What do we learn from the failure of Facebook home in 2013? Well, let's try planning it again.
On April 4, 2013, Facebook invited media to “Come to See Our New Home On Android”. Sources tell us it will be a modified version of the Android operating system with deep native Facebook functionality on the home screen that may live on an HTC handset. The evidence aligns to say this is the Facebook Phone announcement people have been speculating about for years.- TechCrunch
Facebook took a big decision of launching Facebook home back in 2013. For those who don't know about the Facebook home, it was supposed to be a default home screen for mobile devices. The major business goal was to increase user engagement.
Having a home screen on android would help users use the Facebook app more frequently, thereby increasing user engagement.
It was available on some high-end HTC and Samsung phones, and the HTC First phone to be completely optimized for Facebook Home.
- What was the major problem with Facebook Home?
- Outrage | Media Attention
- Solution in 2021
- Risk Assessment
What was the major problem of Facebook Home?
The home shows facebook’s social updates, contacts, messaging services, most importantly, Facebook ads directly on an Android user’s home and lock screens. The home was supposed to make Facebook more easily accessible even without opening the app. Isn't it awesome to be able to see every single update from your friends without doing anything?
Of course, it would be. But that's not all everyone needs. Taking the customer's segments into consideration, not everyone is a Facebook addict. I mean, personally, I didn't even use Facebook much until I had my ads running for my page. So there raised a problem of not being able to see the desired app. This problem can be solved efficiently in 2021 though(will discuss it in the end).
Trying to change the existing way users used Android was another big issue. Users were not really ready to make a change in the conventional workflow.
Entering into a saturated market
I would never like to travel on a train that has no space or that's too crowded until it delivers some extraordinary results. The same goes with products, there were already many launchers on the play store that was good enough. So this was not something of a major pain point for a user.
The Facebook home was an awesome feature for those who used it often, but it became a really tough time for those who wanted to use other apps. People found it really difficult to find another app, which created a disconnect between the vision vs the use case.
That was not it, people now wanted to uninstall it as the user experience was not that efficient anymore. An article from theverge.com gave the internet a clear view of the non-effectiveness of the update.
A world outside Facebook
Facebook is an awesome tool. It's of many use. But when the home came, they tried to capture the market they didn't aim to. It was too much Facebook for people who didn't use it much. The problem started arising because it became too “much sugar in a coffee”. This goes well with the saying “Excess of everything is harmful”. With the new home, all users saw was facebook and apps around it. It was too much for users to digest.
Proposing a solution for Facebook Home in 2021
We talked about a lot of problems and agitation. Now let's discuss the solution. If I had to launch Facebook home again in 2021 this would be my approach.
The first step would be to decide the aim of the launch. Since the initial goal was to increase user engagement I would keep it that way.
So keeping user engagement in mind, the next step would be to decide the customer base. I would like to divide the customer base into two parts, the first one for personal use and the other one for enterprise use.
The ideal customer base would be those who use Facebook for non-business use. Whereas for business/enterprise usage, I would consider the customers who use Facebook for running ads and would like to stay updated with every bit of information.
So let's start with the personal usage Facebook home screen. Taking customer empathy into consideration I would set goals as “Making customers achieve results faster”.
I would define my customer journey in the following steps:
- The user opens his/her mobile phone and sees the homepage
- The user finds the app using slides or searches from the home screen
- Select the apps, starts using it
- After using it for a few mins, the user might switch to some other app.
- He/she might come back to the home screen to search for another app, and the loop continues.
The important thing to notice here is how easily the user finds the desired app.
I would consider the following steps to increase the usability of The Home:
- Use data to prioritize different apps on the home screen, this would thereby reduce the number of clicks to reach the desired app
- Allow users to star/pin different apps on the home screen
- Provide a Top search bar to search and thereby sort considering the analysis done at step 1
- Sort the Apps screen with the most used apps at the top
- Show other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp
The next step would be to prioritize the features. Not all of the above would be useful but let's try to prioritize the best assumption we can do.
Let's create a comparison table and try to understand it better. I would start by assigning a point system to each feature. The best idea has a score of 5.
Explanation of the scores:
- Data Analysis to Prioritize app: Facebook has a ton of data. They can use it efficiently to find the behavior of the users and build an AI around it to predict the right time considering the time, demographics, and semantics of the user. If this works well, it would be a complete game-changer like the autocomplete google keyboard. Let's say I am standing near a street trying to find a cab. Being able to do the right analysis and showing recommendations for cab apps would be really cool! But this comes with a risk factor, which would include a lot of time to build and test. So that is the reason for the high risk and effort score.
- Allow Pin/Star Apps: Pinning apps on android is a default feature in android. So I assume it won't require effort like the previous one. So give it a medium to a low score of -2.
- Providing a search bar: Being able to index the app's information and finding out the right app using a search functionality would be easy. As it requires soft matching of text. That is the only reason for low scores for this feature.
- Sort the App on Recent Used app: Being able to see the most recently used apps would save time for users. Gave it a comparatively high score for efforts as this might need comparably more effort that.
Anyways the efforts section may change with consultation with the engineering team.
I would prefer to go with ideas 2,3 and 4. Idea 1 is a game-changer but might not fit well in the MVP version for the product. So I might keep it for the future roadmap and start implementing it after we have enough data.
We spent a lot of time discussing the pain points and solutions. Which was important to solve because that was the major flaw in the previous version.
Now let's talk about Facebook apps. Let's keep it simple and introduce a facebook section on the home screen. This facebook section shows the most used Facebook apps. We also have a small updates section that will serve the purpose of showcasing new updates from Facebook. Thereby increasing the engagement.
We preferred having only a single section for facebook because this was the main pain point of users. So that needed to be addressed properly. Apart from that, we could also use the notification system more efficiently.
Building for Enterprise Customers
It becomes quite necessary for enterprise customers to stay updated with there the ads they are running or any important notification regarding their business account. Often it happens that ads stop unexpectedly due to some issues, so this would be the right opportunity to show those messages. This would keep the enterprise with smooth conversion as well as this will also add on to the revenue.
There's a lot more we can do with enterprise or business customers on Facebook. Comment down if you want to see the 2nd part of this blog where we discuss more the business customers.
There’s definitely a risk involved in bringing back facebook home again. That being the sole purpose, we choose options 2,3, and 4 as the risk involved was less. This could come as an inbuilt feature inside the Facebook app itself in the new versions. Users could easily locate the update when they first time opened the app(after the update) or in the home settings for the phone.
Often simple things work the best. There has been numerous example where just a single thing worked the best. We kept customer empathy as the top priority. While working on the user engagement. Launching an MVP to beta testers and leading it via the learn-build-measure loop would result in a promising update.
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Abhishek Patnaik - Product Manager - Quantamix Solutions | LinkedIn
Started my career in a startup named Cryasgi Systems. Currently working as a Product Manager at Quantamix Solutions. I…