By Tolu Olufowobi
A typical Facebook user is connected to about 88 pages according to a 2016 statistical infographic found on Blog Herald. That is to say, fan-pages have become commonplace on Facebook. With Facebook expanding its repertoire to accommodate businesses, bloggers, and smaller website owners, the Fan-page can be regarded as a crucial avenue for brand and business promotion within Facebook. It provides opportunities for organizations to establish a direct connection between the products and services they offer and users on Facebook. Therefore, it can be regarding as a critical part of Facebook's working model even though many regard it as an auxiliary feature.
For this reason, I conducted an evaluation of Facebook's Page creator module- the set of pages from which users can create and manage pages. I involved 4 independent users who have no stake in Facebook. The essence of the evaluation was to identify any usability problems that may have been missed by testers and developers at Facebook.
Over the course of the sessions, the users were able to identify a total of nine problems. The problems were categorized according to how they violate the set of guidelines proposed by Jakob Nielsen in 1994.
Here are the issues pointed out by users along with accompanying categorizations (for usability enthusiasts and experts):
What was reported
Problem I. Obscure link to the Fan-page Creator link
The “Page” link at the bottom of the sidebar is obscure to the untrained eye. Facebook has provided 2 alternative ways to navigate to the fan-page creator start page- one, through the “Pages” link in the same sidebar, and the other in the drop-down arrow on the search and menu bar. However, only the “Pages” sidebar link seems like an apparent way to navigate to the page creator start page. The other, because it has been embedded in the drop down list, isn’t easy to find either. In addition, the term “Page”, on a social networking website that made up of a plethora of pages, can be quite vague.
|A gif showing a user's almost futile effort to navigate to the Fan page creator page.|
- Guideline 4 (Consistency and Standards): “Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing.”
- Guideline 6 (Recognition rather than recall): “Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions and options visible.”
- Change the font size of the links at the bottom of the sidebar to make them more noticeable.
- Adopt a different icon for representing extended menu items, or drop-down lists e.g. “…” or the “hamburger” menu icon – the icon with 3 horizontal bars.
- Use a tooltip to inform users of the use of the drop-down arrow, if it must stay.
Problem II. Unclear distinction between the User account and Fan-page album
Although the links exist on two separate pages, users, especially, first-time users, may assume that the “Photos” link in the Fan-page dashboard links to photos in their personal profile. One potential mistake that can arise from this, is unintentional posts meant for private use ending up on the fan-page. It goes without saying that anyone who runs into a problem like this might refrain from using fan-pages on Facebook in the future.
|The pictures above show that the same label is used for photos in the user's homepage and their fanpage... potentially leading to confusion.|
- Guideline 5 (Error Prevention): User errors, like the example given in the description above, haven’t been prevented, given the current adopted U.I.
- The “Photos” link display text in the fan-page could be changed to “Fan-page photos” or just simply “Page photos”.
- Photo uploads to user accounts and the fan-page could be designed with the possibility of getting them done in the same palace. This way, the user is immediately aware that the posts can be made to either of the two, leading them to choose appropriately.
Problem III. No User Account – Fan-page media transfer options available
It is impossible for users to move or copy pictures from their profile to fan-pages they manage. The closest thing to this is sharing pictures on the page itself. However, sharing only makes pictures available on the fan-page’s timeline.
|The user looks for a way to move pictures from their account to the fanpage , to no avail.|
- Guideline 7 (Flexibility and efficiency of use): The module, and by extension, the website, has failed to provide a way for users, in particular, perpetual Fan page admin users, to move pictures freely between their account and pages.
- Add a feature that allows fan-page owners or administrators to perform user account to fan-page media transfer.
Problem IV. Profanity label is ambiguous
At a time when internet trolling and cyber bullying are rampant, this setting is ever so important. With two clicks, users can use Facebook’s vulgar language blacklist to block offensive comments from being posted on the page. However, from the evaluation sessions conducted, only one of the users was able to identify the setting when asked to block offensive posts on the fan-page they were asked to manage. The others users either required some form hint or failed to understand the setting altogether.
|After initially missing the setting, the user employs the information icon to learn more about the setting.|
- Guideline 2 (Match between the system and real world): The 2nd Nielsen heuristic guideline states that “the system should speak the users’ language, with the words phrases and concepts familiar to the user…”. The term “profanity”, while clearly describing the setting it represents, is not a familiar word to most users.
