Getting to the Games: iPhone App Store vs Facebook App Directory

That said, I often find myself wondering how the current Facebook and iPhone application directories contrast in their job of presenting a user with interesting new game content. I analyze that here, looking at the areas of first discovery, navigation, sorting and suggestions.

-Facebook App Directory Icon-As an avid social gamer, I find myself constantly seeking out different ways of finding new games on my iPhone and on Facebook. If I stick to making choices based on recommendations from the same people, I’ll end up only playing games of a certain type, and may miss out on the wide variety presented by these platforms. That said, I often find myself wondering how the current Facebook and iPhone application directories contrast in their job of presenting a user with interesting new game content. I analyze that here, looking at the areas of first discovery, navigation, sorting and suggestions.

1. First Discovery of Application Directory:

On Facebook, the link to the application directory is located in a submenu on the bottom-left area of the Facebook UI. Within that submenu, it is a very small text link entitled “browse applications” at the bottom of the list. It is at least two clicks to get to the Application Directory.

With the iPhone, every user is presented with the “App Store” link as soon as they pick up the device. It’s an icon on the first page and easy to remember and access.

Winner: iPhone

What’s fascinating about Facebook’s decision with the bottom-bar is that any usability expert will tell you that the bottom-most area of the screen is the least-viewed area of any web page. I can definitely attest to this, as most of my friends still have trouble finding the Application Directory on Facebook, and just try new applications through recommendations.

2. Navigating to the Games

Once you’re into the Facebook Application directory, Facebook presents you with a display of a variety of types of applications, and a small list to the left houses the “Games” section. It’s available on the first page of the Application Directory and a user is presented with a list of interesting games immediately.

On the iPhone, a user who enters the App Store is presented with the “Featured Applications” page, which usually houses a large link to “Hot New Games”. The other way to access the games is to click “Categories” and then “All Games”.

Winner: Tie.

Both of these work well, and a user is able to access the games quickly.

3. Categorization and Sorting:

On Facebook, a user can view 7 categories: Action & Arcade, Card, Board, Role-Playing, Virtual World, Word and Other. There are also views of “Popular” and “Recently Added”, although these are not precise sorts. They use a hidden algorithm to show games that fall within the category of “Popular”, but in a random order. This is to prevent the “Popular” list from always being the same.

On iPhone, a user can view 19 categories: Action, Adventure, Arcade, Board, Card, Casino, Dice, Educational, Family, Kids, Music, Puzzle, Racing, Role Playing, Simulation, Sports, Strategy, Trivia and Word. Each category is sortable by Top Paid, Top Free and Release date. These are precise sorts, so the top paid application is the top paid application of all time.

Winner: iPhone

This is a close category, but the face that Facebook’s “popular” list is ordered in a seemingly random way to me makes it more difficult to find what I want. Hopefully the upcoming Games Dashboard helps to alleviate these problems and find better categorization methods.

4. Recommendations/Suggestions:

The games list on Facebook lists ‘n friends’ beside each game’s Monthly Active User count. This lets a player know how many of their own friends are playing a game, and is the most powerful suggestion method available.

iPhone has no recommendations/suggestions method to speak of.

Winner: Facebook

Even though the iPhone has a disadvantage because of the lack of any social information to draw on, there are certainly ways to provide basic recommendations based on Applications already installed, location or even voluntarily provided information.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the iPhone App Store is the winner in this contest. The overall experience of finding applications is a more pleasant and straightforward experience on the iPhone, and this is enhanced by Apple’s pleasant aesthetic. The fact that the Facebook Application directory began earlier than the Apple directory says that Facebook has some catching up to do, but it seems that they understand this, and the Games Dashboard is definitely a step in the right direction.

-Facebook vs iPhone Directories-