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Another Facebook redesign: Birthdays are important

Leaked document shows some of Facebook's plan for a minor home page redesign that addresses some of the concerns members raised the last time the company did a big design overhaul.

Guess what? Facebook is tweaking its home page design yet again--something that invariably seems to tick off members at first before they realize they actually don't mind that much. The company seems to have been previewing the new look to advertisers, one of whom forwarded the details along to industry blog Mashable.

It doesn't look too different. The biggest change is that Facebook's home page news feed will now be divided up into "top news" and a more real-time "recent activity" view.

The explanation:

"Facebook is simplifying the user experience on the home page by introducing Top News and Recent Activity streams. Now, when users log on to Facebook for the first time in a while, they will see the most important stories that they missed while they were away. From there, users can navigate to the real-time stream and toggle between both views throughout their sessions. In addition to making it easier for users to view content that is most relevant to them, this change also speeds up the time it takes for the home page to load and makes birthday reminders more prominent."

A screenshot from a document that Facebook sent to brand advertisers about an impending redesign. Facebook

Note the mention of birthday reminders. On a given member's birthday, a pop-up version of Facebook's "gifts" application appears on that user's profile so that friends can purchase virtual gifts to display. The "gifts" feature is also currently the center of the fledgling e-commerce plans that Facebook has been bouncing around for quite some time now: It's currently the hub of its "credits" virtual currency, and advertisers can purchase sponsored gifts that members can give to one another. These have also been tested out with a select number of nonprofits.

For users, it sounds like Facebook is correcting some of the changes that members seemed to complain about the most with its last redesign. "Facebook has also put information back into the stream that people have asked for, including photo tags, friend acceptances, relationships, event RSVPs and group memberships," the explanation obtained by Mashable read. Also in there will be information about what a user's friends do on brands' "fan" pages, potentially increasing the exposure for advertisers and marketers looking to jump on the social-ads bandwagon.

Why so much redesigning? Facebook's executive team likes to pitch the company as a living, evolving product. At an event last week in Palo Alto, Calif., Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg underscored Facebook's belief in constant "iteration," a term you'll also often hear CEO Mark Zuckerberg using.

"The great thing about Facebook is (that) we are constantly evolving the site and constantly evolving the usage," she said. "People protested the new home page redesign, but engagement went way up and users continued to grow."