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New Facebook design: Subtle changes that work

Improvements in the Facebook design highlight its best features.

As a user, I had pretty much given up on Facebook until I saw the redesign Monday morning. It may appear to offer only subtle improvements, but I think it will help usability a lot.

If your account isn't yet on the new design, you can try it anyway at If you don't like it, you can switch back--for now, anyway.

The new Facebook pages are subtly redesigned, but the layout is easier to read.

Since the app platform launch 16 months ago, I've found using the service getting more frustrating. It felt like app notification windows were scattered everywhere, and there were little come-ons for features and new apps where I didn't want them. I had always liked Facebook more than MySpace since it had a cleaner design, but Facebook has been moving in the wrong direction. It was getting cluttered.

The new design fades back the pitches and the noise, and pushes Facebook's most important and universal feature, the Wall, into the front of the design, and the user's attention. I find it easier to read.

What's really much better, though, is the new "Publisher" feature on the profile update page, the Facebook location where you update your status and post photos and video. On this page, Facebook begins to look and feel like Twitter. (TechCrunch thinks it's more FriendFeed.) The default option, top and center on the page, is to fill in the "What are you doing now?" box. Users can also add notes, photos, or launch the better-integrated Webcam recording box.

New Facebook "Publisher" is easy to see, easy to use, and customizable.

It appears that the new design breaks some existing Facebook platform apps, and it reduces their visibility by default. Users will be able to add tabs to their Publisher box for other apps, though, which might actually help apps that don't compete with the existing Facebook status functions.

We're still waiting to see how Facebook handles the new hotness in app platforms: the iPhone.

See also: Facebook gets a facelift to help users share (Associated Press).