Facebook is that one website that adapts itself to how people are using the product. This is one thing that makes their product truly unique. As part of being the disruptive yet adapting product that it is, it has always been changing its layout.
Each time the layout changes, mass hysteria erupts; but yet the website traffic increases each time that happens. Facebook have an exceptional design team, and it’s not new nowadays, to know that when it comes to designing a product, users don’t know what they want. Now Facebook is the number 1 website in the world, beating Yahoo! and Google.
Mark Zuckberg isn’t a good business man, but you can say that he’s a good designer and hacker. Isn’t it great how in every publicity shot of him he’s smiling?
This post will state how the design of Facebook has changed over the years, and why it has changed to be that way.
The year that Facebook launched, being only available for college students, at first Harvard University. Back then, it was still called Thefacebook.com. It’s his followup to Facemash, which was a instant high traffic website, where college students were rated side by side, with photos of them hacked from the university database. I like how it says a Mark Zuckerberg production in the footer, typical Zucker-eque behaviour, of being an annoying yet clever geeky prat. It managed to get 1 million users in 2004.
Note how Facebook’s design resembles the layout book, rather than a traditional website. This book orientated design is the key as to what made the website so successful. Facebook had an exceptional design since the beginning.
This design had no photos, no wall, no news feed, no events, and no pages; and yet it still managed to gain many users for a social networking site.
Facebook’s advertising came from their own system called Flyers. Flyers were local adverts targeted to a small subset of people, that felt less corporate and more personal. You might see one later on in this post. What made Flyers bad, is that they were CPM; but then again, handing out flyers to students in the street for events and other such things, is CPM as well.
Facebook got more of a design identity with more refinements, and good branding being used in the design here. I have to say the logo and colour theme is looking slick. In fact, the entire Facebook colour theme is made up of 1 base colour.
Note that the old Facebook, the one with the small width, had a huge emphasis on information. That’s why I loved it. I don’t have a Myspace account. I thought it was stupid to join a website just to add friends and comment on their profiles and send bulletins. Facebook put the emphasis on information, and even if I wasn’t posting anything to the site, I could happily read through different profiles. It was an enchanting experience. This is the year that Facebook opened itself to the world, and it eventually got 12 million users that year.
Note that when Facebook launched the News Feed feature, there was a huge outcry over people who feared that it would negatively affect their privacy. Once users got used to the News Feed, they began to like it, and they shared more content on the website. Another example that users don’t know what they want. I wonder what the people who joined those against the news feed, think about that in retrospect.
As mentioned before, Facebook adapts its product to the way that people are using it. Because companies were opening new profile accounts to promote their products, Facebook decided to add the Pages feature.
The Facebook 2007 design is nothing short of impressive. It produced something that other social networks could have ever dreamed of, and it really proved Facebook’s worth as a design company. For many people, this is their favourite Facebook design; and they wish that Facebook would go back to their old design. When people talk about the old Facebook, they are referring to this.
This is also the year that Facebook created the Facebook Platform, so that developers could build things utilising their technologies. Back then, the Facebook Platform only accounted for Applications. The concept of Applications was original, and it really helped put Facebook on the map even more. Thanks to Applications, people could put boxes on their profile, and page; regarding that application.
Keep in mind that Facebook was still focused on the concepts of Networks. In case you don’t know what a Network is, a Network is a school or university that you used to or currently go to, that you have explicitly disclosed in your profile; so that others can find you by your network. This was one of Facebook’s best features, as I could browse the Facebook members who had come from a particular school. I’m not sure if you could browse them by their leaving year.
Facebook was more than a website that gave you a friends list, and a means to communicate with them. It was a website for communities. People who joined Facebook could identify with their Networks and add people from them. Companies, brands, creative people, places, and public figures could make Pages to engage with their fan base, and expand it thanks to the viral spread of the news feed. Communities, causes, or people who come up with witty sentences, could make Groups to have the pedestal that having a Page comes with, except that they can’t use Applications with their Groups. Combine that with the benefits for Applications, the benefits to users and developers were immense. Who can forget those virtual gifts that you can buy and give to your friends. Facebook got rid of that feature later on.
Being on Facebook really felt like being on a communication tool that nobody hadn’t yet to think of, yet so important and crucial in our day to day lives. It changed the game. It was the web’s hottest property, and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want to sell it.
Some non-profits were using Facebook to create a profile for their business, because they didn’t want to use the Group feature. Facebook noticed this, and they decided to create Pages.
What more can be said about the design of the old Facebook? It’s truly phonomenal. But Mark Zuckeberg isn’t the one to rest on his laurels. No matter how successful something is, he’ll always have to find a way to completely change it in some way. That’s part of his plan of keeping Facebook disruptive, so that it never gets uprooted. Here’s a quote he said…
One of the things I ask everyday is how can I get this company to move quickly. Technology companies tend to get “slower” as they grow to larger scale… Try and fail. You don’t need to get everything right. “Move fast, be bold and take risks” is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tries to hammer home everyday.
With that philosphy, and Mark Zuckerberg being such a good designer and hacker, I can’t see Facebook being uprooted any time soon.