Beautifully Redesigned Facebook News Feed – A Review

thIn early March Facebook announced that the News Feed was going to be re-designed. The redesign is going to de-clutter your News Feed and make it easier to consume content. They’re working to make it easier to find the updates you are looking for and using user feedback to make Facebook better overall; and they are succeeding.

I’ve had the new News Feed design for a few weeks now and I really like it. The information that you see hasn’t changed, however how it’s presented has been.

Facebook Less Clutter

Upon switching to the new layout, the first thing you’ll notice is that it has actually been cleaned up and de-cluttered quite a bit. Visually, it’s very impressive. It feels like a well-polished, professional site.

Newsfeed Redesign

The right sidebar ticker and chat has been merged with the left sidebar and placed on a dark background. This is similar to how the mobile apps are setup. The sidebar also collapses down on smaller screens to free up space for your News Feed. This is a great feature, except it expands when you hover over it and that gets to be annoying at times. The right side ads remain, however they are laid out nicer.

The blue bar at the top has been replaced with Graph Search and the amount of information up there has been cut down as well. This area is still in development though as I’ve seen a few different designs and recently my name and image disappeared from the blue bar. It’s also a bit weird how clicking on the Facebook logo takes you to your News Feed and also changes into a search icon for the Graph Search bar, however the usability has been getting better over the past few weeks.

In the News Feed, most everything is bigger. Avatars, images, links and Likes all get more space. Status updates have nice boxes around them to separate the content, which makes it easier to consume as you scroll down the page. Like, Comment and Share buttons are bigger too, but not too big.

If multiple friends have shared the same thing, it’ll be combined in a way that doesn’t take up more space and yet doesn’t lose the share data. This is a nice upgrade to the awful way Facebook combined shared information in the past.

Facebook Multilple Shares

The other big feature that comes with the new News Feed is dedicated feeds. Dedicated feeds show you only updates for Friends, Following (aka Likes or Pages), Most Recent, Photos, Groups, Games and more. This is where the really good stuff comes into play.

Facebook Dedicated Feeds

The All Friends feed shows no pages, games or ads in the feed. Overall, this is kind of what I always wished Facebook was; just my friends. Facebook does throw in likes, cover photo updates, and other information on what your friends are doing so there is a bit of noise, but it’s very minimal.

The All Following feed shows you all the posts from the pages you’ve Liked on Facebook. Unlike the main News Feed, you actually do see all posts from all pages. Once you take a look at this feed, you’ll realize how much information Facebook doesn’t show you from things you’ve opted into. In the past, this page also shown information from pages that your friends like, that Facebook thinks you’d like, however that seems to be gone today.

The Most Recent feed shows you the most recent activity from your friends and pages on Facebook. You see games played, cover photo updates, Likes, status updates and all that jazz. Again, viewing this feed really makes you realize what Facebook isn’t showing you in the main News Feed; good or bad.

The Photos feed is beautiful. It’s only the photos your friends have shared and they are all front and center. No additional noise. Facebook also prompts you to organize your photos by removing the right sidebar ads and asking you to fill out information about your albums. From what I’ve been hearing, this is one of the most loved new features.

There is also group specific feeds show you updates from just people in those groups. I think that groups are often under used on Facebook and this is one way for Facebook to get you to start using them. They are quite nice and chances are you already have a bunch of groups that were auto setup.

Overall, the News Feed redesign is great. It really puts the focus on what your friends are doing and makes it much more enjoyable to be on Facebook.

As Facebook continues to roll out the News Feed design they will continue to tweak and change things. What I see today is much improved over what I saw in early March. It’s actually gotten quite a bit better.

If you’d like to test out the News Feed redesign, look for this banner at the top of your current News Feed and give it a try.

Opt Into Facebook Newsfeed

Have you opted into the new design yet? If not, I’d recommend taking it for a spin. Chances are, you won’t look back.

Should You Be Worried or Excited About Facebook’s Graph Search?

thFacebook’s Graph Search is supposed to be a great way to connect you with others on Facebook, to find information, and explore something new. Users can search by location, Likes, businesses, interests, or many other things. Results can also be refined by a number of different options based on what you search for. The idea behind Graph Search is great, but the reality leaves something to be desired at the moment.

You can do searches for things like:

  • Images taken in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Photos I Like
  • My friends who like Apple
  • My friends of friends who work at Google
  • Microsoft employees that like Apple Inc.
  • Restaurants people who like Star Wars like.
  • Favorite movies of people who like Mystery Science Theater 3000
  • Facebook employees that are single and are under 30 years old and that live in Arizona and like Cats
  • My friends over 50 years old who like Anime and Justin Bieber
  • Photos of my friends who work at The Nerdery
Sample Graph Search looking for photos of coworkers.
Sample Graph Search looking for photos of coworkers.

As you can see, the searches can be pretty basic, or you can get oddly specific in your searches.

From a business perspective, Graph Search could be a great way to get additional exposure of your company, product or band. Finding local events, new restaurants to try, and things to buy based on friends recommendations is a huge opportunity; as long as users are checking in, rating things and talking about your business. Continue reading Should You Be Worried or Excited About Facebook’s Graph Search?

We know where you are, but what are you doing?

Photo: Dustin Diaz
Photo: Dustin Diaz

What are you doing? It’s the question Twitter has been asking users to answer (in 140 characters or less) for the past 3.5 years. Starting in the near future, Twitter is going to be including more than what you type.

Twitter announced Thursday that tweets will be carrying location meta data automatically generated by the user’s device, assuming that user has opted-in. Uh, what? If I’m on my GPS-enabled smartphone, my Twitter client will be able to attach the current GPS location to my tweet.

