Today, Facebook announced an update to the bookmarks panel of the home page’s left-hand navigation sidebar in an effort to keep the panel tidy and to surface frequently used applications. If you don’t use an app occupying one of the three customizable spots for 30 days, it will drop below the “More” fold. Free spots can be automatically filled with frequently used apps. The Facebook Developer Blog adds that any application a user installs will now automatically have a bookmark created for it.
In April, Facebook introduced bookmark reordering and reduced above the fold spots so users could choose a small selection of their favorite apps to be constantly visible. However, over time as a user stopped using old apps and installed new ones, they would have to manually create bookmarks and reorder their tops spots. Facebook now takes care of this automatically to make the bookmarks panel more useful.
Molding Facebook’s appearance based not only on a user’s choices, but based on their actions marks a shift that could guide future redesigns. Privacy changes and the friends list feature have demonstrated that giving users options doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take advantage of them. Creating a system that optimizes appearance by usage but only hides options instead of removing them means Facebook can make design alterations while minimizing potential for backlash. For instance, deleting a bookmark due to lack of use could be controversial, but merely reducing its prominence wouldn’t cause the same reaction.
The behavior-based design customization seen here could be applied to setting a default view of the news feed, reordering friend lists, or the altering the prominence of Chat features. Facebook’s decision to make these automated modifications less drastic may signal that they are learning from previous experiences with how users react to interface modifications.