Facebook announced in a press conference last Thursday that it has drastically revamped the all-important News Feed, turning it into a "personalized newspaper" that emphasizes what friends are sharing.
In brief, the changes consist of:
- Bigger stories and photos in the feed to provide more visual appeal;
- A new sidebar to navigate different parts of Facebook such as your timeline, groups, apps, and chat;
- Choice of seven different news feeds, including Music, Photos, All Friends, Games, and Groups, all sortable by users at their discretion — think of these as different sections of a newspaper;
- Cleaner design that allows for mobile rendering.
Why the Changes?
Facebook's decision was based on three factors: Facebook fatigue, a cluttered interface, and reams of content flooding the News Feed.
Facebook fallout. Believe it or not, Facebook is experiencing user fallout at a steady pace. According to a Pew Internet report, 61 percent of current Facebook users say that they have taken a break from the site at one time or another, while 20 percent of online adults say they once used the site, but no longer do so.
More visual appeal. Facebook is also following current trends in interface design instituted by sites like Google+ and Instagram that allow for a cleaner look and less clutter. Facebook's goal is to emphasize the content itself, not what appears around it.
Its emphasis on larger photos is also in keeping with a more visual approach to web design in hopes that such changes will foster deeper engagement.
Multiple feeds. Added to "Most Recent" and "Top Stories" are a sub-set of new feeds: "All Friends," "Photos," "Music," "Following," "Games," and "Groups."
According to sources, users will be able to switch between different feeds by clicking buttons located at the top, rather than the side column.
Here's a detailed breakdown of what each feed contains, as reported by Facebook.
Groups shows posts from the groups you are part of, starting with the most recent post.
Photos shows photos shared by your friends and the Pages you like — photos from Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
All Friends shows posts from only your friends, in the order they posted them. No ads or Page posts will appear here;
Following shows posts from people you follow and Pages you like in the order they were posted. This is how Pages get included in the mix;
Most Recent shows stories in the order they were posted - that way you don't miss anything.
Games shows updates from the games you play and what your friends are playing;
Music shows posts from the artists you like and what your friends are listening to;
Close Friends, Family and other friend lists show posts from just the friends on that list. To add another feed, create a list and add the people and Pages you want updates from;
News Feed will show you the most relevant stories since you last checked Facebook. To see stories in the order they were posted, switch to your Most Recent feed.
Device consistency. Facebook has designed the new look to be consistent across all devices: desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. In fact, the emphasis was on mobile first and the website second. That makes sense given that more than 68 percent of users access Facebook via a mobile device.
Benefits to Merchants
The redesign offers a number of benefits for merchants.
More space for ads. The left and right columns surrounding the News Feed have been reduced in size, making more room for the feed itself.
Emphasis on visual content. Merchants would be wise to take advantage of the emphasis placed on multi-media to produce high-quality graphics and video content. It really is all about the pictures.
Consistency means that ads appear similar. That's true whether they appear on desktop or mobile devices.
There are a couple of drawbacks.
Ads will not appear in all feeds. The "All Friends" feed, for example, will only show what a user's friends are sharing. Other feeds such as Music and Photos may not carry ads, at least at the present time. When ads do appear, they may take on a new degree of relevance. For example, a merchant who sells video games may have an ad appear only in the Games feed.
Less emphasis is placed on ads in the right-hand column. That's the downside. The upside is that more emphasis will be placed on in-stream ads. That favors ad units such as Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories.
Facebook is rolling out the new design gradually, so you may not see it immediately. You can add your name to a waiting list in hopes of getting access sooner.