You may have heard somewhere that the Facebook home page was redesigned again. (#sarcasm) While I find it cluttered and imperfect, and have to relearn some of the usability yet again, amid the scrambling you’ll find elements of what makes the social-media site successful.
Say this much for Facebook: As an organization, it’s never satisfied with the status quo. You can say its new status line is essentially emulating Twitter, but isn’t adapting to competitive market forces something we value in organizations? You can fault the decisions made — and I did sign up for just about every I Hate The New Facebook petition and group the previous time — but you can’t fault Facebook’s dedication to continuous product improvement.
If you’ve ever been in on a site design, you’ll know it’s no easy process (I have been, and the three hours I spent in a dentist’s chair last week was less painful). Facebook, if nothing else, is certainly challenging its designers and programmers to keep it fresh. Unlike MySpace’s myriad potential layouts (virtually all of them ugly), Facebook’s CMS offers one unifying look. Generally it’s crisp and clean, and while the new one seems more confusing at first glance, it’s still better organized that so many other sites. If the layout isn’t always intuitive, the basic content itself remains simple, easy-to-understand and economical in its phrasing.
Moreover, one benefit of Facebook’s tinkering is it keeps us talking about good Web design. To paraphrase jurist Potter Stewart’s famous line about not being to be able to define obscenity, but knowing it when he saw it, we can say the same about Web design. Not many of us are experts on the subject, but we know what we do and don’t like in terms of Web page ease of us. With its seemingly continuous redesigns, Facebook enables wide-ranging discussions on usability in real time.
And besides, if you don’t like this version, you can bet Facebook will change it up again soon enough.