguous “boxes” tab and dump all our custom messaging in there.

Even Skittles who created epic levels of PR recently by redirecting all their product and information links to user generated websites (including facebook) still had a homepage that they could control and redirect as required. facebook can and will change how and what your branded page does without notice and without input from you.

If your agency did that to you, you’d fire them on the spot!

2) It’s difficult to reach your fans or “friends” from your public profile. Unlike groups, if you send an update to your fans, the message won’t appear in their inbox. They have to click on “updates” which is the last tab in your inbox. It’s not intuitive what that means for most users, and without an update indicator like you have with email (the number that appears above your inbox indicating how many new emails you have) there is no reason for people to really click there and search to see if you have an update.

There was great potential with the new page designs that make the home page a “status feed” like your own profile page, but even those updates are not accessible to your fans unless they click on “public profiles” from the newsfeed navigation – another FAIL for usability.

There needs to be an intuitive way for users to allow and select which updates appear in their feed – including branded public profiles

3) Once somebody has become a fan of your public profile, it’s very difficult for them to find your page again. It’s crazy that in order to find the CSIA Ontario page (as an example), I need to click to away from my status stream or homepage to my personal page then click on info, then scroll to the bottom of the page (where the pages are listed) and click next before I see the page i want to access and click on that.

Taking 4 clicks to reach relevant and popular content is a massive FAIL for usability again.

There needs to be an intuitive way for people to find their pages within 2 clicks maximum. Facebook will never have true group community (and the benefits to the social graph that come with it) until they address this problem.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of facebook as a marketing platform, but brands and marketers need to treat it like an extension of their overall strategy and not the entire focus.

March 25, 2009   10 Comments

New facebook interface fails usability test

Over the weekend I was re-organizing my home office and came across Steve Krug’s book entitled “don’t make me think” – a common sense approach to web usability.

The usability team (assuming there is one) at facebook should make this mandatory reading before implementing their next interface update.

The basic premise of the book is that websites that are the most usable are the ones where the user’s natural intuition is sufficient to navigate through a site and find what they are looking for. Overly designed or function driven interfaces generally fail basic usability tests.

The facebook team has been so concerned about the rising popularity of twitter that they’ve updated your home page to mimic the flow and constant update feed that twitter has.  They’ve even changed the status bar to say “What’s on your mind” and changed the publish button to say “share.”

I like the core idea of making your facebook homepage a “lifestream” of all your friends activities that is updated live. Facebook’s “social graph” means there is inherently richer & deeper content to stream and given they already have critical mass the move was a smart one given twitter’s rising popularity.

What i don’t like is that there is no focus on the landing page.

Facebook recently updated their social ad system (the little ads on the right pane) to incorporate events and other friend activity – including friend suggestions. By sandwiching social ads with relevant updates from your social graph, they hoped to increase clickthrough rates of their ads as they are still among the poorest performing in the industry.  They now call this section “Highlights.”

Highlights on their own and in the context of the previous homepage design was a neat idea – but in the context of the current site design, all we get is clutter, a loss of focus and a loss of visual hierarchy.

Although it’s neat that I can now self-select other feeds to add to my facebook live stream (like flickr, youtube, delicious,digg etc…), it would have been more user friendly to incorporate these personalization options in the left navigation pane on the home page instead of hiding them on my personal page under settings.

Interested in interface design and usability? Here are a few other books I’ve dusted off this weekend that are worth a read:

March 16, 2009   9 Comments

How social media has changed the definition of friendship

A few weeks ago I was over at my Aunt and Uncle’s place helping them re-jailbreak a first generation iphone I had bought for them in Augusta last spring.

Our conversation drifted into why they both haven’t signed up on faceboook yet.  The short answer was – they are already connected to their friends.

Explaining the social graph and the benefits of digital word of mouth & expanding their network of friends online led to a very simple statement that really resonated;

Our definition of friendship is different from theirs.

How many friends do you have online? I’ve currently got over 600 friends on facebook, over 400 on Linkedin, nearly 400 followers on twitter and smaller amounts on slideshare, last.fm, friendfeed, YouTube, and flickr.  I’ve also got a few thousand followers who visit this blog every month.

Although most of my friends aren’t on all these platforms or even have as many “friends” as I do in each channel, some have many times more than me.

Can you really have 2,000 friends?

In 1992,  Robin Dunbar published an article suggesting that a person has a theoretical cognitive limit of about 150 “stable” relationship they can maintain.  This number is now referred to as the Dunbar number.

facebook recently reported that most users who have hundreds of friends in reality only really interact with between 5-10% of their facebook buddies. Women tend to interact a bit more than men (shocker!), but certainly the stats support Dunbar’s theory.

Is it time to unfriend / unfollow all but your 150 best friends in each social media channel?

The short answer is No.

Why? It’s about context.

Although my theoretical limit is 150 friends, based on my life stage, time of day, month, or year, my circle of friends change. In the Winter my circle of friends are primarily ski industry friends while in the summer my circle consists mostly of friends from one of my Ultimate Frisbee teams or can be classified as golfing buddies.

The same thing can be said for my professional life – depending on the time of year or what I’m focusing on, I will engage & reach out to different sets of business associates and friends.

Social Media has changed the definition of friends.  Just as media consumption and interaction has fragmented with new technology, so has our relationships and how we define them.

Best friends and trusted business associates will always be there for you – but social media has allowed us to cast a wider net personally and professionally – and thereby expanding or evolving who we consider a friend.

Knowing that relationships drive business results and other relationships – why wouldn’t you leverage social media to access & engage a broader universe of people?

The key for me is managing context.

Although some of my peers are spending time trying to get everybody to be on every channel, I recommend you manage your online brand carefully.

My social media lens looks like the following:

  • Linkedin for my professional network. If you work in my industry (or related), I will almost always accept your connection request.
  • facebook for the people I already know. Although i wouldn’t necessarily invite all my facebook friends over for a dinner party, I know all of you and would stop to say hello if we bumped into each other while walking down the street, waiting in line at the ski hill etc… I’m careful on what I post to facebook – but it’s certainly the most personal channel
  • twitter for all the people i would like to get to know better. following peers, industry experts or even Lance Armstrong – because I find the tweet feed interesting.  Although I may share some personal insights, I’m very careful of what i post here both because all my tweets are searchable by strangers and because I don’t know everybody who is following me back. If you follow me – I will almost certainly follow you back – as long as you aren’t obviously a spammer, wacko or combination of both :)
  • All other channels – I use them more for personal media consumption and don’t have the time to engage in new / separate friendships. I use friendfeed as my social life stream aggregator – but it’s a bit overwhelming for me at times – and this is part of what I do / what I am.  I can’t imaging my super cool Uncle trying to manage a social media life stream.

What about you – has your definition of friends or friendship changed or evolved as a result of your social media consumption habits?

March 5, 2009   19 Comments