design – Stay N Alive

5 Features Developers Will Like in the New Facebook Design

facebook_pic.pngI recently covered 5 general features most people may like in the new Facebook redesign being rolled out to all last week and this week. One of the biggest complaints of the new design is that it is bad for developers, reduces traffic to apps, and discourages users from using apps they have installed. While this is true for apps that haven’t adapted, there are still some very good features introduced by the new design, that, in my opinion, bring even more integration points to developers, and allow for more creativity to developers while still maintaining the user experience. I’d like to cover 5 of my favorites.

1. Your Application Now Gets an Entire Tab on the User’s profile

While profile boxes still remain, developers now have an additional option to create an entire tab devoted to your app on a user’s profile page. While you can’t advertise on this tab or monetize it in any way, the user profile page is the most traffic’d page on Facebook, and if you can grab a user’s attention by offering a little more information about your application and about the user themselves, other users are much more likely to engage and use the parts of your application you can monetize. More space to do this is a good thing, and the tab appearing on a user’s profile makes it appear as though your app is actually a part of their profile page. Consider this one giant advertisement for your application.

2. You can now allow users to share additional information about themselves via your application

Some of the most successful applications on Facebook are those that allow users to express themselves in certain ways. Applications that can allow a user to share more about themselves tend to be more engaging, and have a much more likely chance of a user sharing that application with their friends. Let’s face it – the days of an app spreading itself due to the new nature of the Facebook platform are long gone. Now, it is the developer’s responsibility to employ traditional marketing techniques to get the users to share these applications with their friends themselves.

The “info” tab is one way they can do this. Your application can give users an option to click on a simple button that allows them to add additional information to their “info” tab, provided by your application. Again, the profile is the most traffic’d place on Facebook, and this is an excellent way to get your app in front of a lot more people.

3. The new design is more organized, therefore giving your app more potential to be “one of few”

With the new design, most applications get organized into a “Boxes” tab on the user’s profile. This requires an additional click to learn about a user’s applications that they use. However, for applications that enable it, a user can optionally add any of those application boxes to their “wall” tab, putting it among just a few of their favorite applications for their friends to see and use.

If you can create an application that users will like, use, and want to share with their friends, the chances of your app appearing among those few are greater. I don’t have any numbers, but I really think there are only a few applications utilizing this feature right now, upping your chances even further of being one of those users like to feature on their “wall” tab. To me, this actually makes the potential for your app being successful even greater.

4. There are now 3 types of News/Mini Feed items your application can post

While your application can’t necessarily force news feed items to Facebook without the user’s explicate permission any more, you can utilize “feed forms” to allow the user to share one line posts to their mini feed, small summaries to their mini feed, or an entire story to their mini feed. If you can make your app useful enough to encourage the users to share the larger feeds (which were not available before), your app has a far greater chance of getting in the face of your users’ friends, encouraging even further virality. Not only that, but good marketing shows that when a user actually wants to share something, their friends are more likely to listen and participate. Giving your users choice is a very good thing, and will result in a much more devoted audience in the future.

5. With the new design, you can now deploy FBML, right in an iFrame

A new feature established in Facebook Connect enables any website to utilize the Facebook Javascript Client Library to allow a developer with an app set up to parse and load FBML on any page on the web. This means that you can now load FBML right in your iFrame’d pages.

Why use FBML? FBML will guarantee, as Facebook changes their look and feel, that you don’t have to change your look and feel with them. It all happens automatically. Before this, Facebook required all FBML to be loaded and parsed on their servers. Now you can load it directly on your own servers, which means greater flexibility with Javascript, more options when integrating with other platforms like OpenSocial, and less coding overall since Facebook takes care of the details for you. Best of all, you can implement this on any website, even outside of Facebook, and with Facebook Connect, you can even authenticate and retrieve data from Facebook for users, right on your own website! You can learn more about FBML via my book, FBML Essentials (shameless plug).

While I understand the frustration of developers with the new design, and especially the fact that applications aren’t quite as in-your-face as they used to and can’t do things as easily on behalf of users, overall I think this is a good thing for the overall Facebook experience. Now Facebook has provided more integration points for developers than ever before, while at the same time making the experience better for users, making users want to continue coming back to the network. Users coming back is always a good thing for your application on Facebook.

What are your favorite features, as a developer, within the new design?