When researching the new look and functionality for its flashy re-designed news feed, Facebook discovered a dichotomy between what users said in interviews and how they actually used the popular feature. It turns out that people often don’t know what they like until they see it. This is evidenced by Samsung’s success with an oversized tablet that conventional wisdom deemed a DOA. With millions of too-big tablets sold to date, Samsung is seeing its big risk end profitably.
In researching Facebook’s re-design for its news feed, Google identified the differentiation between user survey responses and the observation of actual usage. Armed with that knowledge, Facebook moved forward with the re-design acting on the belief that observed behavior trumps subjective self-observation.
Facebook’s objective in the design and functionality overhaul was to create a less cluttered environment with user-friendlier features. This is accomplished by introducing multiple feeds. Their “Music News” feed, for example, will display what the user’s friends are listening to or what concerts they’ve been to recently. “Close Friends” to catch up with what’s going on in their lives. “Close Friends” will include a section for non-profit organizations, celebrity news and more.
Facebook’s study of real-world human interaction with the news feed contradicted previously held beliefs based on user interviews. The real-world study found that users. “A look at our data showed that the very stories that wanted to filter out: pages, posts, stories about songs and games, and stories friends liked and commented on.” Jane Justice Leibrock, author of the study commented, adding “Since people were clearly interested in these stories, our task came to figuring out how to display them separately from News Feed, in a way that people would want to see them.”
Leibrock employed a method dubbed “Cart Sort” to conduct the behavioral study. It determines how people mentally connect different topics to each other. The most popular topic includes categories of most favorite stories containing photos. Other created categories are composed of people to whom they felt the closest.