Facebook Users Give Redesign Thumbs Down

facebook Vote on new layoutAccording to at least one early poll, the latest Facebook redesign is a flop. A week after the social network began rolling out the revamped home page, a "New Layout Application" on Facebook shows that few approve of the new version.

Of 850,000 Facebook members who have used the app to vote on the new home page, 94% say they don't like it.

Among the key changes made were updating the News Feed in real-time, enhancing the ability to filter friend lists and applications, and a new section highlighting "top" feed stories. Updates from brands on Facebook will begin to show up in users' feeds. Each user has an option at the bottom of their News Feed page to click and "show hidden friends," where all of their previously selected brand fan pages have been stored.

Among the more than 555,000 comments posted as of Friday through the "New Layout" app, complaints seemed to focus on the new "live stream" leading to information overload and filtering options not being intuitive enough. Most of those who sound off simply implore Facebook to restore the old version of its home page.

It's not the first time users have protested site revisions on the social network. In a post about the overwhelming "No" vote on the latest upgrade, Justin Smith of the Inside Facebook blog points out that the launch of the News Feed initially provoked a backlash before users eventually became "glued" to it.

And last year, although members pushed for a return to the former Facebook profile design, the user base and engagement continue to grow, with pages per visit up by 50% since its prior overhaul last summer. Facebook has also become the world's largest social network, with more than 175 million users.

"Even though there are a lot of negative votes in that voting app, I think it's a pretty self-selecting group of people and not necessarily representative of the entire population," said Smith in an interview Friday. "I think this is fairly standard for all major Facebook product releases that I've seen--there are always a vocal minority of people who want to complain somewhere, and it seems like they're using this app to express themselves."

While it's still early to gauge audience reaction to the latest changes, his post highlights data from Compete showing that total daily times are roughly flat compared to a week ago. "It will be interesting to see how the changes actually affect user behavior on the whole overall," said Smith.

In a notice within the "New Layout" app, the developers suggested that Facebook somehow has attempted to stifle complaints about the changes by preventing users from sharing the app with more than two friends.

The message reads: "Dear Facebook, we created this neutral and democratic vote because we love Facebook. Please stop trying to suppress the vote and the muffle the voice of your users who desperately want to be heard. Let us know you are listening; let us exercise our right to vote and to invite our friends too."

Facebook said the application was flagged by an automatic system intended to prevent abuse in the distribution of Facebook apps, but has since been cleared by the system's checks.

The company also said it is carefully monitoring reaction to the new home page through a variety of channels including the "New Layout" app. Facebook is getting further feedback though industry blogs, its company blog, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's public profile, among other sources.

How marketers are responding to the home page upgrade--as well as changes that integrate brands more into the general Facebook population--is also still playing out. "With the new home page design, Facebook is experimenting with different placements of advertising, although it's too early on in the design changes to see how or if the design impacts overall interaction, exposures and traffic for brands," said David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy, at agency 360i.

He added that changes to the design and features on brands' own pages "shows that Facebook is trying to provide more flexibility and opportunities for brands to interact with their customers on Facebook."

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