Plain Thoughts Blog

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User interface: part I, the impact of big change

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By peterurban - February 20th, 2019

A website’s user interface is a crucial point of connection to those who come, go, and hopefully stay as they browse the web. Updating and changing the user interface has a giant impact : influencing the desire or discouragement to sign up for particular site or service, as well as the motivation to continue use. So what’s at stake when a comfortable, familiar site makes a big user interface change?

Facebook is a great example of the complexities of this question. Obviously, Facebook wants to have a creative, aesthetically pleasing and functional user interface. But they are also under pressure to stay current, to continue appeasing users appetite for the newest application better tailored to their needs. When Facebook launched the News Feed, the strains of simplicity and function versus innovation catalyzed a divide among users. Well, it wasn’t much of a divide. Most people hated the change.

I’m sure Facebook figured people come here to browse each other’s lives anonymously in the first place, so why don’t we create a more seamless way for them to view recent actions and updates? It’s not a terrible concept. But users were horrified at the blemishes now littering their once-clean interface: even on Facebook there is such a thing as too much information. Users have since adapted and even come to appreciate the News Feed, updating privacy settings to control which of their antics are broadcasted to the eyes of their networks. I personally think the tolerance of Facebook users is unusually high simply because their desire to interact with friends in a familiar setting overcomes any dissatisfaction they have about the interface.

The itch for change has come to test the patience of Facebook users yet again. As of last week it became possible to switch over to the New Facebook – the latest in user interface updates for the giant social networking site. The homepage, I will admit, looks much better not too many changes, just some tidying. But why then, if the ambition seems to have been simplification in the face of piling applications, do the profiles look so brutal? Aside from finding them particularly ugly, I don’t like all the information spread out across tabs, and I don’t find the integration of News Feed items with the wall a self-evident switch.

A site with less loyal users typically can’t afford an interface that isn’t pleasing to the eye and easy to get started on. The more seamless and effortless you can make the user experience, the more users will be inclined to make that site a part of their browsing routine. Every newly added function to a site walks the line between improving performance and impeding usability. Facebook’s near-monopoly on the networking world seems to exempt them from this paradox, but judging by my own infrequency on Facebook as of late and my dissatisfaction with the latest changes, I can see them eventually losing some of their more committed users.

What do you think of Facebook’s new interface?


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