More Facebook Home Page Changes May Be Coming, as News Feed Test Appears

Facebook is testing a version of the news feed which collapses the previously separate Top News and Most Recent tabs into a single feed. The small group of user testers, many with less than 50 friends, see only the most relevant stories from the past few days.

There is no way to view the comprehensive, chronological list of updates provided by the Most Recent tab, leading many testers to complain they are missing important stories, seeing the same content for days on end, and feel discriminated against for not having more friends.

These tests may be in preparation for a possible home page redesign slated for September which an industry source tell us Facebook has privately discussed with partners.

Other changes that impact the home page have also surfaced or at least been mentioned recently. One is an upgraded left-hand navigation column, which began appearing yesterday. Another: company founder Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that friend lists — a feature that is now somewhat buried on the home page — are due for a revision.

In June, Facebook began testing a version of the news feed which removed the Most Recent tab but also displayed 3 large photos horizontally across the top of the feed. This new test drops the photos, but retains the combined feed. Many heavy users enjoy choosing between a feed of highly relevant stories chosen by EdgeRank and a firehose of all updates. However, users see a lot of repeat stories if they click over to Most Recent after browsing all of their Top News. Facebook has been searching for a single feed the eliminates this redundancy and is appealing to users of all usage levels.

While protests of design changes are typical, praise is rare, and the testing group is very small, the negative feedback voiced in our comments reel provides insight into how users want to consume stories. One explained, “I need to be able to see whats going on at any one time in chronological order, so I know I haven’t missed anything”, showing that a sense of calm and assurance comes from reading the entirety of the Most Recent feed. Frequent users craving fresh stories are frustrated with the longevity of content in the new format, “Since when was showing a post that happened a week ago and I have had to read 8 times already more important than anything else?”

Perhaps most interestingly was how many users were offended by how they were chosen as testers. By testing primarily on those with less than 50 friends, many believed Facebook was judging them as unpopular. “How many friends is too few?”, and “I feel like I’m being discriminated against” were common sentiments. In order to maintain the pace of innovation CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted in his speech on Wednesday, live testing is necessary. To cull data without instigating anger, though, Facebook needs to be cautious about testing only on a group sharing a sensitive characteristic like friend count.

[Image via All Facebook.]

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