Facebook iPhone App: Update Cover Photo Functionality Unclear

Recently, while I was going for a walk, I saw something really cool that I wanted to use as my new Facebook cover photo. I took a photo of it with my trusty iPhone and then went to my profile page in the Facebook iPhone App, ….., and then I was stuck. As far as I could tell, there was no way to update my cover photo directly from the iPhone App. I tried left swipe, right swipe, holding down on the cover photo, touching the cover photo, but to no avail…


Here is what the profile page looks like in the web view. On mouse-hover, the user is presented with a Change Cover button in the bottom right corner of the current cover photo. Ideally, the iOS app should be modified to allow the user similar functionality. Possibly on touch of the picture, or hard press down, or even a tiny button in the bottom right corner in a similar manner as the web view.Image

Adding Work to FB Timeline Missing Social CTAs in Mobile View

Something small, but grabbed my attention nevertheless. Recently, I consumed the same Facebook update across both my web news feed and my mobile news feed. In this update, one of my friends added a place of employment to his timeline. What was interesting is that in the web news story, I had the ability to like or comment on this story. However, in the mobile news feed, I did not have the ability to like or comment on it. Most likely, this was a miss when implementing the same feature for the iPhone app. 

Web news feed view. I have the ability to like or comment. 


Mobile app news feed view. I do not have the ability to like or comment. 

Facebook iOS Ads May Span Entire Screen

Much has been said about how important it is for Facebook to successfully monetize in the mobile space. Advertising in an app is a double-edged sword that yields seemingly free money on the one side but may lead to long-term disengagement from users. At the end of the day, deciding on the amount of advertising in an app requires a very delicate balance to be maintained.

Today, I saw something in the Facebook iOS app that was definitely not balanced:


In my opinion, this experience as bad for the end user for two reasons:

  1. The entire screen of the user’s view is taken up by ads
  2. This was the first thing that was shown upon entry into the app

In an ideal user experience, there would be some smarter logic that would spread out ads across the different news feed stories so that the user is never bombarded with so many ads at once that they don’t get anything resembling what they were looking for in the first place.

A Clever Advertising Technique From Facebook

Saw something that grabbed my attention on my Facebook News Feed. What looked to be a typical like or comment by a friend of mine, actually happened to be an advertisement. Take a look at the following:


On first glance, I thought that this was a post from Budweiser’s page that my friend had liked or commented on. However, upon further review and after looking more closely, I realized that my friend had no direct involvement with this specific post, but had rather only liked the Budweiser Facebook page.

What Facebook is doing, in effect, is making this advertisement seem contextually relevant in my News Feed — and less “Spam”y by tying my friend’s like with the ad. Do a thought experiment and ask yourself what your reaction would be if someone proposed dropping huge banner ads in the middle of a user’s News Feed. Completely preposterous and not feasible, right?!? Well, with this technique, maybe not as outrageous as one might think…

Facebook Album Photo Count Is Inconsistent

Noticed something strange in Facebook as it pertains to users who have pictures in albums that are not shared with me. For example, let’s take the profile of MG Siegler. If you navigate to his photo albums, you will see the following: 



As can be seen above, the album dedicated to his profile pictures, which is always named Profile Pictures for all users, shows a question mark polaroid-like icon indicating none of the images are shared with me. What is interesting here is that while none of the photos are shared with me, I am told that there are 60 photos in this album. After clicking on this album, the user will see: 



And here is the second strange part: the messaging on this page indicates that there are no photos in this album

A couple of thoughts:

1. It’s not a good user experience that on one page, the user is told that there are 60 photos, and on the next, the user is told that there are zero photos. A content edit may improve the second page by saying something like: This user has not shared this album with you. 

2. Is this a privacy glitch/bug on the first page? Perhaps MG Siegler wants the specific count of photos in this album to remain private. While it’s certainly not as bad as showing the photos to unauthorized viewers, is the public really authorized to know how many photos there are in the first place? 

The Different Levels of Online Identity

Online Identity is an interesting topic. One way of looking at present day online identity is to think of it as being structured in a three level hierarchy. The most basic and top most level is email. It’s been around the longest and it’s the one constant required user input to register and use various web sites. With the advent of Web 2.0 and social networking, Facebook and Twitter became the two heavy-weights that comprise the second level of online identity. Many new web sites and mobile applications have moved to a model where the user may login or sign-up for the site or mobile application using their Level 2 (Facebook/Twitter) account. In other words, the user has the option of not even using an email address to login or sign-up. 

