Facebook is testing a new home page design that allows the news feed to be scrolled independently of the rest of the page. This allows ads, app bookmarks, and the top navigation bar to remain visible no matter how many news feed stories a user scrolls through.
The tested design, if implemented, could increase click through rates for advertisers, improve user retention for applications, and make the site easier to browse.
As you can see in the image above, a user has scrolled down the news feed, but his top and side navigation bars remain visible.
Last week Facebook began testing with a very small number of users a new real-time feed called Happening Now in the right sidebar where Upcoming Events are usually listed. We discussed how this design could extend time on site and draw in users who were just checking their notifications by increasing the frequency with which fresh content appears above the home page’s fold.
The latest incarnations of the test, though, show the Most Recent news feed (called “Neueste Meldungen” in the German version of the site, above) as a second segment of the Top News feed. This could come as a shock to users who developed browsing behaviors around the current two-tabbed news feed, but the Facebook home page hasn’t seen a major redesign in 16 months, so it’s about due for an update given Facebook’s fast-paced approach to iterating on products.
Benefits for Pages, Advertisers, Developers, and Users
By piling more stories into the same space rather than hiding them behind the Most Recent tab, Happening Now could boost impressions for Page update stories. This would probably be a welcome change to admins of populars Pages, as statistics indicate Pages with over one million fans receive just 2.79 daily unique news feed impressions per 100 fans.
The ability to scroll the main news feed independently of the site’s top and side navigation bars has even bigger implications for the Facebook ecosystem. Currently, once users scroll down past about six news feed stories, they can no longer see ads, bookmarks, and navigation buttons pegged above the fold.
The rollout of an independently scrollable news feed would mean ads would receive much more time in front of users per impression. This could increase click through rates, boosting the value of Facebook ads in general and possibly raising average bid prices. Therefore, an implementation of the feature could increase Facebook revenues.
Developers would also benefit, as their bookmarks in the left sidebar would be visible to users for longer, encouraging more return visits to games and apps. Facebook has made several changes to the bookmark and request systems this past year which may have hurt app user retention. Facebook could offset drops in retention and virality without endangering the non-gamer user experience by making game bookmarks available as users scroll.
Though any major change to the site’s look will be met with a small, grumpy backlash, a scrollable news feed would make it easier to access the news feed publisher, account and privacy settings, and in-house apps like Photos. This could increase the frequency of shares, draw users to Facebook’s most sticky products, and give uses a better sense of control.
With benefits for everyone in the pipeline, a scrollable news feed could be a big win for Facebook.