April 21, 2014

5 ways Facebook can improve their user experience on Android

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Ahh, Facebook. It’s still one of the most popular social networks in the world, despite the rapid adoption that Google+ has garnered thus far. Sadly, Facebook’s Android experience is lacking in several areas. Everyone has at least one or two complaints about the Facebook app (and the Messenger app as well). With the recent updates to the Google+ Android app, many users are left wanting more from the big blue giant.

Recently, I started to actually go through the Facebook app, exploring the settings, page layouts, and the overall usability. After hours of frustration, I decided to compile a short list of changes that Facebook could make in order to improve the experience for Android users. Keep in mind that these are only suggestions that I have come up with, and this list is by no means a permanent solution.

So without further ado, here they are (in no particular order).

  1. Give us video chat

    Facebook has partnered with Skype to bring Facebook Video Calling to desktop users. This feature has been available for over a year, and it’s high time that it’s brought to mobile users. With Google rolling out Hangouts quite some time ago, Facebook needs to catch up to the curve, and fast.

    Google blew us away with Hangouts, and wasted little time in making them available for mobile users. Obviously Facebook doesn’t do Hangouts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put their own spin on the mobile video chat experience. This shouldn’t be that hard to achieve, as Skype already has a great Android app. Facebook could implement this into the Messenger app, and make a lot of users happy in the process.

  2. Take a lesson from ICS/Jelly Bean

    One of the Facebook’s big cornerstones is friend discovery. If Mark Zuckerberg can help you find that creeper you knew in 9th grade, he can sleep soundly every night. The Facebook app has this great feature called “Find Friends.” It basically does the same thing that the desktop version does: suggests people for you to befriend, based on location, mutual connections, or things that you have in common. It’s a great feature, but there’s one major difference between the mobile and desktop experience.

    For desktop users, there’s a small “X” that dismisses that particular friend suggestion, and brings up a new name and face. Mobile users don’t (at least to my knowledge) have that. The Find Friends feature is a great way to connect, but it’s missing one important thing: the mobile equivalent of saying “I don’t know this person, show me someone else.”

    Adding an impossible-to-press “X” in the app might not be the best way to accomplish this, so why not learn something from the apps switcher built into ICS and Jelly Bean? A simple swipe-to-dismiss gesture is all that’s needed. It might not seem like much, but Facebook could use this gesture for more than just discovering friends. Maybe they could add it to the main feed, to hide posts from other users, or even report them as spam.  With one gesture, Facebook could make simple actions even simpler for Android users.

  3. Get with the times


    This one is a bit more specific, as it only applies to some Jelly Bean users. Google recently wowed us all with improved notifications in Android 4.2. They showcased how versatile notification actions could be, from replying to a tweet to calling a person directly. Since 4.2 is still in its infancy and hasn’t rolled out to that many users, Facebook could take a step ahead of the curve by adding notification actions. Users can already get notified of wall posts, friend requests, messages, photo tags, and much more. The ability to Like, share, or comment on those things right from the notification bar would be a great feature for Facebook users.

  4. Tablets, tablets, tablets

    Let’s be honest, the Facebook experience on tablets isn’t exactly spectacular. The Facebook app on tablets (even small 7-inch devices like the Nexus 7) looks like someone literally took the app on a smartphone and steamrolled it. Either the Facebook team has failed to realize that tablets and smartphones provide two different experiences for the user, or they haven’t found a way to implement a major tablet UI. I’d say the former seems more likely, but that’s beside the point.I’m not saying that Facebook should create an entire new app for tablets, because we’ve seen that screen size can be optimized within the same app. A quick look at what Google+ did with the tablet experience is evidence enough. Of course, a separate app would be the most ideal, but an updated version of the current Facebook app would probably satisfy a fair number of tablet users.

  5. All about the widgets

    The Facebook widget hasn’t changed much in years. The app has been updated countless times, but the widget has been left out in the dust. Granted, they recently added a second widget that allows users to more quickly upload photos, post a status, or share their location. That’s all well and good, but if the original widget is constantly broken, it’s all for naught. What you see above is what I see on a daily basis. The Facebook widget consistently stops showing posts, and becomes virtually useless. Pressing the Facebook logo in the upper left corner of the widget does nothing, and the user can’t even post a quick status from the widget. This forces them to open up their app drawer and actually go into the Facebook app. Putting aside the fact that the widget is years old, the least it could do is work properly without spazzing out every five minutes.

    When third party widgets have been blowing yours out of the water for over two years, it’s time to make some changes.

    Facebook needs to improve both the visual and functional experience of widgets. They could do this by giving users more options, like one widget for photos, and one for pages. They could even give us the option to make specific widgets, that only show posts from select groups of people (family, friends, coworkers, etc). With all the content on Facebook, the sky’s the limit.

So there you have it, five things that Facebook needs to do if it wants to stay in the mobile apps game. Obviously these changes aren’t going to fix every little issue that people have with Facebook’s experience, but they’re probably a good place to start.

With that being said, we want to know what you would add to the list. Do you think Facebook should just start from scratch (again)? Drop a comment below and give us your thoughts!

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