New Facebook is the opposite of internet awesome. Basically the redesign splits each user’s profile into 4 or more separate pages: “Wall”, “Info”, “Photos”, and more pages for other applications. This means that in order to see the salient points of a person’s profile (the most interesting are probably their wall, their photos, who they’re dating, and maybe what pop culture they’re into), the user now has to click and open several separate pages. This quadruples the number of pages you need to view in order to
stalk learn about a person, which means it quadruples New Facebook’s revenue from its (horribly-misspelled) banner ads. Also, why are mine always about weight-loss products? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY, NEW FACEBOOK?
The queen of the bloggers, Dooce, quadrupled her ad revenue last year with a similar trick. She now posts 3 new photos a day- one of her dogs, one random photo (often of her daughter, or a plant in her backyard, or something similarly adorable), and one unpaid feature of a product she likes (Perfume! A shoe! A cute print she bought on Etsy! A chair made by, and of, Scandinavian designers!). This means that for each visit, I read the main entry and then click 3 more times on her blog, once for each photo- giving her 3 more page impressions that day, and generating 3 times more income from the many banner ads on her site. Ka-ching for Dooce. Seriously. I estimate she’s banking $400K off the blog, and that’s not counting the 2+ book deals, or the movie deal that I rather suspect is in the works. (Please, Hollywood, do me a solid and get Night Court‘s John Larroquette on the phone to play her husband).
So on the surface, what Dooce is doing and what Facebook did are the same. But from a user perspective, Dooce is on a different, much better planet. Sure, it takes a few more clicks to read her site, but the extra clicks lead to new, added content, which has value for the reader and which wasn’t available before the redesign: she’s a great photographer, and by putting each on its own page, she’s able to post larger pics. Plus, there’s written content: she writes a short, amusing paragraph to caption each photo. For the user, each click has a cost, however slight, of effort and loading time. But in exchange for her extra content, I’m pretty happy to give Dooce those extra clicks. It feels like she thought hard about the redesign, balancing her desire for ad revenue against her readers’ desire for content. Her model is user friendly, hurray. New Facebook sucks because it attempts to generate more income without supplying more content- I’m “paying” more clicks to view the exact same stuff. It’s like how my celphone costs way more than my landline even though the infrastructure of a wireless network is much cheaper to maintain. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Bell Canada. I’m gonna blog negatively about you so hard.)
How could New Facebook improve? Not exactly sure. Some way of giving me extra value for the extra clicks, I guess. The game applications do this pretty well- I click to a new page to start a new game, which gives them a new page view. I guess maybe the problem isn’t so much the inefficient interface, it’s the fact that I got used to having an efficient interface to browse, and they’ve made it worse. The new design is a noticeable downturn for me that gives them a financial bonus, and I kind of resent that. If I give you clicks I want something back. Shiny beads, maybe, or a cheese sandwich.
Probably the best solution then, would be simple prevention: make every attempt to optimize the design and revenue model right from the beginning. Alternately, when considering changes in the site’s design, just wait a while, until there are so many addicts that nobody’s gonna leave anyway, no matter what you do to degrade the user experience. Uh, wait, that strategy sounds familiar.