Facebook tests mobile profile redesign

Facebook is making it a little easier to stalk people through its mobile applications.
The company announced today that it’s testing a redesign of mobile profiles in the United Kingdom and California. Facebook users involved with the test will gain more control over the information shown to prospective friends, the ability to set temporary profile pictures, and other features restricted to the small test group.
Perhaps the most interesting change is a renewed focus on images. Facebook users trying to learn more about someone they just met — or, let’s be honest, stalk people with whom they’ve lost touch over the years — will be tasked with scrolling through walls of photos after they pass larger versions of the profile and background images.

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Facebook


Users will also be able to choose up to five photos they wish to highlight underneath their biographical information. Profiles used to be dominated by text, given their focus on showing users’ most recent status updates, but now they’re going to place much more emphasis on allowing Facebook users to view each others’ photographs.
“People love seeing photos and mutual friends when viewing the profiles of friends or someone they’ve just met, so those are easier to see now on profile,” Facebook said in its announcement. “Photos and friends are right at the top, making getting to know someone and seeing the world through your friends’ eyes as easy as scrolling.”
Facebook will also give its users the ability to “film a short, looping video clip that will play for anyone who visits your profile.” These are basically animated GIFs that promise to let you “show a part of yourself you couldn’t before” and “add a new dimension to your profile.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple’s new Live Photos, which are based on a similar concept, were converted for use as these profile videos.
Many of these changes introduce a customizability that didn’t exist on Facebook before. It’s not quite as noticeable as the custom backgrounds and music playlists that used to be tied to people’s MySpace accounts (let’s all agree not to discuss the bad choices we might have made back in those days) but it’s freer than before.
Facebook explained some of the reasoning behind these changes in its blog post. “People visit Facebook profiles more than four billion times per day,” the company said, “and we’re continually looking for ways to make profiles the best place for people to curate their online identities and connect with others.” The profile, which became an afterthought when the News Feed debuted, could now be relevant again.
It’s not clear when this update will be available to the public — Facebook said only that it’s testing the new features with a small number of users, and it will be “rolling them out to more people soon.” Given how big this change is, it’s hard to blame the company for waiting to roll this out instead of quickly giving it to a billion people.

Secret tries to save itself by imitating Yik Yak

Secret’s “dramatic” app update (which I foreshadowed earlier this month) has arrived. The Verge has published an in-depth look at the confessional app’s attempt to relaunch itself after user downloads and app engagement plummeted.

Secret now looks and operates a whole lot more like its rising competitor Yik Yak. Images no longer dominate the feed. Instead, it’s primarily text-based, with the pictures appearing as thumbnails. It has turned away from the media emphasis of its nemesis Whisper and has abolished the website that curated the popular Secrets.

Power Secret users (if there are any left) will cheer about the new addition of one-to-one messaging. In the first version of Secret, users wanted a chatting tool so badly they turned en masse to alternative service Anonyfish, which was created to address the hole in the Secret product. But now when someone posts a Secret, others can directly chat them, keeping their anonymity.

The biggest change in Secret’s relaunch is that users’ feeds will be divided into “friends” and “nearby” instead of “friends” and “explore.” The nearby function shows posts from anyone within set locations, like cities or universities. “It’s more important what is said than who said it,” Secret CEO David Byttow told The Verge. “Our goal is to facilitate conversation — either in a physical location, or socially, with your friends.”

That’s a total ripoff of Yik Yak’s core function, but before you scoff at the move you should know Secret isn’t the only one doing so. Twitter previewed a nearly identical feature itself during its recent earnings call and is reportedly working with Foursquare to power it. Take a look at the three product comparisons: Yik Yak first, Twitter second, and Secret third. See some similarities?

