Facebook is at it again.
It has decided to try making some changes to the Facebook “timeline” that it more or less forced upon users in the not-so-distant past.
Much grumbling and gnashing of teeth was had when Facebook released its Timeline update, and just when we were finally getting used to it, it’s thinking about changing it yet again.
The changes it’s decided to make aren’t terribly drastic.
It is streamlining the area immediately under the large Timeline image at the top of the page, removing the Maps, Follower, and Photo blocks and replacing them with much smaller text links.
It has decided to pull the “About” information below the profile photo down into the actual Timeline itself, and finally, it’s redesigned the upper nav bar. Early adapters of Facebook’s Graph Search will find the new nav bar familiar — the search box hidden, the full Facebook logo reduced to an icon, and the message and friend request area have been moved to the right side of the page.
Facebook also revamped ads and linked stories to make them friendlier for businesses that use Facebook as a marketing tool.
All in all, it’s not a massive redesign — more of a Facebook Face-lift, as it were.
But the latest round of changes have resurrected a question that’s always asked whenever social media companies do a redesign -- why do they make changes so frequently, and why are people forced into a specific layout?
It’s fairly easy to understand why they do periodic refreshes. It keeps people engaged and prevents Facebook itself from becoming stale. I’d guess that this is the reason why Facebook has managed to hang on so much longer than MySpace.
As far as forcing everyone into a ubiquitous design -- well, I’m sure it does a whole bunch of market research on how people use its software, ranging from unsuspecting test audiences to lab-based eye-tracking surveys.
It has also likely got extremely accurate data on how people use its services — so it thinks that even if you don’t necessarily like the new design, you’re probably more likely to use it, or even to use a specific feature in just the way it wants.
From a more pragmatic perspective, maybe Facebook doesn’t care. At this point, it’s so big that if you leave, it’s your loss, from Facebook’s perspective. The Facebook folks have weathered the best shot Google could take at them, and they’re probably feeling pretty secure about now.
That said, they may decide not to make these changes in the near future, or they might take an entirely different approach. Either way, Facebook doesn’t seem to have much of a problem using the unsuspecting public as guinea pigs for its design team.