Industry insight: Pro designers have their say on Facebook



Over the last year, Facebook's interface has changed dramatically with the introduction of the new personalised profile page Timeline. But what design challenges does Facebook have?

Sarah Parmenter says

Sarah Parmenter

Sarah Parmenter

"Personally, I'd love to get my hands on the Facebook UX and UI. There's so many things I feel could be improved upon, but I'm sure they stay the same because they work towards the intended goals and purposes of Facebook very well.

"Some of the top designers reside at Facebook so there must be solid reasoning behind why elements work the way they do. However, I'm constantly seeing irrelevant content and removing yourself from content other people post is becoming an issue.

"I think they do a lot of things right, and never bitch about redesigns but I'd just love to see less clutter, especially from third-party apps I have no interest in. I just constantly seem to be tweaking my newsfeed."

Sarah is a web and UI designer and owner of design studio You Know Who

Simon Jobling says

Simon Jobling

Simon Jobling

"Facebook has quite a challenge now to ensure it continues to deliver a user-focussed design.

"It's all well and good putting a 12-figure value on the product, bringing investment to the business, but Facebook's key product continues to be their millions of users and how they fulfil the users' desires.

"They need to innovate, introduce engaging new ways for visitors to stay on the site, consuming valuable products for both parties. It'll be interesting to see how the platform evolves over the next 12 months."

Simon Jobling is a web designer and developer based in the UK.

Jonathan Kenyon says

Jonathan Keynon

Jonathan Keynon

"The influence of Facebook is undeniable. It's become a default communication tool for friends and family, and the launch of Timeline was really huge - both because it's more elegant, and because they launched it gradually, instead of just moving things around from one day to the next.

"Using it for branding isn't as simple, which I imagine is part of recent concerns of making Facebook advertising profitable for brands.

"When clients ask us to design for Facebook, it's challenging because of the uniform restrictions. I totally appreciate Facebook's desire to keep the environment proprietary, but brands have a hard time standing out, and if they can't customize their space then the design and marketing challenge is even greater. In moving forward, I think there's a fine balance that Facebook needs to strike between their brand and their advertisers - a true design challenge!

"That said, I totally appreciate that Facebook, as a medium, is forcing advertisers to up the ante - just making a good looking ad doesn't cut it anymore - it has to be engaging, it has to matter to the user. We may have our hands tied behind our backs when we design for Facebook, but the games and apps we're creating are an exciting challenge."

Jonathan Kenyon is the creative director and founder of Vault 49.

Jeffrey Zeldman says

Jeffrey Zeldman

Jeffrey Zeldman

"Facebook is dying in mobile. The Timeline has made using Facebook fun, and they've gotten much better at supporting power users with multiple accounts. Compare their multi-user ease to the frustration of trying to use multiple accounts in Google Plus or, really, anywhere.

"Advantage: Facebook. But all this melts away when I attempt to use Facebook on my phone. Whether I'm using the app or the mobile site, the experience is dreadful. Pages take forever to load, often freezing in the process. It's as if all the huge image files and complicated JavaScript of the desktop experience are being forced into the phone experience where they don't belong.

"Even using the phone on Wi-Fi, the experience is painfully slow, because, powerful as, say, an iPhone is, it's still easy to overload its processing power with too many scripts. Facebook has absorbed some of the smartest people in design, including folks who specialize in mobile apps (like the Gowalla team), and yet its mobile experience gets worse and worse.

"I love Facebook. I'm a committed user. And yet, all too often, I give up in frustration when trying to perform even the simplest action on Facebook in mobile. They need to fix that. Their incredibly lethargic knuckle-dragging non-response to mobile is astonishing, considering how smart they are in so many other respects."

Jeffrey Zeldman is publisher and creative director of online magazine A List Apart and founder of design agency and consultancy Happy Cog.

Shane Mielke says

Shane Mielke

Shane Mielke

"Facebook's biggest design challenge is the possibility of losing key creatives that have stuck around for the IPO but leave after the 90 day vesting period of their stock. This could have a big impact to many aspects of Facebook because typically one designer has complete ownership over an application, product or specific area of the network.

"They have no shortage of creatives applying to work there, but potentially losing designers intimate with their products, brand and culture could temporarily shake things up."

Shane Mielke is the creative director at 2Advanced.

So, that's what our designers think. But what are your thoughts on Facebook design challenges? Let us know in the comments box below...

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