Facebook Finally Switching Over, But Are They Really Going To Lose Users? Uh, No.

One of the things I find entertaining in the land of web design where houses can be of any size, there’s this constant need to redesign, redesign, and redesign again (read the always popular “If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers” for a perspective). I tell clients that a lot of small changes have a more positive impact on usability than a single massive redesign that can take months, because users are used to it and have learned how to use the current system within its constraints.

The reason there’s usually a redesign is the CEO usually comes down from the hallowed halls, and says, “we have to make it grey instead of yellow!” And grey it is (read: cnet.com).

Facebook is launching their new design this week to upteen million users (100 million or so, not counting my friend’s cat), and there’s going to be an uproar, and some grumbling, and then people will get used to the new site and stop complaining. Last time I checked, no one is actually paying for Facebook, so they can’t ask for their money back.

Looking at the numbers as reported by Mashable, it looks like adoption is not too bad — I’d be worried if there was a massive change back to the old platform, and that’s just not happening. In fact, I’d even go so far to suggest that Mashable might be spinning it a bit their way in a negative light because they don’t like the redesign. The petitions are at about 800,000 users, which means that there are probably about eight million very unhappy users, but that’s what, five percent of the audience?

Every site redesign I’ve participated in, I’ve seen the same trend. Sites almost never lose users because of a redesign, but it does slow site growth because when you do a redesign, there’s always a lot of bug fixing. MySpace has been going through a rolling redesign of their site, and other than some grumbling I heard from the teenset, there’s no petition there. In fact, that and the adoption of the platform has been very, very positive.

Or maybe the users there just don’t care.

I actually like the new site and some of the features (like uploading a profile photo) require tribal knowledge of driving through Boston’s streets to find the right screen, but overall I think it’s a move in a positive direction, especially since many of the newest features are occupying a space that both LinkedIn and eVite missed.

Facebook is becoming the defacto networking platform for professional groups. You can personalize your page quite a bit more, but still keep the Facebook look. And seriously, running two designs like they’ve been doing is a serious pain in the ass; last time I checked, one of the advantages of the web was one code base, yo.

Facebook has grown immensely over the years, and the application platform has created whole new opportunities for developers to abuse it, so gaining a bit more flexibility with the new design I think is a good thing.

Just try it, you’ll like it.

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