Ok, but wait. There’s a considerable population in the “Twitter is absolutely useless” party, so adding location data is the metaphorical screen door on the solar powered submarine, right? Well, maybe. There’s been a noticeable increase in location-aware services, from Google Latitude to Brightkite to Foursquare to Acrossair’s “Nearest Subway.” Additionally, there’s a dramatic increase in the number of GSM/WCDMA (GPS-enabled) phones coming into the market (PDF), and we all know how iPhone users like using their data plan.

So where’s any of this headed? That’s a great question, and one someone far more creative (you, maybe?) will hopefully answer. Here’s what Biz @ Twitter had to say:

It’s easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake. There will likely be many use cases we haven’t even thought of yet which is part of what makes this so exciting.

Now before we get all bleeding edge and leverage the open door, let’s look at the bottom line (buzzword bingo!). Twitter is a microcosm. Best guesses put the active user base anywhere between 2-8 million, +/- 95%. It’s not Facebook with their 250 million active users, but if you’ve been keeping score at home, you know that Facebook considers Twitter a formidable opponent. Said another way, if Twitter is adding location aware services, I’d be willing to bet a pack of Ramen noodles that Facebook will be soon, too.

So now, independent of Twitter, let’s start thinking about the ways we can create a better user experience with this new piece of  context-rich information. Build a unique and dynamic experience based on where that user is at that moment. It’s not just on the web, it’s not just at your desk, it’s going mobile, but apparently it’s starting with Twitter.

What compelling ways do you think your clients and their customers could interact and drive value for both parties? Here’s a freebie, here’s 5 more from Mashable, and for good measure, some other cool ways Twitter is being integrated (sans location aware) into marketing, communications, and of course, politics.

If you’re the creative marketing type and would ever like to bang heads and see what we can both strategerize for your clients (eg, you think it, we’ll build it, we all high 5 afterward), contact me. Via Twitter.


On the creation of iMapWeather


About nine months ago the Balcom Agency’s Chip Hanna, Interactive Account Director and Brian Blankenship, Interactive Creative Director were given a problem to solve.

“We actually had an existing relationship with one of the guys at Weather Design Technologies,” Hanna said. “He told us about this product they had that was really cool, but that they were missing the mark on how to bring it to consumers.”

Once they were given the problem, Hanna and Blankenship spent some time thinking about the challenge and then holed themselves up in a Starbucks. After many, many cups of coffee, the idea for iMapWeather was born.

“After all that coffee, we finally thought about making a social version,” Hanna said. “We didn’t want to create another social network or do what every one else was doing. They all own their markets. But here’s a different way to look at what’s going on, a way for people to connect through the weather. There’s nowhere else that you can share pictures, videos, and short messages that’s just focused on the weather.”

When Hanna and Blankenship had a concept they set to work on the design and turned to the nerds at Sierra Bravo to help them implement their idea.

“Sierra Bravo helped us get our ideas more focused and get them on paper,” Hanna said. “They’ve been able to find a lot of areas where we can be more efficient, and offered great solutions on how to serve the weather data better. They’ve been a big help with the planning and then implementing every single bit of it.”

And though the nerds were all about helping implement this brilliant idea, the great design of the site sprung from the head of Blankenship.

“I have to say, I got a lot of inspiration from Obama’s site. I’m not exactly sure why, but this was while the debates were going on,” Blankenship said. “His site was so much better than anything out there, and they were doing a better job than anyone else on the social aspect.”

Blankenship said he really is proud of how the social aspect of iMapWeather, especially things like the embedded map (soon you’ll be able to adjust the map’s size) that you can grab and put on your website. Design-wise really digs the sprouts


He also really likes the “sprouts” (the orange pluses) that sprout out different icons as you mouse over them to indicate the kinds of content that has been shared about that location.

“One of the things I think is pretty cool is the background,” Blankenship said. “It autodetects what the weather is like in the visitor’s area and reflects the weather and time of day. We thought it would be difficult to do, but Ben [Dolmar, a Programmer/Analyst at Sierra Bravo] made it work.”

This is the second part of a three part series on iMapWeather. Part 1 is here. Part 3 will focus on some of the challenges the project faced and how iMapWeather brings geo-targeting ads to a whole new level.

Skimmer on WCCO

WCCO ran a story about Skimmer on the news last night. Sadly, I can’t embed it here. But you can go watch the video on their site.

iMapWeather addictive, timely social network about weather

Yesterday the Balcom Agency launched iMapWeather,. The Nerdery had the fine, fine pleasure of helping them build this social network that lets people connect about all things weather related.

It seems like an odd bit of magical synchronicity that iMapWeather launches while North Dakota faces the worst floods they’ve seen since 1997, in fact the Red River is expected to crest this weekend more than a foot above 1997’s record-setting level. The Nerdery is keeping a close eye on the situation in ND. In fact, Tom O’Neill has rustled up a gang of nerds to head up to Fargo this weekend and help with the sandbagging efforts.

Now, thanks to iMapWeather, I can’t seem to stop watching a live shot of the river in Grand Forks that a user posted.

And this is just what the creators of iMapWeather were going for.

“We looked around and said, ‘All right there’s nothing out there that offers people a real way to connect through the weather,'” Chip Hanna, Interactive Account Director at Balcom Agency, said. “There’s nowhere else that you can upload photos, share video and other information all related to the weather.”

iMapWeather is a joint venture between Balcolm Agency and Weather Decision Technologies, The Nerdery helped them bring their vision to life.

Next week we’ll tell you about how that vision came about and what we did to help it along.