Screenshots of Yik Yak's location based post tool

Screenshots of Yik Yak’s location-based post tool

Twitter's location curated timelines

Twitter’s location curated timelines

Screenshot of Secret's new feed, via The Verge

Screenshot of Secret’s new feed, via The Verge

Yik Yak clearly has these other social apps on the run, lest they get overtaken by a newcomer. Since Yik Yak’s appearance, it has skyrocketed through the app download charts, gone viral in college communities (much the way [company]Facebook[/company] did), and raised $62 million from WhatsApp backer Sequoia in late November. Its location-feed premise is by no means proven, but it has shown enough traction to worry far bigger companies.

When I wrote a feature on Yik Yak in October, I asked “Could Yik Yak be the real winner among anonymity apps?” It looks as if the answer may be yes.

Here’s the strategy behind Airbnb’s mobile web redesign

Airbnb has redesigned its mobile web experience, bringing it into responsive union with its desktop website. The two applications will now work in sync, so changes made and features added to one will also appear on the other.

The shift highlights the growing importance of the mobile web and how to tackle its design structure. Airbnb has taken the stance that the mobile web is a funnel for people who are new to the Airbnb experience. They end up there by clicking links shared by friends or other media. They haven’t yet downloaded the app, but they want to be able to explore what Airbnb is about.

Therefore Airbnb wanted its mobile web homepage, unlike its mobile app, to look more like a landing page for newcomers. The mobile web became its own distinct experience, instead of a copy cat of either the mobile or desktop app.

It entices them with visuals and a search bar. “We needed to create an opportunity to learn about Airbnb without feeling like you’ve got to download the app,” Justin Santamaria, mobile product lead, told me. Like most other web properties, Airbnb has seen a huge shift to usage on mobile. One fifth of its users come through the mobile web specifically.

Because it’s a responsive design, features added to the desktop web will automatically translate to the mobile web too. That shift will also allow Airbnb to do more with its team of engineers, instead of having to devote clusters of people to mobile web changes and others to desktop. The design will allow for screen size flexibility. For example, the number of options shown in the “weekend getaways” feature could be six on mobile and twelve on desktop.

You can see the differences between the two mobile web home screens here (before: left; after: right). Instead of hammering people with listings, they’re prompted as to Airbnb’s purpose and given a search bar to peruse their own interests.

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left); New Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left), new Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)

Say goodbye to text in Grindr. It’s embracing the visual web

The new Grindr is all about that face. The company redesigned its iOS and Android app this month, abolishing text from a person’s first glance profile. If a user wants more information on someone than just their picture, they’ll have to click further to surface the profile summary. The matchmaking app for gay men also introduced a timing feature that tells two matches how long it would take them to walk to one another. It’s a little like Uber’s interface, but for your hookup — the bold new world of on-demand dating.

Despite the fact that it’s a comparably old app in smartphone years, Grindr has held sway over the gay male population since its launch in 2009. It’s self-funded with advertisements and subscriptions, and its biggest challenge is making sure it doesn’t lose its users to a new up-and-comer.

The redesign helps with that mission. By staying one step ahead of mobile dating trends, setting them instead of following them, Grindr hopes to keep its crown. And as Om Malik explored in this thoughtful post, the future of the web is visual. Images are easier and faster for our brain to process, they transcend language barriers, and they tap into our emotional reservoirs. As Om put it, “We are built to process visual data…That’s why the web is increasingly becoming visual.”

Grindr’s new imagery focus strips away any semblance of profile depth, arguably catering to a mobile dater’s more shallow instincts. But Grindr founder Joel Simkhai says he’s just giving the users what they want.

“One of the things we’re big believers in is men are visual creatures,” Simkhai says. “Copy and text are a lot less important. At this stage you’re not that interested in every little thing they’re interested in.”

The picture cues speed up people’s processing time for each profile. It allows users to swipe quickly through their choices, making faster split second decisions.

And speedy selection is, after all, the hallmark of mobile dating. Grindr arguably pioneered the industry, launching years in advance of the more heterosexually inclined Tinder app. When Grindr makes design decisions, it’s worth watching in case the rest of the mobile dating players follow suit.

