Facebook’s experience sucks (Comments of an app-builder on #ProjectXHaren) | Peter ...


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Disclaimer: this post might seem over-opinionated and, at first sight, slightly off-topic. But things happened just to close to let them rest. Please read on.

Twelve years ago I moved away from the busy part of Holland to the quiet village of Haren, The rapid evolving internet made physical distance to my customers less important. It was a move I never regretted. Over the years living here was good and I had a lot of good internet experiences, both professional and personal. Last year I even got myself a Facebook account. Never did that much with it, one of the reasons is its bad user experience. Navigating around FB is chaotic. I uploaded some foto’s which I couldn’t trace afterwards but keep popping up in my “friends” pages. That kind of frustration. I never got the feeling I was in control of my own “wall”. I will get back on that later.

Last weekend made me long back to the pre-internet days. Friday night our lovely village was visited by a ProjectX party, which started on Facebook and made Haren known all over the world. Leaving the village in shock, over 30 people physically injured and over a million euro’s of physical damage. The psychological damage is still unknown, writing this down should help. The morning after was also great, everybody was busy cleaning up the mess, having a coffee outside and talking. Thus reclaiming our living space.

Who is to blame ? How did this happen ? Noteworthy from the viewpoint as software developer is what triggered it. It was a small mistake in an inhabitant posting a Facebook event (marking it as public) which went viral. And here I want to point a finger. As I wrote before the Facebook user experience is bad, it is chaotic and the moment it is posted you lose control. The mistake made was just waiting to happen.

User experience is IMHO something which deserves far more attention. Also here on CB. It is great to be on good speaking terms with a domain expert and have a smooth and maintainable infrastructure for your software. But when the UI, the only thing the end user sees, is no good the software will not work. It will be overstressed by the user firing invalid data at it, again and again. It will starve because the end users refuse to use and feed it with data. It will become unpopular because it does different things then expected.

Back to Facebook. Recently it collected an incredible amount of money. By far enough to hire some people who really understand user experience and give the site and apps a good makeover. In case FB doesn’t pick this up themselves this is IMHO a golden opportunity for a new startup. Just like FB swallowed Hyves, FB can be swallowed. On the very short term I would suggest a small patch, asking for a confirmation like “Do really want this to go viral”.

I am not blaming Facebook on what happened in Haren. I am blaming them for a having bad apps. For now the Facebook experience just sucks, especially in Haren.

I want to finish with a small Limerick. In Dutch, author unknown:

Er was eens een meisje uit haren,
die wilde opvallend verjaren…
ze plaatste een linkje,
vergat daar een vinkje,
en nu zit heel Haren op de blaren…