Facebook users hate redesign. Lather, rinse, repeat?

The social network has historically waved off user complaints over redesigned features with the attitude of "they'll get used to it." It's worked in the past. But it might not this time.

So there's a new Facebook app out there, designed to poll users on the social network's latest redesign. The results? Hundreds of thousands have responded. 94 percent give it a thumbs-down. Ouch.

Comments range from "WHY FIX IT, WHEN IT WASN'T BROKE, you will be SORRYYYYYYYYYYY" to "It feels counterintuitive and less technologically advanced than the last layout."

Now, this is clearly not an official vote. Chances are, you're not going to install a third-party polling application with the sole purpose of voicing an opinion on the new Facebook design unless you're really opinionated about it. So the 94 percent might be kind of high.

But still. Facebook is so big now--over 175 million members--that even an interface change may throw many of the less technical users completely off guard. And from what we've heard, non-geeks really do find the new design more difficult to use. The new site, particularly the activity feeds on member profiles, really do look different. The blurring between status messages and wall posts doesn't make much sense in my opinion--though I do like the improved news feed filtering tools.

It's easy to wave this off, because Facebook redesigns have brought up one threatened user revolt after another, and the site has just kept on growing. Members grew used to the new features, and in some cases (like the original launch of the news feed) it's hard to imagine Facebook without them. The only changes Facebook has made in response to user outrage, historically, have been in response to privacy concerns .

But Facebook's not just dealing with the young and tech-savvy anymore. When the people who freak out over a redesigned phone bill or cable channel-changing menu have Facebook profiles, "they'll get used to it" doesn't float as well. So this could really be a problem.

The new layout is a forward-thinking one , inspired by streaming content services like Twitter. Executives from Facebook have said that they see "the stream" as the next evolution of how we interact on the Web.

But even though Twitter's all over daytime talk shows these days , it's still just barely out of the gates as something more than an early-adopter toy. It's a fraction the size of Facebook. And the "Twitter plus media sharing" model doesn't have the best track record, as its most notable example, Pownce, was sold to Six Apart and shut down amid dwindling traffic. It probably would've been smarter for Facebook to ease users into the "stream" with a course of smaller tweaks rather than to require them to plunge in headlong.

Facebook's last redesign was finalized in September . That's only six months ago. If a site is putting out changes every six months that a mainstream audience sees as drastic, they could get fed up with it fast.

About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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