But Simkhai doesn’t think we’ll see Tinder, Hinge, or other mobile dating apps minimize profile text any time soon. “Our target market is men and their target market is women because that’s what they need to make their app successful,” Simkhai says. “Women prefer it to be a little slower.”

Old Grindr profile (left) New Grindr profile (right)

Old Grindr profile (left) New Grindr profile (right)

The new LinkedIn homepage is all about the warm fuzzies

LinkedIn introduced small but significant changes to its homepage design Thursday, simplifying its newsfeed and highlighting some interaction features that will come to all users next year. The shifts in the design bring the connection element of the service front and center, encouraging users to build their relationships with each other over time.

The first most obvious change is the number of user views at the top of the page. It gives someone a snapshot of how many people saw the content they post. LinkedIn offered these features before, but they were buried in the righthand sidebar, out of eyesight. “We realized this was something we needed to bring front and center to the desktop,” LinkedIn VP Joff Redfern told me.

New LinkedIn homepage design

New LinkedIn homepage design

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Old LinkedIn homepage design

 

LinkedIn is also doubling down on its content strategy, no doubt following behind competitors like Facebook. When there are compelling articles and posts to peruse on a social network feed, its users stick around longer. And the best way to motivate users to post is to highlight the feedback they receive when they do.

Keeping with that theme, the company has cleaned up its newsfeed. There’s less button clutter at the top, drawing users attention straight to the content.

The second change to LinkedIn’s homepage is the Keep in Touch system in the top right corner. You can quickly click through profile cards to see who has had big business changes recently, from adding new photos to switching jobs. It makes it easy for you to congratulate them or touch base in these moments, keeping the relationship strong. It’s based on LinkedIn’s Connected app, which was designed to help people stay in touch with professional contacts.

A wide range of users liked it, so LinkedIn decided to introduce it to a wider audience via the desktop app. “These two brand new modules are so important for keeping track of how you’re doing professionally that without them that stuff was harder,” Redfern said. “Now we’re giving the member that ability.”

After a Roadmap preview, Medium quietly launched its new homepage

At some point last week, Medium launched its new homepage and mobile app. It focused the homepage on tools for readers instead of writers, Medium’s previous focus. The company didn’t announce the news publicly, but tweets from Medium users complimenting the design start November 26th. Head of product marketing, Gabe Kleinman, told me we’ll continue to see new changes in the weeks ahead.

During Gigaom’s Roadmap design conference on November 19th, Medium founder Ev Williams told Gigaom founder Om Malik the redesign was coming. I’ve reached out to the company to get screenshots of the previous version as it appeared before the redesign. so as to compare them, but at the time of publishing I hadn’t heard back.

Based on a quick Google Image search, the Medium homepage before the redesign looked as follows:

Screenshot of old Medium homepage design

Screenshot of old Medium homepage design

Here’s the new take:

Screenshot of new Medium homepage design

Screenshot of new Medium homepage design

As you can see, the visual sidebar with the post writing prompt has disappeared. Instead, the majority of the homepage space is devoted to story discovery tools. As before, people can surf their home posts, composed of stories written or recommended by their Facebook or Twitter networks, and top stories, which are the most read posts on the site.

But collections, which are thematically linked posts or authors chosen by collection creators, have been buried under the “M” navigation, whereas before the link appeared on top of the homepage. The image from each story appears alongside it, with the profile picture of the person who wrote it beneath.

Medium homepage with the "M" navigation button clicked

Medium homepage with the “M” navigation button clicked

 

Without an explanation from Medium, it’s hard to know what prompted these specific changes, but at Roadmap Williams gave some ideas. He said the homepage needed to be redesigned because the old version was “terrible.” It didn’t have a specific function.

Based on the changes made, it looks like Medium decided to optimize its homepage for content discovery instead of post creation. Check out the video of Williams’ appearance below.

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