Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Facebook feeds finally see the light

Facebook finally gave re-birth to its RSS feeds – proving once again that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to your users.

I once worked on a news magazine. We generally ran four news stories on the cover, which follows generally accepted practice to give the reader as much reason to open the book as possible. Just at the time that we were preparing for a re-design, my editor received a letter from a reader complaining about what we call spills; ie stories that spill off onto inside pages.

So when we redesigned, our editor made the decision to not use any spills based pretty much on that letter and then some informal anecdotal research. We had one main story and a picture pointer to a larger inside story.

Guess what? Our reader results dived. Now, I agree spills are a pain to navigate, but they’re unfortunate necessities for a news magazine. As a print publisher, you just need to give your reader every reason to look further into the book. Users/readers get comfortable with a particular way of doing things or they think in isolation about their own experience.

So sure take into account focus groups and user research, but don’t assume it to be gospel. Facebook’s RSS feeds were always a great idea and it probably wouldn’t have copped a lot of the “silo” criticism if it had stuck to its guns and introduced them at the same time it launched its newsfeeds. However, a bunch of noisy users convinced Facebook to back down on it and so all Facebook users have gone with out.

I don’t know, maybe Facebook treated this exactly the right way. It stuck to its gun on the newsfeed feature, dropped the RSS feeds and then reintroduced them when the time was right.

However, I kind of think Facebook should have just held its ground from the start. There’s no reason Facebook shouldn’t have feeds. I’ve got my status updates in my sidebar now and its already increased my useage of the service.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

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