When Facebook rolled out its changes to the News Feed recently – and if you haven’t gotten the new look yet, remember how long it might have taken you to be forced into the Timeline – one thing became abundently clear.
Mobile was leading the design.
TechCrunch quoted News Feed project manager, Michael Reckow, as explaining the company’s motivation:
The best design is happening in mobile phones. On mobile phones you’re constrained and constraints make good design. It makes you think about what’s good to put on the screen and what needs to be left off.
The New York Times report of the roll out quoted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as saying that he wants this “front page” of the application to be less crowded and more engaging – “particularly on the smaller screens of mobile devices.”
It’s becoming clear that mobile is overtaking PC-based websites as the defacto design standard. One of the reasons for this is the sharp increase in smartphone ownership – from 62.60 million in 2012 to 137.50 million currently, with a projected 192 million in 2015.
But the switch of this major social media outlet from modifying the design of the site based on the device you are using to standardizing on the smallest possible device is still a bit startling. Reckhow was quoted as saying why Facebook chose this route:
The personal nature of your phone is obvious, it’s with you at all times. Because of this, the things your friends are sharing are with you at all times. We see that people on mobile are so active, they use it every day and that means they’re going to build a deep relationship with the product and identify Facebook with mobile. It’s available everywhere, and it’s a great thing to play with when you’re in a line at a store. Now you can spend more time on mobile with multiple choices of feeds. You can go deeper.
While we might argue that playing with Facebook when you’re on line in a store isn’t optimal social behavior, the move of this major player is apt to influence the greater web market. Facebook appears to have adopted the “Mobile First” philosophy of Luke Wroblewski, CEO and Co-Founder of Input Factory Inc. According to him, going mobile first:
Prepares you for the explosive growth and new opportunities emerging on mobile today
Forces you to focus and prioritize your products by embracing the constraints inherent in mobile design
Allows you to deliver innovative experiences by building on new capabilities native to mobile devices and modes of use
We’re curious – what do you think of this new trend? Are there reasons why all of our website views should be limited to the constraints of the smallest of the screens? Or should we continue to have the freedom to use differently sized devices to deliver different experiences?