Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has completely revolutionized the way we connect to each other. Now, all it takes is a few swipes to instantaneously communicate with friends and family — whether they be right next door or halfway across the globe. With a user base of nearly 2.4 billion people who use the platform regularly, it’s easy to see all the opportunities for tailored advertising via Facebook’s News Feed. But how many of those users know that they can actually edit and tune their feeds? According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, nearly three-fourths of Facebook users were either completely unaware of this functionality or were unsure of how to use it. That is what inspired me to attempt this redesign project. The main design challenge: to create a more intuitive interface for Facebook users to tune their feeds.
On any given News Feed post, Facebook users can click on the option to ask “Why am I seeing this?” Here’s an example:
This feature is a great way for users to gain more insight into how their News Feed is organized. With this function, users are then able to actually edit and curate the content that shows up in their feeds.
When a user clicks on this “Why am I seeing this?” function, the ad settings configuration page they’re directed to is not the most intuitive to navigate. Here’s what mine looks like:
As you can see, another issue with the current ad settings page is that there are hundreds of categories I did not opt in to selecting. This could confuse the average user even more and stop them from continuing to interact with this feature.
But it’s not as though Facebook hasn’t been thinking about this issue. According to a statement made by Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, “We want people to understand how our ad settings and controls work. That means better ads for people […] While we and the rest of the online ad industry need to do more to educate people on how interest-based advertising works and how we protect people’s information, we welcome conversations about transparency and control.”
It seems as though Facebook strives to deliver as much transparency and user agency as possible, but the way their ad settings page is currently designed doesn’t necessarily reflect that. To meet those goals, I believe that the user ad settings page ought to be as simple and easy to navigate as possible. I also think that implementing a simpler way for users to curate their feeds will empower them to interact with all of Facebook’s other features more confidently.
Pinterest is a great example of a platform that does this. On any given screen, a user can navigate to this button to curate their home feeds.
Once this button is clicked, a user will be directed to the dashboard below. Observe some of the differences between Pinterest and Facebook’s model:
Here are a couple of things I noticed about Pinterest’s model:
- Everything is centralized. Pinterest users don’t have to navigate to any other pages to edit their feed content preferences. In other words, when users click on any one of the page categories (i.e. “boards,” “history,” and “topics”), the site gives the illusion that the user is able to edit all of their settings in one location.
- Users opt in to topics of interest. For the “boards” section, users get recommendations from the posts they’ve selected themselves on the boards they’ve created. For the “history” section, users are getting recommendations for the posts they’ve looked at. And for the “topics” section, users are able to follow and unfollow categories they selected when they made their accounts. Users are in control of every part of the process of creating recommendations for the posts that show up in their feeds.
Pinterest has been able to successfully create a simple and intuitive dashboard for users to curate their feeds. What if Facebook could do the same?
Redesign Facebook’s ad settings page for users to be able to navigate their advertising settings more easily.
Here is the current general configuration of Facebook’s ad settings:
Keeping with this structure, I iterated a few times on how to translate this into a more intuitive dashboard. Here’s the product of the first iteration:
In my Systems Thinking class, we discuss the need to consider the implications of designing for different stakeholders when making a product. So far in the design process, I’ve been thinking about the needs of consumers and the desire for more transparency in advertising. But for this redesign to actually be viable for Facebook, I realized that I needed to also consider the needs of advertisers. Since a large portion of Facebook’s annual revenue is made through advertising, this dashboard had to be designed to take that into account.
And when it comes to the user experience, there is actually a great benefit to recommendations you may not have looked for yourself. So, in addition to having a feature for users to opt in to their main areas of interest, I knew that there had to be a function for advertisers to make recommendations based on the user’s declared areas of interest.
To design for both of those stakeholders, I created an opt-in ad recommendation feature (to keep the power primarily in the user’s hands):
The inspiration for this simple addition comes from Pinterest’s recommendation feature, as shown here:
There are two main benefits of redesigning Facebook’s ad settings page to incorporate this feature.
- Users opt in to allowing advertisers to make recommendations. Notice that the default position of this function is to be set off, and only switches on when the user decides to do so.
- It’s the first option the user sees. Because the feature is positioned at the top of each category page, it’s likely that many more users would interact with it. Designing the page with this function as the first option would also help Facebook meet its goal of increasing transparency and user-agency on the platform.
- Consider stakeholders. When designing a product, it can sometimes be tempting to design for the community you started with. I learned that constant reflection is needed to build a product that meets everyone’s needs.
- Less is more. There’s a beauty in designing simple and sleek products. If a design is too complicated or has too much extra functionality, it can confuse and actually deter users from interacting with it.
- Stay true to the mission. It’s important to contextualize each iteration of developing a product in the process of meeting the overall design goal.