Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Redesigns?
I’d like to be able to start this column with an impressive statistic about the number of changes Facebook has made over the years, but that would be impossible, because there are simply too many to count. I can remember the first time Facebook triggered outrage by changing things up, back in 2007, when it dumped Beacon on its users like a bucket of dead fish -- ah, it was a simpler time. Since then, however, there have been so many tweaks, new features, redesigns, revamps, makeovers, overhauls, facelifts, and whatever else you want to call them that I couldn’t possibly keep count (say, whatever happened to Places, anyway?).
If you take the view that this process shows Facebook striving to improve its user experience by making the platform more relevant, you’ll probably view it as a good thing; if you take my view, that they are trying to suck you further into an endless time-wasting narcissistic vortex, while annihilating the last scraps of privacy left on the Web, you might think it is a bad thing.
But from a purely pragmatic standpoint (meaning, Facebook’s own self-interest) is there such a thing as too many redesigns? Of course, with every new version Facebook aims to maintain enough continuity with previous versions, and employ an intuitive enough format, that users can settle into it without too much effort. It has been well demonstrated by Facebook, as well as other Web site relaunches, that users typically complain for a bit -- but then forget things were ever any other way.
At least, up to a point. With rumors of “Facebook fatigue” in the air again, I’m starting to wonder whether there comes a point when even an intuitive redesign still requires too much cognitive effort on the part of users who are already tiring of the platform. One of these days, could yet another redesign trigger the sort of mass exodus that spelled doom for Friendster and MySpace? Or is this too alarmist? I’d be interested to hear what readers think.