facebook redesign – Stay N Alive

Facebook Applications See Success On the New Platform

facebook_pic.pngRegardless of any complaints from developers surrounding the new Facebook platform redesign, many developers are seeing success. Looking at various statistics from sites such as Adonomics and the Facebook Developers Forum, it appears that those apps that are truly integrating the new Integration points that the Facebook Platform provides are truly seeing success with it. Those apps that remain stagnant will see a decline in behavior.

Apps That are Seeing a Decline

Reviewing the apps complaining of the new design and showing declines in their numbers, it appears that many of them aren’t integrating into the new design where they are supposed to. I’ll use my own app as an example. “We’re Catholic!”, one of the religious apps I wrote and run (I also run “We’re Baptist”, “We’re Protestant”, and wrote the app, “The LDS App”) at one point was getting up to 1,000 visits per day (DAU’s, or Daily Active Users) as it was taking off (it is still currently the largest single group of organized Catholics on Facebook). Users began to get used to the Facebook platform, and that leveled it off to about 2-300 DAU’s per day. At launch of the new design, that number has gone down 1-200 DAU’s per day. What’s not being told in this picture is that I have done absolutely nothing to integrate it with the new design due to lack of time. I have no doubt that with a little integration into the user’s profile with a tab, and maybe info section, along with some Feed Forms to give users the option for larger stories to share with their friends from the app, I could very well see my app stats increase to even more than they were before.

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Pieces of Flair

app_1_3396043540_8126.gifThis seems to be the issue with some of the apps developers are complaining about. One example pointed out in the Facebook developer forums is the Pieces of Flair app, by RockYou. Looking at Adonomics statistics, it appears on September 4, the week the new design was put in place, Pieces of Flair took a dramatic turn from near 660,000 Daily Active Users down to around 350,000 DAU’s in just a matter of a day. They were stuck there until September 16, where their DAU’s went up to 570,000 in just a day, still far short from the 660,000 DAU’s they used to have. Then, on Sept 18, the DAU’s went back down to around 400,000. Looking at this statistic, it would appear that Pieces of Flair isn’t doing very well, and that the new Facebook Platform redesign is to blame. To know for sure though, you have to look at the timeline of events related to the App.

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Facebook Platform Timeline

September 4th, 2008 – New design launches to all

Looking at the history of the new design rollout, the new Facebook redesign was rolled out right on the week of September 4th, which would make the sharp downturn very understandable. At that point users were getting used to the new design and learning where things were.

September 10th, 2008 – Applications link moves

Right around September 10th or 11th it seems Facebook moved the “Applications” menu from the top down to the lower-left panel on Facebook. In addition, users could “bookmark” their favorite apps. Could Pieces of Flair have been one of those users were bookmarking? Other apps were bound to have seen a decrease because of this change.

September 16th, 2008 – Pieces of Flair makes changes

September 16th took some research to figure out. Looking at the forums on the Pieces of Flair About Page, several users started commenting about how it was now possible to add the app’s profile box to their “wall tab”. It’s unclear if they added a specific application tab at that point or not, but there was definitely an increase at that point, and it looks like it may be because of a change put in place to adapt to the new design by Pieces of Flair.

September 17, 2008 – One-line feed stories consolidated

On September 17, Facebook consolidated one-line feed stories that happened frequently for a single user in a day into one item in a user’s news feed. This would have reduced the visibility of some apps that updated frequently, perhaps explaining the slight decrease on the 18th.

Is it a Facebook Problem?

So, analyzing by date, it would appear that the biggest drops for Pieces of Flair may just be that Pieces of Flair wasn’t yet built for the new design when it was rolled out to members. Perhaps the new design isn’t to blame, but rather unpreparedness by developers of apps that are to blame for the decrease in traffic. Facebook announced the new design back in May, and developers have had since then to prepare – it would seem that this is a developer, not Facebook problem.

Apps Seeing an Increase

Regardless of the complaints, there are apps seeing an increase. While names weren’t mentioned, several developers in the Facebook developer forums posted stats that show such. Even Pieces of Flair we see is starting to show a gradual increase since feed stories were implemented.

We’re Related

app_1_5388815661_964.gifSome have shown significant increase though. One of the most significant is We’re Related, which went from 180,000 DAU’s to 460,000 DAU’s when the Applications menu was moved, an all-time high for them. It seems the only decrease they ever saw was right after the redesign was launched. Some developers are claiming they’re spammy, but based on the stats in association with the time-line it appears regardless of spammy measures or not, they’re increasing because users like them and are bookmarking them as a favorite – they shot up more than any other on the date Facebook implemented bookmarking. (disclaimer: they were a client of mine and I trained some of their developers and helped design their initial release, so there is some bias there, but the stats do coincide with what I’m saying. I hold no equity in the company.)