Let’s see how these different levels of online identity interact. First we’ll start with email and we’ll take a look at two popular email services: Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Here’s what the respective registration flows look like: 



Moving on to the Level 2 online identities, Facebook and Twitter, the registration process looks like:



As can be seen, a user is required to have an email account (a Level 1 identity) before they can register for Facebook and Twitter. 

Moving on to the Level 3 services/sites. Let’s consider the four following sites: Quora, Pintrest, Digg, Bitly.





So even though users can typically register for these Level 3 sites using an email address, they also have the option to login or sign-up using one of their Level 2 online identities. This is done for a couple of reasons. For one reason, the user acquisition flow is quicker. The user doesn’t have to fill out a form with their personal information in order to start using the site. They can start using the site right away. More importantly, having the user login or sign-up using a Level 2 identity gives the Level 3 site or mobile application a hook into the user’s Facebook or Twitter world. This is advantageous because it can make the overall user experience on the Level 3 site more pleasant for the end user. 

Finally, here’s a diagram I created that is a good way to visualize how these different levels interact: 


What Happens When a Facebook Friend’s Account Is Deactivated?

Originally, I had thought that when you deactivate your account on Facebook, all traces of your account vanish and do not appear until you reactivate your account. 

But today, I was surprised to see that this is not the case. In fact, Facebook explicitly tells you that your friend has deactivated his/her account:


I’m wondering why Facebook made this product choice…

Is it to prove to you that your friend didn’t de-friend you, and that they simply are taking a leave of absence?

Is it because they want you to reach out to your friend off of Facebook and ask them to come back to the ubiquitous social network? In a way, such messaging may be seen as a watered down scarlet letter on your friend. 

Honestly, I’m not sure I understand why this functionality is designed this way. To me, the more intuitive design would be to not include this friend in your friend list if they have deactivated their account.  

Sign Out Pages

I did a mini-discovery of the “Sign Out” pages of some of the sites I often visit. This is the page the user sees after deciding to “Sign Out” or “Log Off”. The main purpose users perform this action is so that other subsequent users of the same computer do not have access to the original user’s personal and/or financial information.

First, I found it interesting that, from what I could tell, there are two naming terminologies to choose from for a site. Sign In / Sign Out and Log In / Log Out. I think I like Sign In / Sign Out more, but lets move on to the more important stuff..

For the site itself, the main purpose of the page can be to:

  • Give the user the ability to immediately enter the site again (Sign-In functionality on the Sign-Out page)
  • Take this opportunity to merchandise something to the user
  • Give the user a confirmation that they have indeed subsequently signed out

Let’s take a look at some examples.

WordPress, Facebook, and YouTube took the novel path of redirecting the user straight back to their homepages (this is why I haven’t provided any screenshots).

Chase communicates to the user that they have successfully logged off. I find it funny that they included the date too – not sure what the importance of this is for the user.


Gmail uses this page to merchandise the service (Gmail) to the user. Not sure why they would do this as the user is already a user – maybe to garner even more loyalty? Also, Gmail has a button that the user can press to go back to the homepage to sign in again. I don’t like this approach as I don’t think this page adds anything that the Gmail homepage doesn’t already have. In fact, it doesn’t even have a sign-out confirmation message. All it does is add more more unnecessary step for the user to sign-in again.


Twitter both confirms the sign out and takes a moment to encourage the user to use Twitter on a different platform i.e. Mobile. I wonder what their mobile sign-out page looks like. Maybe they encourage their users to try Twitter on a tablet or a “normal” computer?


Finally, I saved the most interesting one for last. As an Amazon user, it is NOT possible to sign-out! Well, actually, this isn’t entirely true. It’s just that there is no explicit sign-out link. The user only sees two links referring to not being the user that is currently signed in. As a user, I find this annoying and confusing. Why can’t I sign out? Obviously, they do this in order to keep people from signing out.


But the reality is, both of these links are in fact sign out links. By clicking on either of the “not so and so” links, you are taken to this sign-in page, and if you click back or go to the Amazon homepage, the original user is no longer signed in. Clever…but possibly annoying.