Early thoughts on Timeline: it's not so timely
Published: April 2, 2012
Author: Joe Stanton
A lot of people are not fans of Facebook’s new Timeline format. Some folks just can’t adjust to change, while others feel that Timeline poses a security threat. I, on the other hand, love the look of the new format – it’s well designed and allows the page owner to spotlight certain events, images, and videos of their lives. Timeline will remind you where you’ve been, what you’ve liked, and who you have added as a friend by month. It even provides you with your own billboard, called the “cover photo,” to be creative.
The look is great, all right; it’s the experience – notably, the slow load time – that leaves me hesitant to interact and wondering whether Facebook’s lack of competition, and the pressures of its looming IPO, are pushing user experience to the back burner.
Some users are saying that Facebook is turning into MySpace. While I feel those statements for the most part are an overreaction to unwelcome platform changes, there are some truths to it. Let’s all reminisce for a minute – the custom flash layouts, the blaring music, the spam comments, the clutter, and the overwhelming visuals were all customizations enabled by MySpace that led to page-loading issues. While more visually appealing, Facebook’s Timeline is indeed going through the same loading pains. All in all, it’s not as bad as MySpace’s worst, but it hasn’t made for a good impression.
I keep telling myself that this should be expected. It is a drastic change, after all; there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes to populate the entire Facebook history of a user on a single click. I’ve tried to be understanding and cut Facebook some slack to work out the bugs. I have checked in every other week or so to see if the experience has improved; my results have been a mix of slow, really slow, and 56k-flashback slow. I know that the switch over to Timeline isn’t mandatory yet, but why release it if it doesn’t work as advertised? So far, I have come to the conclusion that the experience isn’t worthwhile for me to use when browsing friends’ profiles.
A friend with whom I have not interacted with in quite some time just posted on my profile. I was curious to see what he was up to these days, and I was ready to click on his name to take me to his page. In the past, I would have clicked with no thought, but my experience with the new format has been so frustrating thus far that I realized that my friend’s Timeline wasn’t worth the wait. A lost connection with a fair-weather friend due to loading issues! Are you listening, Facebook? Ridiculous, I know, but this is the world we live in today.
Facebook should take a cue from Apple’s iPhone philosophy. The iPhone feature set is hardly revolutionary. Many of its specifications, like processing power, are generally inferior to that of top-of-the-line Android phones. So why do millions of consumers choose a product that has, on paper, inferior specs? The answer is that the particulars they are working with are incredibly optimized, and the result is a user experience that sets the iPhone apart.
Customizable widgets and flash video are awesome features, and the Android has them. The iPhone doesn’t – and why? Because these features may compromise ease of use, cause touchscreen lag, and degrade battery life. So when it comes down to it, for the iPhone, performance trumps features. The ever-so-slight nanosecond touchscreen lag of some Android smartphones compared to the iPhone can be a deal-breaker for some consumers. The bottom line is that Apple doesn’t release anything for the iPhone until it is ready for primetime, and its users are happier for it.
I wasn’t a Facebook cynic. I came in to the situation looking to embrace Timeline, but I’ve been let down. Thanks to the impending IPO, there are probably pressures to release these new features before they are ready. Maybe becoming a publicly traded company will force Facebook to place the user experience as a top priority – or maybe Facebook knows that since there really is no other worthwhile place for users to go, they can pretty much do whatever they want.
In the end, whether its speed improves or not, Timeline will draw me in again only because Facebook is where I can keep tabs on family, friends, and other acquaintances with whom I’ve lost touch along the way. But for now, I’ll try to resist until another long-lost friend compels me to click, at which point I’ll be hoping for a lag-free experience.
I know Facebook will eventually get this Timeline issue in order, and when they do, they will want to change things up again and release the next slow and buggy feature. Why? Because they can, and because they know all we’ll do is complain that we “miss the old Facebook” without getting mad enough to log in to Google+.
But that’s just my take on things. How has Facebook Timeline treated you so far?
– Clark Sioson, Facebook Account Manager