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Facebook backtracks big-time on major redesign vision

Matt Kapko | March 10, 2014
You will notice bigger photos in your Facebook news feed over the coming weeks, but the layout and navigation of the site remain untouched. A massive redesign envisioned by top brass at the company was mostly scrubbed to indulge the lowest common denominator.

Facebook's ambitious plans to redesign its news feed in the vision of a personalised newspaper have been scaled back dramatically. The company backtracked on most of the major changes it announced nearly a year ago, instead settling on minor tweaks that won't rock the boat of engagement.

Facebook is now characterising its previous plans for a complete redesign as an "experiment," adding some perspective to why so much of that effort ended up on the cutting-room floor.

"Our goal was to retain the parts that users really liked about the redesign such as the modernized look and feel and consistency with mobile stories, and remove the parts that people found disruptive, such as changing the navigation," a Facebook spokesperson told CIO.com.

The Facebook That Might Have Been
In the complete overhaul, the left-hand column was organised in a dark gray background that displayed the different features available on Facebook, including games, events, groups and and so on.

The column to the right side of the news feed included a new drop-down menu that gave users the capability to filter through different feeds based on the content source or type. Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook, described the new design at the time as an attempt to get "Facebook out of the way as much as possible."

Facebook
Facebook's original plan called for massive changes, which mo
st users will never see. (Click for larger image.)

Most users will never see those changes. The reversal indicates that most activity in the news feed, the primary venue of engagement on the site, is driven by the cluttered all-encompassing approach it was trying to move away from. That vision laid out by leading designers and engineers at the company was mostly scrubbed in favor of the status quo.

"We ran multiple tests to understand which parts of the current feed and the redesign people liked and did not like and created a best of version that we're rolling out to everyone," the spokesperson adds.

And You Get ... Bigger Photos
The new design being rolled out to users over the coming weeks keeps the layout and navigation untouched. At most, you will now see bigger photos appearing in your news feed.

You may not recognize or even care about the new font, but you might appreciate Facebook's decision to at least tighten up the layout in the main column and change the white space in the background and side columns to a light gray. Photos claim up to 30 percent of an average user's news feed, so Facebook still wants to put those photos front and center.

 

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