Facebook Tentatively Tests New Sidebar/News Feed
When does a website design go from useful to too compact?
Facebook will soon find out whether its latest redesign efforts are met with 'likes' or deleted accounts as some of its users logged on this past week and discovered recent updates to its chat sidebar. Again. Although the chat window was reorganized less than a month ago, the adjustments deal a heavier impact on usability than ever before.
So what's different? The docked sidebar stays, separating real-time streaming status updates and an available chat list of friends into one horizontal column, one on top of the other, while the News Feed displays mostly content-rich posts, like recently uploaded photographs and shared, embedded videos. A Ticker section displays these same status updates near the Sponsored Ads area on the main page when one closes the sidebar. For those of you who missed out, Facebook also recently integrated with Skype, allowing users to video chat with their Facebook friends via an individual chat box or by linking Facebook to Skype directly.
These modifications arrive at a time when analysts suggest Google+ is gaining momentum, in part to applause over its sleek, clean-cut interface and similar to its Gmail release, beta users having access to 150+ invites on average to pass along to others. Facebook (and notably,Tom Anderson) recognize a possibility for history to repeat itself and for a new social network Goliath to emerge in the continuing struggle. In return, Facebook's efforts seem geared toward slimming down their platform and beefing up their advertising revenue, while Google+'s rise provides insight to the lessons Google learned over its initial Google Wave project failure. Facebook may strive to rein in its innumerable features into a compact frame with a simple, intuitive navigation to boot, but this should cause momentary pause if recent changes to its sidebar are any indication of Facebook's war strategy.
People use Facebook to interact with one another and share, certainly, but is it really necessary for one to see constant updates while updating our profiles and commenting on our friends' Walls? The status update feed is reminiscent of a scaled down Twitter widget, but with a slightly improved response mechanism; simply hover over a status update and a comment text area will float to the sidebar's immediate left for easy posting. Facebook's experts might believe users will interact for longer periods of time if one sees real-time updates without having to revisit the main homepage, but the constant barrage and influx of mundane messages may contribute toward users switching to Google+. Their intention makes sense logistically, but anyone who's taken a basic course in Psychology should know constant exposure to most stimuli, including real-time feeds, may lead to desensitization and disinterest over time. Users may not read the updates as frequently or pay as close attention to them if they do not have to actively seek them out. Consequently, users may interact with their friends less.Twitter holds users' attention because the feed is the sole purpose and focal point, whereas Facebook has its profiles and games as significant draws and does not need to spread itself thin across too many fronts. After all, Facebook is competing with Google+, not AIM, iChat, or Windows Live Messenger.Continued on the next page