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Texas HoldEm Poker

app_1_2389801228_4683.gifAlso of note is the Texas HoldEm Poker game. One of the most popular apps on Facebook, it would seem they too have never seen much of a decrease in usage. They too saw a slight drop after the redesign, but, while not as significant as We’re Related, they are definitely higher in DAU’s than ever before.

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WaterCooler, Inc. and (lil) Green Patch

Some other Apps to look at are WaterCooler, Inc. (a conglomeration of many smaller apps), and (lil) Green Patch, all which have continued to show an increase, even after the new design. Of course, Facebook’s native apps have also shown significant increase after the new design, but they may be the exception in the fact that they get special promotion by Facebook in areas developers do not have access to, and are default for many people on Facebook.

Reasons for the Increase

As “DesignerMichael” put it in the Developer Forums, “The golden days will return in about a month though by my estimate. Users will finally start getting used to the new platform again by around then… So all is well. smile Just no more ridiculous changes please… Changing the location of bookmarks once a week is not good for apps. lol…”. It appears, based on the common drop amongst all the apps, that the major issue for developers is that users just haven’t gotten used to the new design yet. Assuming Facebook does not put any more changes in place, things will get back to normal.

In a communication via e-mail with Facebook, I was given the following message about the current state of the platform:

“We’ve seen a number of areas with greater engagement and sharing across the site, both on our own applications and on Facebook Platform. Daily and weekly active usage for applications have been on a healthy growth track for the past six months. Since the cut over began, aggregate Platform usage has continued to increase. The apps that have made the greatest effort to take advantage of the new integration opportunities are starting to see the results.”

Facebook is monitoring this. Without their developers, Facebook is not nearly as powerful as they are now. Currently developers are doing the marketing for Facebook and I’m sure Facebook recognizes that. However, it appears that in the end, as we see with the success of those apps that are seeing an increase, that it involves some work on behalf of the developer to happen. Some areas Facebook suggests are bringing more traffic to apps, or have the potential to do so are:

  • Deeper integration into the profile
  • Greater distribution through feeds
  • Easier for users to discover new apps
  • More meaningful user engagement
  • Customized application tabs

For developers of apps, you can bring your application to even higher Daily Active Users than before by simply finding new ways to integrate with the different points mentioned above. It is very possible to be successful on the new design, and now is the opportunity for new developers to come forth. We’re in a new race for popularity, and those apps that embrace the new features most will see the most success.

In FBML Essentials (O’Reilly), I cover some of the points of the Facebook platform new design components. You can purchase and review it here on Amazon.

Is Your Company Having Success on the New Facebook Design?

I am looking for examples of companies and developers actually having success in the new Facebook design. If your app, or the app of someone you know on the Facebook platform is having proven results as a result of the new Facebook design, or if your traffic has not decreased from it, I want to hear from you. Those that respond have the chance of being featured here or as a guest post on LouisGray.com. Please feel free to share in the comments or send me an e-mail at jesse@staynalive.com with your stories. I want to hear from you! (And, please share this with others you may think would be in the know – this is a great opportunity for some exposure for your Facebook app!)

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?

Facebook Announces Go-Live Date for All on New Design

facebook_pic.pngIt appears that Facebook has very quietly announced when the new profile redesign will go live to all users of their site. In a developers wiki article about infinite sessions posted on August 7th, Facebook announced under the question, “I thought you were deprecating infinite sessions?”, that the new redesign will go live to all users on August 27, 2008.

This move should be a welcome one for developers. One of the largest frustrations amongst Facebook developers with the new design has been having to support both the old design and new until users all begin to adopt the new. The new design provides more integration points, protects users against spammy apps, and tends to side towards more useful applications on the platform.

The new profile redesign has been accepted by some, rejected by many. I experienced this first hand recently in trying to cover some missed changes, that within just a week had been changed due to the quick evolvement of the new platform. Initially rolled out to 5% of users, it will be interesting to see the reaction of users as all 100+ million users are forced to use the new design. It is my prediction that there will be backlash at first, but as with any change, users will begin to adapt and learn how to use it in a new way. You can switch to the new design yourself by going the http://www.new.facebook.com – it will from that point on take you to the new design every time you go to Facebook.

How was your adoption of the new design? You can follow my updates on Facebook at http://jessestay.socialtoo.com.

Developers Unhappy With Facebook Profile Redesign

Picture 1.pngJust this past week, Facebook announced that starting next week users will begin to have the option to adopt the new profile design into their Facebook account. Facebook has been preparing this for months, and supposedly was set to try and launch a few months ago. However, even today the new Profile redesign does not seem ready, and it appears developers aren’t happy.

