Facebook’s Top 14 Usability Mistakes and How to fix them
I love Facebook. The site has revolutionized the way we keep in touch with friends and family, especially when they’re scattered across the country or around the world. But every time the service unleashes new changes, I roll my eyes and shake my head. Most of those changes do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do, and worsen, not improve, the user experience.
I am not sure how Facebook is making these decisions, but I seriously doubt it involves Usability Testing. Any reasonable tester would have been able to catch these snafus.
Here are some of the most annoying features of Facebook with suggestions of how they can fix them. I just hope someone at Facebook is reading this…
1. I Don’t Care Who You’re Friends With
Facebook’s home page tells me everything that happens to my friends.
But I don’t want to know everything that happens to my friends.
Do I need to know if my friend is now friends with someone I’ve never heard of? Do I need to know if they’ve joined a group of fondue-dipping chocolate lovers? Maybe, especially if they’re sharing the chocolate, but I want to choose what I see on the home page — and what I leave out.
A couple of versions ago, Facebook only showed the status update of friends. Those were the days…
Suggestion: On the Settings page, add a list of all the possible status types and let me choose the ones I want to see.
2. Comment Spam
Sometimes I’ll see a status update that makes me want to comment or mark as “like.” That’s fine. That sort of easy contact is part of what makes Facebook fun. But once I’ve done that, I receive a notification every time another comment comes in after me. I can turn off the email notifications but not the site notifications.
Hit “like” or make a quick comment and it haunts you for days and sometimes weeks. I now find myself thinking twice about responding to friends’ posts for fear of being over-notified.
Suggestion: Forum software got this one right. Forums allow users to unsubscribe from a thread so that they no longer receive notifications. Facebook can implement the same thing easily. Just let me choose whether I want to unsubscribe after I post or “like” a status update, or allow me to unsubscribe from all future notifications of this post.
3. Chain Emails
Chain emails sent to dozens of people at a time have become a thing on Facebook. It’s not always a terrible thing — I don’t always mind it — even if it does increase the chances that I’ll eliminate this “friend” from my Facebook contacts. The problem though is that whenever someone responds to the message, it goes to everyone on the list. So now I have to read all the personal exchange between people on the list even if it’s not directed to me. Even if I delete the email, I still can’t get away from it.
Suggestion: When replying to a chain email sent to more than one person, let the sender ask whether they want everybody to receive the reply or just the sender. Or let me “unsubscribe” from this email thread.
4. Unstoppable Friend Suggestions
Facebook wants us to take every opportunity to make new friends. The site suggests new people based on common contacts. Sometimes though, these people are not my friends for a good reason. Do I really need to see their face every time I log in?
The Close button helps but only for that session. The face is back next time I log in. It’s distracting, annoying and not necessary. Frankly, I’d rather see an ad in that spot.
Suggestion: Allow me to completely turn this feature off on the Settings page, and when I close a suggestion, Facebook should never offer me that contact again.
5. Chat Duplicates
I’ve placed my Facebook friends on different lists so that I can manage them better. That was a nice touch. But some friends are on more than one list. When chatting, I can find myself talking to the same person in three places. Talk about confusion! Friend lists are a good thing. Friend lists on chat, not so much.
Suggestion: Allow users to turn off grouping on chat.
6. Every Road Leads To Home
This is probably the biggest mistake in Facebook’s latest revision. On previous versions, a bar at the bottom of the page allowed me direct access to groups, marketplace, and other pages. This bar is gone. Now if I want to access any of these pages I have to return to the Home page first and look for it on the left. Instead of clicking once to get where I want, I need to click twice.
When you use an application this much, all those unnecessary clicks quickly build up to unnecessary frustrations.
Suggestion: Return that navigation bar or add menu items to access all pages from anywhere.
7. No Notifications On Business Pages
I’ve created pages on Facebook for both my businesses, and I post news about them there for my customers. However, when someone places a comment or asks me a question, I don’t receive a notification. I have no idea that anything has happened. The customer thinks that I’m ignoring them or that I don’t care about their question.
I receive a huge number of useless notifications on Facebook, but this one is important — and it’s missing.
