Designing in Collaboration with 100,000 Users

MySpace is widely recognized as a user interface design mess. Facebook started out life as the clean and simple design alternative. However, with the addition of its development platform that created numerous 3rd party apps, the Facebook profile user interface has become more cluttered, unwieldy, and disorganized. Interestingly, recent stats from Nielsen indicate that Facebook traffic to the site is declining too.

The User Experience and Design team at Facebook has launched a major redesign. They're considering organizing the profile content using tabs, adding a new publisher feature for more simply adding content, and making navigation to applications easier via a drop-down menu. They don't plan on changing the site's visual signature, color palette, or branding. The design changes aren't radical but the approach to getting user input is. The team created a Facebook group within which they've been previewing proposed designs and then, using the commenting feature of Facebook, getting user feedback on them. There are 104,629 users in that group as of this writing and lots of them are providing valuable feedback. I think its brilliant that the team is using their own site to design the site.

The Facebook organization appears to be maturing given the way they're approaching this redesign. Previous changes to the site apparently didn't involve iterative design with user input and the results were disastrous.

I look forward to seeing and experiencing their redesign as an observer of their design as well as a daily user of Facebook itself.

For an in-depth report on this project, checkout BusinessWeek's recent story on Facebook's Big Facelift.