How Did Users Influence Facebook’s News Feed Redesign?

By Justin Lafferty 

Before Facebook unleashed its redesigned News Feed earlier this month, the social network asked users what they wanted. The answer was fairly general: less clutter. Facebook continued to ask users about this, and they specified that they wanted to see fewer posts from pages, fewer posts about things their friends are listening to, and posts their friends have liked or commented on. However, when given the chance to choose stories that they wanted to see, the results greatly differed from their initial preferences.

Facebook recently wrote about the user input that led to the revamped News Feed, where users can choose separate feeds such as the default News Feed, all friends, photos, following (pages and people subscribed to), and most recent.

Jane Justice Leibrock, a user-experience researcher with Facebook, wrote a blog post about the process of discovering what users wanted with regard to News Feed:

A look at our data showed that the stories people click, like, and comment on the most are actually the very stories they said they wanted the ability to filter out: page posts, stories about songs and games, and stories friends liked or commented on. Since people were clearly interested in these stories, our task became figuring out how to display them separately from News Feed, in a way that people would want to see them.

To find out just what peopleĀ do want to see in their News Feeds, Leibrock got a little creative. Instead of just asking what feeds they’d want to see (because it would be hard to predict what they’d actually like), she gave the participants a chance to reverse-engineer their feeds. Leibrock printed out recent posts from their feed and asked users to categorize the ones they wanted to see and discard the ones they didn’t want.

She then discussed the results:

An analysis of participants’ piles and the stories they’d put into them yielded clear themes. Unsurprisingly, many people made categories of stories they liked because they contained photos, and a majority of participants created a category of posts by people they felt close to. Something we weren’t expecting, though, was the large number of participants who created categories of stories they liked because they related to their interests; these were mainly full of posts from pages and people they were following. Another surprise was that many people created a category specially for stories that came from friends they didn’t necessarily feel close to but were glad to see occasional updates from on Facebook.

Because of this input, the minds at Facebook felt that a photos feed was a no-brainer, and the following feed, containing posts from pages and people to whom users have subscribed, was another vital addition.

Readers: What else do you want to change about News Feed?