For the past month or two Facebook has enabled access to the new design to those that have the developers app installed in their account via the url http://www.new.facebook.com. This was to enable developers to begin to prepare their applications for when the redesign goes live. The new design change will make significant changes to the way news stories are published to the user’s mini feed in Facebook, allow the developers to move profile boxes to various areas within a user’s profile, and will introduce a new “info” profile integration point for developers as well as an entire tab on the user’s profile that can be devoted to a developer’s application.

For those developers that don’t prepare, application profile boxes will, by default, be placed in a separate tab entitled, “boxes”, away from the main area of the user’s profile. In addition, news stories will no longer be published to a user’s profile in the same way they are now. This introduces concerns for developers that are worried Facebook has not given them enough time to prepare for this change.

Developers have a valid concern too if they don’t think they were given enough time. For instance, it wasn’t until just last week that the example “MySmily” application on Facebook began to work (it had been working before, but it seems for several days it was down, and has been up and down frequently since it was shown to developers). This app is the sample that Facebook provided for developers to learn of the new integration points from. Its functionality has been quite flaky over time, making it difficult for developers to have full access to it to learn how to develop for the new design. In fact, even today installing the latest version of the “MySmily” source code per the documentation returns with an error.

We went over a demo of this application and the new design in our Social Media Developers Garage here in Salt Lake City last night, and we quickly discovered the new design was riddled with cross-browser compatibility issues. I couldn’t do things in Safari that others could do in Firefox, and others running Internet Explorer also were having major issues gaining full access to the new design. Also, ironically, while Facebook recently launched the ability to comment on mini-feed and status items in the old design, the new design is void of this new feature. Add to that on a large screen like my 27″ the site is mostly white space on both sides and really doesn’t look very good, Facebook still has some serious design issues to work out.

In addition, there still remain many mysteries for developers. Facebook has still not made any mention as to where ads can and can’t be placed in the new design. The documentation remains vague – there are many references to passing a variable into a setFBML call to determine where the application’s profile goes, but there are no examples as to how to set that. Also, the Facebook test consoles are also seemingly having issues supporting the new API and FBML tags and calls. Several FBML tags are also not working, including , a popular tag used by many developers (including myself) for displaying a comments box in their application.

The things I mention are only the tip of the iceberg. Many developers are angry that the new design will mean less traffic and user engagement for their applications. Many businesses could be dead overnight from this new design. There are several topics open in the developer forums with developers stating their frustrations with the new design. “distinctdev” says, “Still no solid spec and the new profile launches in 1 week – Whats up with that?”. There is an entire petition set up by developers asking to say “no” to the new Facebook profile. That petition is here, and thus far there are 17 signatures. From that forum post, “Wild Bill”, author of the “Robot Armies” app on Facebook states:

“I wholeheartedly agree with those of you who said the current design should be cleaned up rather than completely changed. I’ve long seen Facebook as one of the finest examples of excellent web design; it’s all very well executed. The new design is definitely a step back; it feels spread out, bloated, and clunky because of the massive amount of JavaScript piled onto it. The old design could be enhanced to correct the problems the platform currently has. I anticipate a very large reduction of activity on my apps, not only because of detrimental changes to the platform, but because of people who are bothered enough by the new design that they no longer use Facebook.

From “friendhugs“, “Nobody will be using the new format for quite awhile. It’s all opt in right now, and I suspect once they find out nothing works, they’ll just flip right back.”. Also see “madpuffin’s” issue here. I could go on and on with more developers having issues and frustrations like this.

Of course, with any new change, there is going to be whiners and complainers and fallout due to the changes – this is a fact of life with any new design. I have seen it plenty of times with redesigns I have done in the past. However, the problems Facebook seems to still have in the new design go way beyond just design issues, and frankly, I think these developers (including myself) have some valid concerns! It will be interesting to see if Facebook can work out all these issues before they launch next week, or if they’re still going to launch, bugs and all.

Breaking: Facebook Adds "Add New Tab" to New Design

Picture 4-2.pngFacebook appears to have just launched a previously announced feature to their new design staging area. If you go there you’ll notice a new little “+” sign next to the tabs at the top. Click on this, and now you can choose to add “Posted Items” to the tabs at the top, as well as “Find more applications”. The “Find more applications” feature does not seem to be working yet.

This new feature allowing you to add applications to the tabs menu in the new design was announced previously by Facebook, and is said to allow your application, through just a simple “tab url” in your application settings to appear in the drop-down you can see there now when you click on the “+” sign next to the tabs. This is also consistent with the removal of “adding” an application by Facebook. Instead, you will be able to add “components” of your application to different areas of a user’s profile, which includes the tabs. Your application can have only one tab and works passively by default, meaning you have to click on something for javascript or Flash to auto-play. Nothing has been confirmed on whether Advertisements will be allowed to run within the Tabs on the new design. The tab also defaults to your Application name and cuts off at 15 characters.

See below for some more examples of the new “+” sign, and adding the Posted Items application to the tabs menu in the new design:

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