Facebook has announced an update to their News Feed layout which will help cater to common user concerns and make the Facebook process easier and more clear-cut. And while the changes may seem small - you may not even notice all of them as you scroll through - each plays a specific role, and is based on various iterative studies and data.
As explained by Facebook, the changes have been driven by the most common issues highlighted by users, identified through their regular feedback process.
"Our design and research teams are in continuing dialog with real users, every day. Consistently, our audience lets us know what they care about most:
- The content itself, such as a shared photo
- The person who is sharing the content
- How they can leave feedback (like a comment or reaction) to what they were seeing"
These are the three core areas Facebook's looking to address with the update - here's how the new layout caters to each.
First off, on content - there are a couple of smaller tweaks in content sharing dynamics, though again, most are fairly subtle. On links, for example, link previews will now appear larger, and with the originating website listed above the headline, as opposed to below.
You can see here, the link preview is also bigger, making it stand out a little more in the feed. Facebook had also been testing color co-ordinated link previews, which took on the dominant color of the link preview image, but that test hasn't made it through (at least in this iteration).
Color co-ordinated link previews in testing
Facebook says they've also increased the color contrast to make the typography more legible, along with updated icons and Like, Comment, and Share buttons which are larger and easier to tap.
The content changes are also evident in the new image sharing layout, which addresses the second element - better highlighting who is sharing the content.
You can see how Facebook has improved the dynamics of moving through the feed once you've clicked on a post, with a new back button, while the removal of the blue header helps the image (and creator) stand out - though not as much as it would have had they gone with another iteration they were testing (below left).
I personally like the test version better, but Facebook found there were issues with having the text on the image, so they went with a more familiar variation.
The third element relates specifically to comments, and may be the most prominent update, with Facebook introducing bubble-style responses, making it easier to see which comments are direct replies.
Facebook's been testing this with various user groups - several users highlighted this back in June, while that test also included an indicator bar based on how many replies a comment has received.
As with link previews, not all elements of their testing have made it through - which is probably a good thing, as the indicator bar doesn't look as clean or co-ordinated as this new layout. The bubble comments also mimic the format of other platforms, like Reddit, which Facebook notes:
"Our existing [comment] formats were rooted in message board styles, with similarly limited affordances for personal expression. As we started to look at other formats for comments, it was obvious that messaging design paradigms have empowered people to converse better than they could before."
You can also see how Reactions can be more clearly attached to specific comments, making it easier to stay with the conversation flow - and considering Reactions have been already been used more than two billion times since being made available in Messenger threads, there's clearly a use case for them here also, aligning with the wider design shift.
In addition to these changes, Facebook's also making profile images circular, which they started implementing last month. Just as it did on Twitter, that change may require some business Pages (and probably people) to change their profile image to better suit the round format.
Overall, the changes look good, and they seem to make sense, based on the insights provided by Facebook's design team. And while they might seem relatively subtle, they could help provide significant benefits for Facebook, with more people spending more time engaging with content.
Facebook says the new changes will be rolled out over the coming weeks.