- Change the choice of word used to identify the setting.
- Provide adequate description for the setting.
Problem V. Illegible verbose text
All the participants from the evaluations sessions indicated that, when viewed at a glance, the descriptions text for the settings in the “Settings” page are difficult to read. The small, close to fine print text, discouraged them from trying to spend much time understanding what it did. They mostly relied on the title of settings, to identify which ones they wanted to use. In addition to these, users who went ahead to seek assistance from the help search box, weren’t satisfied with the suggestions provided as they found them misleading.
|The text in the circled area was illegible according to the evaluation participants.|
- Guideline 8 (Aesthetic and minimalist design): “Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed”- the descriptions given for some of the settings haven’t been constructed in a concise manner
- Make the descriptions legible.
- Adopt concise descriptions all around to encourage their reading.
Problem VI. Scheduling event posts
The inclusion of an extra modal dialogue form, which can only be accessed by selecting “Schedule from the drop-down list next to the “Post” button, to set the scheduled date for posts seems unnecessary. More so, as was the case in 2 evaluation sessions, users may set an invalid scheduled moment to make the post. Now, an invalid moment can be regarded as one whose date or time comes after the actual date or time of the event.
- Guideline 5 (Error Prevention): The event post scheduling dialogue form prevents users from setting an invalid scheduled post date.
- Guideline 6 (Recognition rather than recall): the positioning of the “Schedule” link violates this guideline.
- Post scheduling can be done on the same page by employing some extra controls -scheduled time and date field, and a checkbox- and some Ajax code or any technology that modifies page content asynchronously.
- Although Facebook uses form validation to ensure that no invalid date or time can be selected, it may be more convenient to the user, if such values are not selectable in the first place.
Problem VII. Clutter around the post creation area
The timeline posting feature on Facebook has been around almost since the beginning of Facebook itself and has undergone a series of changes over the years. Most recently, it contains new features that allow users to share new types of content such as videos, pictures, events, to name a few, as timeline posts. However, the layout adopted to display the features, shadows the textbox originally used to make posts. It’s hard to establish if this is by design, but one thing is for certain, some users will not be able to make simple text posts because of this. To compound the issue, Facebook has modified the “post” button within the fan-page home page, making it a thumbnail of the users or fan-page’s display picture.
|User fails to sight the post creation textbox.|
- Guideline 8 (Aesthetic and minimalist design): The clutter of features around the post entry text field violates contradicts this guideline.
- Provide a clear demarcation between the post entry field and the additional features available for posting.
- Replace the picture with the post button. The author of the post can be setting using radio buttons or a toggle control.
Problem VIII. Misinterpreted page deletion prompt
The prompt displayed when a user attempts to delete a page from its settings, can be mistook for a feedback message.
- Guideline 4 (Consistency and Standards): Links aren’t standard way to prompt users for a response.
- Guideline 5 (Error prevention): User errors are bound to occur if the prompt message looks like a feedback message.
- Replace it with two buttons and a prompt message so users can easily identify that they are being prompted for a response.
Problem IX. Buttons that don’t do anything
The “edit” buttons next to owned pages in the “Manage Pages” page don’t do anything other than become invisible when they are clicked. Furthermore, the icons used don’t agree with convention as they are different from the edit icons used on Facebook.
|Notice the buttons become invisible with the user remaining on the same page when the buttons are clicked|
- Guideline 4 (Consistency and Standards): The use of different edit icons in the Page creator is in violation of guideline 4.
- Guideline 5 (Error prevention): The existence of the buttons is in itself of a violation of Nielsen’s heuristics guideline 5.
- The page can be taken out since any editing that can be done on a Fan-pages can be done from within its dashboard.
- If the buttons aren’t responsive because a condition hasn’t been satisfied, then the link to be shouldn’t be available until after the condition has been satisfied. Also, stick to the icons already associated with editing on facebook.
It appears that much of the problems identified by the users arose from Facebook’s adoption of a minimalistic and aesthetic design. Furthermore, the argument can be made that design or performance related justifications are behind some of the decisions Facebook has taken for it user interface design. Conclusively, none of the recommendations provided are absolute, neither have they been tested. They are simply suggestions that may provide a starting point for the development of a concrete user-centric U.I.s.