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Everything here is my personal opinion. I do not speak for my employer.
March 2009
April 2009

2009-03-23 »

The Facebook Redesign

I keep reading people complaining about the Big Facebook Redesign that everyone apparently hates. It's funny that I know this, because I don't even use Facebook.

But I do know one thing: what they did was kind of dumb. Not the specific redesign, but the way they delivered it.

I know this because I've seen it done better. When gmail changed their look and moved things around a year or so ago, they left a link at the top of the screen that says "Old Version." If you hate the new look, you can just go back to the old version as long as you like. And then Google can track exactly how many people actually prefer the old version, without resorting to highly biased polls or open letters or email counters or guessing.

And you know what? For months, I did use the Old Version mode in gmail. The new one, possibly combined with Firefox 3 Beta bugs at the time, had screwed up the keyboard focus for me, and keyboard mode is critical to my happiness. (You do know about gmail's keyboard mode, right? It's so great!)

Still, I knew the new version had some new features I'd like, so I filed a bug report about the keyboard stuff (which presumably disappeared into /dev/null), mostly used Old Version mode, and switched back and forth occasionally to see if my bug was fixed. Eventually, the bugs got fixed, and I didn't need Old Version mode anymore.

As far as user experience goes - other than the /dev/null bug tracking system - this was top notch. They offer me something new and different. I don't like it as much as the old one, but that's okay, because I can just use the old one and tell them what I don't like. They monitor (presumably) what people like and don't like, and track how many people are using the old version - hopefully a declining number over time.

Nobody has to get angry or emotional. The complainers never get critical mass, because whenever they decide to write an open letter or stage a protest, someone inevitably (and rightly!) says, "Just click Old Version and quiet down, already." People who have honest problems don't suffer, Google gets unbiased, accurate statistics about who likes the old vs. new version, and people who don't like the new colours (or whatever) have as much time as they want to get acclimatized to it, without getting defensive, until they forget why they hated the new colours so much in the first place.

The new Google.com favicon is total crap, though. What were they thinking? I wish I could Old Version that.

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