Facebook a year ago detailed a tremendous redesign that made the social network feel fresh and uncluttered—not something we typically associated with Facebook today. News Feed put greater emphasis on imagery, and the site overall looked cleaner and easier to use. But that particular redesign was never rolled out, and the reason why might surprise you. Turns out, not everyone has a fancy new MacBook Pro with Retina (re: up-to-date hardware), which lead to a less than desirable experience for most users.
These technical limitations meant Facebook had to go back to the drawing board, which is why the recent redesign is different from the one we saw more than a year ago. The decision is detailed by Facebook’s Julie Zhuo, product design director, in response to entrepreneur Dustin Curtis, who assumed that Facebook’s redesign abandonment was for advertising reasons. Not so, according to Zhuo.
It turns out, while I (and maybe you as well have sharp, stunning super high-resolution 27-inch monitors, many more people in the world do not, Zhuo said. Low-res, small screens are more common across the world than hi-res Apple or Dell monitors. And then old design we tested didn’t work very well on a 10-inch Netbook. A single story might not even fit on the viewport. Not to mention, many people who access the website every day only use Facebook through their PC—no mobile phones or tablets.
Zhuo goes on to say that the old design would have actually been positive for revenue, debunking Curtis’s suggestion that Facebook isn’t as pretty as it could be because of advertising.
“The old design was worse for many of the things we value and try to improve,” Zhuo said. “This is about designing something that works for the hundreds of millions of people who use the Facebook website every day, from all over the world, on all types of computers.”
Facebook recently begun rolling out a different redesign, which Zhuo claims people like better than the old one that was never deployed. There’s less clutters, larger photos and much more emphasis on media overall. It could have been different, though, if not for grandma’s old tube monitor from the late 90s.