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Facebook backtracks big-time on major redesign vision

Matt Kapko | March 10, 2014
You will notice bigger photos in your Facebook news feed over the coming weeks, but the layout and navigation of the site remain untouched. A massive redesign envisioned by top brass at the company was mostly scrubbed to indulge the lowest common denominator.

The new version of Facebook's news feed will be rolling out to all 1.2 billion users over the coming weeks. (Click for larger image.)

As the default homepage for every user, the news feed has been the ultimate sandbox for developing and introducing changes to Facebook. The company has plenty of ideas for how to make the news feed better, but it appears this latest years-long effort was too much and too soon. There is a gap between what users expect of the news feed and what Facebook wants it to be — a conflict that understandably swung in favor of the company's 1.2 billion users.

Even the new look Facebook introduced last March was a far cry from what many inside the company had envisioned, according to various reports. Still, that redesign which eventually made its way to a single-digit percentage of users appears to have run into engagement problems rather quickly. The company set itself up for big expectations at its unveiling last year, so this major stumble could hang like a dark cloud over its future plans for years to come.

The current version of Facebook's news feed is finally being replaced with a new design. (Click for larger image.)

Compartmentalizing users' news feeds was a vision CEO Mark Zuckerberg described last year as "a foundation for the best personalized newspaper." The goal, simply put, was to make it easier for people to find the content they want quickly without necessarily pushing more into the home page.

Personal Newspaper Not Yet in Circulation
"Our goal is still to show you the best personalized newspaper. Overall, we want to connect people with the content that's most interesting to them," says Facebook's spokesperson. "We're getting better at showing people the stuff they want to see — if you're a gamer, you see more games stories, if you consume a lot of news, you'll see news more prominently. The changes announced today are visual updates and do not affect how we surface content to people, nor do they change how stories are ranked in the news feed."

While the end result of Facebook's news feed redesign indulges the lowest common denominator, other complementary projects within the company like its recently launched Paper app could become the vehicle for larger leaps in design and experimentation.


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