A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Facebook Gets a Facelift

Announced yesterday on the Facebook blog, the redesign of Facebook has finally arrived. After several delays to the new aesthetic, the developers have finally released the new platform to the masses. More AJAX, tab-centric, and a more versatile API… Here's a quick listing of some personal pros and cons with the new design.

Pros

  1. Tabs! I am a sucker for tabs. They are easy to organize and keep content from becoming cluttered. My biggest complaint when the Facebook team released the API was that too many people's profiles were becoming littered with third-party applications. These apps were visually detracting, and had nothing to do with what I found Facebook to be most useful for (keeping in touch with acquaintences). With the new redesign, one can stick all their scrabble-playing-super-wall-poking ugliness on its own tab and I'll never have to go near it.
  2. More intuitive photo platform. I didn't post a screenshot of my photos tab, but it is a far more intuitive way to access other users' photographs. It borrows heavily from the minimalistic UI of picasa, and now I don't have to go searching through a user's profile for a link to find their albums.
  3. Better use of horizontal space. Facebook finally spread its wings a bit. The redesign makes a much better use of horizontal space, and avoids feeling clausterphobic by combining this new feature with the tabs, mentioned above. The wider limit also allows third-party developers much more freedom when it comes to mapping the UI of their applications, so I expect to see better things than graffiti and super wall.
  4. Improved 'friends' module. With the redesign, the friends module was improved. Now you have a choice as to how many thumbnail pictures to display, as well as designating which ones (there were some third-party applications to have "favorite friends" displayed on the previous facebook design, does anybody know what they were called?) if you would rather permanently display your best friends.
  5. Smart use of AJAX. The AJAX on the new design is both aesthetically pleasing and purpose-driven. The way I like it to be.

Cons

  1. Advertisements in my face. I remember when Facebook had no ads. Then it had text-based ads. Later, they adopted vertical banners. Now, they've put those vertical banners front and center. With the decreased clutter on the pages (which is a good thing!), it leaves the advertisements to stick out like a sore thumb. With the previous design, I found I could largely ignore advertisements if I just pretended they were another annoying application.
  2. More clicks. My preference for tabs aside, the prosecution points out that there is something to be said about having all "crucial" profile information contained on one page. When I need to know if the young lady in my rhetoric and composition class has awful taste in music or not, I have an additional click to consider. Multiply this by lots of young ladies and you're talking about a serious time investment.

Overall, I'm pleased with the new Facebook design. I think it's a step in the right direction, which is a personal first. This new implementation puts the criticisms of previous redesigns into perspective. I'm sure the previous flaws helped shape the success of this release. Anything to add?

Catch some pictures of the redesign after the break.

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WordPress 2.6 Looks Like a Significant Improvement

We just recently finished updating most of the WordPress sites we maintain to WordPress 2.5, so our normal process would be to monitor for security issues and wait a bit before upgrading again.  However, in reviewing the features of WordPress 2.6 we may have to make an exception and upgrade sooner rather than later.  Seriously, it is like they read my mind and added the new features I wanted most.  Specifically:

caption1 (1) WordPress now tracks your revision history, so you can now revert to old versions of your posts should you desire.  This will come in handy.

(2) You can now add captions easily to your images in WordPress.  This feature is already present on the WordPress-driven CNN Political Ticker (see image on right for sample).  (more…)

Footbo.com: Social Networking With a Goal

In light of the ongoing UEFA Euro 2008 football (yes, I mean soccer) tournament – which I must say has been pretty average apart from the Turkey/Czech Republic thriller last weekend – yet another social networking site was launched. The niche? You guessed it, soccer. Or football, or futbol, or footy, whichever you’d like (we aim to please).  So what better time to launch than now? Perhaps the World Cup would be ideal, but I doubt that’s worth pushing the launch back two years. (more…)

9 Things I Love About the Las Vegas Sun Website

The Las Vegas Sun is known for having one of the best websites of any newspaper in the country. The reputation is warranted.

In my experience as a web developer, I’ve found many sites that do a few things well. A site might have a nice homepage and a few cool features, as an example. However, it is a very unusual to find sites that deliver consistent excellence through the whole experience. To take care of the details that are so important in delivering a great experience. The Las Vegas Sun website does that.

Following is a list of some of those details that make me really appreciate the Sun website, as a web developer.

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Is UserVoice New or Recycled?

Fledging company UserVoice is attempting to provide focus groups to those companies that cannot afford focus groups.  The site's general idea is to moderate user ideas and complaints by means of formal comment boxes, polls, and ranking systems.  The three-person ‘Team UserVoice' is quoted as saying, "UserVoice adds structure to feedback and reduces the overhead of an honest dialog with our users – It creates a market around good ideas so we get more quality than quantity."

The interface is currently in its public beta stage, allowing (free of charge) access to its platform.  Those who sign up can create a page for their company, product, project, or even blog.  UserVoice just recently released the ability to add custom CSS to a company's page as well as c-name inclusion for a completely transparent user experience.  This means that the customer never perceives that they are on another site.  The idea is to put the UserVoice widget on the company's official site and allow users to comment on their company or specific products.  The company can then do several things:

  1. Track user ideas as other users vote on them
  2. Provide official responses to comments
  3. Mark an idea as ‘planned'
  4. Push out new features that users want
  5. Collect fan mail

UserVoiceScreen

The new site has gained a lot of attention, but I question whether this new company can do things that are not already being done.  Sites like FeVote, Get Satisfaction, and Sales Force are already doing many of the things with which UserVoice claims to be able to help.  The only unique feature that I can discern is that UserVoice allows companies to create a specific page for themselves.  The effort seems to be made in keeping the comments more regulated and organized than the previously mentioned sites, but will that cause users to be less free with their suggestions and comments?  I applaud the company for creating a way for small to medium-sized businesses to have their own ‘focus groups' but it is going to be a couple of months before we will be able to decide if UserVoice shouts or gets silenced.