Brief words on the FriendFeed beta

The best place for discussion about the latest FriendFeed beta is at FriendFeed, of course. However, it would be amiss of me not to record a couple of thoughts.

On the whole, there’s little about which I feel strongly for better or worse – which rather suggests that the current design is just fine. With three major exceptions:

  1. The service favicons and service filtering
  2. Someone has decided that the source of information is less important than the content – in fact, that the source is irrelevant. I and many others disagree strongly. It seems that many people use the small icons that identify the item source as a subconscious visual cue, in ways that the designers have not anticipated. Richard describes this concisely.
    Retain source icon and ability to filter by source.

  3. Merging of rooms and individuals into subscriptions
  4. Rooms have been renamed groups and are presented, at least in the sidebar menu, in the same context as individual users. Mistake. Rooms are not individuals; they really are virtual places where people gather for in-depth discussion of specific topics.
    Keep rooms distinct.

  5. Real-time as default
  6. You’ve got to be kidding me. Seriously, who uses any site in real-time? Who has time to sit and stare at the screen as updates scroll by?
    This is not how I use FriendFeed. I browse, search and read items in some depth as and when I feel like it. This design decision creates a worse, not a better, impression of not being able to keep up with the information stream.
    I can only assume that someone has been influenced by some self-appointed web guru telling us that real-time is the new static, or some such stupid soundbite.
    Real-time as option, not default.

I feel, as do others, that FriendFeed’s appeal lies in the “information first, then people” ethos and that we are seeing a shift to personality-centric streams with an unwelcome similarity to e.g. Facebook. Ultimately, I guess FriendFeed is a business that has to attract users – and if the majority want a Facebook clone, then that’s what we will get. It will be a terrible shame if we have to move elsewhere – time will tell.

4 thoughts on “Brief words on the FriendFeed beta

  1. It’s been pointed out to me that real-time can be paused and that state is maintained. Fair enough.

    Also, groups (rooms) are still shown separately when all subscriptions are viewed. I think I can live with this, provided that room posts are not lost in the stream.

    That only leaves the service icons. I sincerely hope that FriendFeed will rethink this. The thinking seems to be that users care more about who shares information than where it came from. To me this is simply the wrong way round. Data first, then follow the people who provide it.

    Strangely, not much whinging at FriendFeed about the sidebars on the right; a definite improvement if you ask me of course :-)

  2. Despite your comment, I wanted to write that I felt heartened by the part of your post about real-time viewing. I tried this out when it was introduced and immediately switched back to “conventional”, for precisely the reasons you state. I assumed that I was an old-fashioned outlier (as I usually seem to be), but in fact, it seems as if I am not and that the way I use FF is similar to the way in which others use it.

    I’m quite happy with it the way it is, and although I am always keen to try out new designs and features, I hope that FF users can carry on using the site as now, because it suits me very well. (the rooms for in-depth discussion with a group of people on one topic at a time to suit me – and the other users likewise).

  3. I would agree with all of your points Neil, and also add the fugly colours as a big turnoff too.

    In fact, it was so distracting even with the real time feature paused that I simply went back to the original and added AJ Batac’s neat script for tidying up the UI.

    The only thing I liked was the right side bar, but then I’m right handed and prefer menus on the right.

    • Quite agree Sally – if you read left to right, navigation belongs on the right. As for the colours, FF really need a graphic designer. Perhaps one of the people who’ve developed the excellent greasemonkey scripts.

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