As a web designer, I find it very interesting how the end user interacts with a web application. From simple management sites such as Backpack or Basecamp by 37 Signals to the feature rich sites like that of many social networking websites. I mention social networking websites as I made a very astute observation as my wife tonight interacted with Facebook.
My wife, who I will say is very computer savvy, but does not spend as much time browsing the distant corners of the web as I do, had logged into Facebook for the first time in over two and half years. As a side story, I mentioned to her that one of her friends who is a photographer was offering a deal through her group for her studio and looking for maternity models. Seeing how we are having a daughter soon, this would be a great opportunity to get pictures done.
A Facebook user myself, I log into it everyday just to check up on what my friends and family are up to. As many have noticed, and rose up in disagreement, Facebook has changed drastically just recently - I personally think it’s great, aside from. It has gone to not only a wider layout, but items such as friends lists and messaging has changed - some for the good and some for the bad. Don’t get me started on the way the viral applications have become abundant throughout the site. I find myself constantly clicking the ignore button. I digress.
Back to my observation of my wife. Since she hadn’t logged into Facebook in over two years, there was a plethora of friend and application requests. Watching her interact with the site for the first time in a long time was interesting. I have found Facebook offers four different quick ways in the main navigation to get to your “profile” which is displayed differently depending on which one is clicked. She asked me multiple times how to get back to her profile as she didn’t understand what way was best. I have noticed that clicking the Facebook logo and the “home” link takes you to the same page, but looking closer, the URL has a variable set depending on what is clicked. I can only assume that the Facebook engineers and product owners use this for statistical reference to see what is clicked the most. My bet is the logo as it is the top most left item on the site. Studies have shown that anchored items that are not only recognizable, but visual are always easier to click than that of text. Why else does Apple put their logo at the very top left of their OS desktop? We are a left to right society in the western world.
After watching my wife for a while, I noticed something. She used the site in a completely different manner than I did. This was not a shocker as we are all individuals and each interact with an object to what we feel comfortable. In the book “Designing the Obvious“ by Robert Hoekman, Jr. (great read for all UI freaks) he mentions that an end user gets into a comfortable state of using an application. After figuring out an application, they stick to what they know and rarely venture out to other items of a site. I myself have found this to be true with my interaction of Facebook. I use it for certain things, but once in a while, if one of those dreaded applications intrigue me enough, I venture out from my comfort zone. Watching my wife find her comfort zone on Facebook was definitely interesting.
Needless to say, my wife spent about an hour and half just browsing around the site and catching up with old friends from her high school. I lost count of how many times she exclaimed, “Awww, I miss them…”