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Study: Facebook Relies on Good Design to Retain Users

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Tim Berners-Lee

Credit: Tony Scarpetta

University of Washington graduate student Parmit Chilana recently interviewed Facebook engineers and design specialists to learn how they develop and deploy new features for the service. Chilana interviewed 17 Facebook employees, including software engineers, product designers, and product managers. She used as a baseline the principles of good software user interface design, as described in a 1985 paper by John Gould and Clayton Lewis, who stress iterative design, a focus on user testing, and user-focused design. "Over half the interview participants explicitly identified user experience as a key factor in driving design on Facebook," Chilana says.

Engineers often have to design for the least common denominator, as new features must be equally intuitive to a 90-year-old Mongolian grandmother as to a 14-year-old Brazilian soccer player, according to one Facebook engineer. Iteration also is valued at Facebook, with one engineer noting that the company "will just try to get something out there, make sure it is reasonable and then iterate on the design based on how people are using it," Chilana says. She also notes that Facebook designers are not averse to deploying cutting-edge features that comply with the company's long-term vision of a social networking site, even if users are unhappy with it in the short term.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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