Facebook has tweaked the look of news feeds so that its website version is more consistent with iOS and Android versions, boosting the visibility of posts and adverts within a user’s feed. The aim was to strip back the appearance of the news feed in order to make individual posts more ‘engaging’ though an apparently unrelated result of this de-cluttering is the increased prominence of adverts, though the project’s lead engineer, Chris Struhar, insists that ads were not the focus of the redesign.
The changes aren’t as huge as when timelines were introduced and many users may not be overly concerned by the adaptations as the format will be familiar from the versions used on their smart phones and tablets. For example, a sidebar provides easy access to different elements of your profile, much like the navigation on mobile sites. The main noticeable change is the enlargement of posts and photos, giving each one a bolder appearance. BBC’s technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, compares it to print media layout: “You will see fewer stories on your screen at any one time, making Facebook seem more like a tabloid newspaper, rather than the broadsheet look of the past.”
In addition to this, users will be given greater control over the updates they receive, rather than relying on Facebook’s algorithm. You will be able to choose alternate news feeds, such as one that contain updates from all your friends instead of the ones selected by Facebook’s analysis of your previous interactions. Other options include a page exclusively dedicated to photo updates and a music-themed feed that contains information and updates from artists you follow, along with the music your friends are listening to on partner music sites like Spotify.
These changes also mean that adverts are more prominent than ever, the latest step forward in Facebook’s quickly evolving advertising platform. You may have recently noticed that promotional posts are appearing in your feed more frequently, including ads suggesting other Facebook pages to you based on links you’ve clicked on, other pages you already like, and those your friends have connected with. Your friends’ activities also pop up more often, for example: “Joe Bloggs liked this video/picture/status” – and the combination of these additions to your news feed begin to make it more difficult to distinguish between advertising and recommendations from people you trust. And it seems to work. Advertisers are spending more on placing content into news feeds than they are on standard sidebar ads, recognising the value of this innocuous interweaving of natural content and marketing.
Facebook’s tagline for the revamp is “Goodbye clutter!” Struhar explains further: “One of the consistent themes we heard in feedback from people was that it felt cluttered and that there was lot happening on the page. We wanted to clean up the page, declutter it, make it simpler, more modern and easier for people to use. I often compare this to a 1960s television with wood panelling, knobs around it and a tiny postage stamp-sized screen – and what we’re trying to do is take that same TV and translate it into a 40in HD experience.”
From the perspective of a business Facebook page, the update could be especially beneficial, since it incorporates several elements that naturally promote a page’s posts when a user engages with your company. For example:
- A sponsored post will now take up approximately 1/3 of the screen in the news feed.
- A horizontal banner and your brand’s logo will be added to updates appearing in your followers’ news feeds, making them more noticeable.
- A more detailed location map has been added, which should encourage users to use the GPS facility and check-in at local businesses when they visit.
“We aren’t changing where adverts show up or what ads you see,” Struhar continued, “We’re just trying to take all the content that you do see and make that bigger and more immersive and more engaging.”
The new format will begin rolling out to all users within the next few months. Let us know what you think!