Suggestion: Add notifications on pages I own or admin, and let me turn them off on the Settings page if I want to.
8. Guess The Icon
Another bad new feature is those strange icons at the top left of the screen. Not only are they hard to see but the icons themselves don’t represent the pages they take us to. The messages icon looks like a chat icon. The notifications icon looks like… a glob? The friends request icon looks like it leads to a list of friends — which it should do but the only way to get to that page is through the Home page.
In fact, what are the chances I really need to access a “friends request” page? I can approve/ignore friends requests by clicking on the link in the email notification. Someone at Facebook though has decided that this one feature is important enough to have its own real estate — and more important than the actual friends page. That someone is very odd.
Suggestion: Make these icons easier to read with more relevant graphics, and replace the “Friends request” icon with “Friends.” If you really want, Odd Someone, you can show me the friends requests on the friends page.
9. Idle Friends Still Chatting
When I click on Chat to see who’s available, I can see many friends marked with a gray dot, indicating that they’re not currently active online. So why do I need to see them? Why not only show me the people that are actually available to talk?
Suggestion: Let me choose whether I want to see idle friends by picking an option on Chat settings.
10. “Go on, make friends. Don’t be shy!”
Facebook doesn’t think it’s enough to give me a tool to manage my social life. It thinks it should manage my social life for me as well by prompting me to talk to friends with whom I have little interaction. “Say Hello, write something on their wall,” Facebook tells me. But I don’t want to! If I wanted to write something, I would. Stop bugging me, Facebook!
Suggestion: Allow me to completely turn this feature off.
11. Where Did My Friends Go?
Clicking on the “Friends” link to see my list of friends is always disappointing. What I see instead of my friends are links to:
- Find friends
- Friend suggestions
- Search for people
- Find people you IM
But I don’t want any those things. I want to see my friends.
Facebook’s priority is to grow by allowing the user every possible way to find and add new friends. But what about what the user wants? Isn’t that a priority?
In fact, clicking the Friends menu item opens options to see “recently updated” friends and “Status update.” Friends are grouped under those options… but I still can’t find a full list of all my friends.
Suggestion: Allow direct access to a full list of friends.
12. The Neverending Page
This is obviously a new trend: Twitter does it and now Facebook does it too. We used to have pagination on pages with a lot of content. Some content would show on page one, older content on page two, and so on. If you wanted to access the last page, you just clicked “Last.” The new, trendy way is to allow users to click a link marked “older posts” which then show up magically under the newer posts.
There are advantages. In particular, you don’t have to wait for a new page to load to keep reading. But if you happen to navigate to a different page, perhaps to look at a linked image, when you return to the long page, you’re right back at the beginning.
And what if I want to access very old posts? Pagination lets me head straight to the last page. With “older posts,” I could be clicking for hours.
Suggestion: Improve technology to remember my last place. Or just bring back pagination!
13. A Video Is Not A Link
When I want to add a video from YouTube, intuition tells me to click the “video” icon then choose “video from external site.” Not on Facebook. To add a YouTube video I have to click the link icon. It makes no sense at all.
Suggestion: Do the obvious thing: let me add a video by clicking the video icon!
14. Bouncing News
Facebook’s home page offers two options: “Top News” and “Most Recent.” I really don’t know how Facebook determines top news, or even why they call it “news.” To me — and to everyone else, I think — they’re “status updates.”
Whatever Facebook calls it though, I just want to see the most recent posts by my friends. I can do that by clicking the “Most recent” link but whenever I return to the home page, the option bounces back to “Top News.” Does Facebook really want us to see what they think we should see?
Suggestion: Get rid of this duplicity and just show me the most recent status updates. Or let me keep the option I choose.
Because Facebook is used frequently, it’s very important to get the user experience right. But it does give the company a little room to add features that require learning. The “hide” or “delete” buttons that only show when the user hovers over the stream, for example, is not user-friendly but users have learnt it.
Facebook has to get out of its own head and start doing some serious usability testing. The company needs to think about what we want rather than what it wants. The suggestions I made here are not that hard to implement, and all they do is give users the options to make their experience better.
Are there any other facebook features you find annoying? Please comment below…