by Elizabeth Kricfalusi, Tech for Luddites
As we've discovered with the recent changes to the Facebook News Feed, Facebook is not really big on the whole, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" concept. Unfortunately, they're not much better on the flip side of the expression, namely, "If it IS broke, DO fix it!"
Most of these things have been problems for several iterations of home-page designs, so I can't say I'm really hopeful they'll be addressed before the next "new and improved" News Feed. But if I ruled the world (or, at least, Facebook), these are the main areas I'd be focusing on.
Give users more control over the content they see.
Facebook has done a fairly good job (with some exceptions) of letting you control who sees the content you post. Unfortunately, you have almost no control of what content you see yourself, other than the all-or-nothing Hide option that removes all of a person's posts from your News Feed.
The weird thing is this should be really easy to do, because THEY'VE ALREADY DONE IT. In earlier versions of Facebook (a couple of years ago more or less), they had a Settings page where you could use sliders to indicate what types of content you wanted to see more or less of. For example, show me more status updates and links and fewer photos and notes. The only complaint I heard about this was that they didn't give you this option for more types of content and yet Facebook's response to take it away altogether.
I'd love to see them bring this back and let you apply it not just to what you're seeing but to who you're seeing as well. So you could say, for example, show me more George Clooney and less George Foreman. That way I'd see occasional posts from everybody, which might prompt me to go to their profile pages to see what else they've been up to lately. Seems to me that's a lot more "social" approach then simply shutting them out altogether.
Let people message more than 20 people at a time.
This is simply one of the most bizarre aspects of Facebook (and that's saying something). I honestly can't think of any reason for this ridiculously low limit, especially when they allow groups to send messages to all their members at once.
It's bad enough that you can't enter more than 20 names when sending a message but even more frustrating is that you can't send a message to a friend list if it contains more than 20 members. That should be one of the main benefits of creating a list in the first place!
Make Facebook Pages more useful.
Facebook Pages are a great way for companies, nonprofits, and other organizations to communicate with customers, partners, and other interested parties. Unfortunately, there are currently a lot of limitations to being able to make them as valuable as they could be. Here are the main things that should be addressed:
- Decouple Pages from personal profiles. Although you can technically do this, the way it's implemented causes a lot of headaches for Page administrators. It just makes absolutely no sense to attach a business Page to a personal profile—Set my Pages free!
- Allow administrators to send messages to fans. I don't understand why Groups can use the message feature but Pages can't. Sure, Pages can send "updates" to fans, but fans can't get e-mail notifications of the updates and I'm willing to bet not many people even know where to go looking for them. (Click Inbox, then click Updates.) I assume part of the concern is that some Pages will send out too many messages annoying their fans (although why that's not a concern with Groups is baffling). But, of course, all you need to do is give fans the option to opt out of messages if they don't want them. (Or they could use an opt-in model—either way would be better than what they have now.)
- Give administrators the option to be notified when fans post content on their Pages. This is such common sense, it astounds me it isn't possible. Ideally, they'd allow the option of moderating content before it's posted but, at the very least, they should let you know that someone has uploaded a photo or written on your Wall so you can check it out. Otherwise, administrators need to check their Pages continually to see if anything has been added that they might want to comment on (or delete if it's inappropriate somehow).
- Provide the option for fan content to be published to streams. I administer a Facebook Page for a locally wildlife nonprofit. Occasionally a fan will post an interesting link to a wildlife-related story or photos of animals they've taken but they don't get sent out to other fans' News Feeds like content posted by the administrator does. And that means they don't get a lot of comments on what they post, making it less likely they'll post content again—a real eagle-and-egg situation. One of the points of Facebook Pages is to build up active communities of people with similar interests, but this definitely hinders that possibility.
Create a Customer Support department.
There's no way to e-mail or phone Facebook if you're having a problem. Nobody from the company monitors and responds to questions in the Help Center. There are a few forms on the site that let you report bugs or provide feedback, but they're incredibly hard to find and, based on my experiences, no one ever responds to them.
Now, the argument I've heard in this regard is that Facebook users are not "customers" because it's a free service. Maybe not, but it's the users that attract the advertisers—and their deep pockets.
Perhaps they think that they have such a large user base now (more than 300 million active users) that they don't need to worry about losing a few users here and there. No competitor could ever take them on, right?
Hmmm... Did you hear the one about the Harvard student who built a little application to help keep in touch with his college friends and grew it into a global business that cut former market leader MySpace's share in half within a year?
So how about you? Anything you would add to the list of things Facebook should be working on instead of, say, Facebook Lite? Add your comments below!
Last Updated: October 28, 2009