Whatever’s Best For The People, That’s What We Do

Julie Zhuo
3 min readMar 28, 2014

Earlier today, Dustin Curtis wrote a post about the recent Facebook desktop redesign.

Dustin makes a few assumptions about the rationale behind the redesign, including how some of the beauty and cleanliness of the initial version tested a year ago was discarded for the sake of short-term metrics. I thought it’d be helpful to shed some light on the real reasons why the design has evolved.

The goal of making News Feed all about the content—with bigger photos and more expressive stories—is near and dear to my heart. It’s why we started the project in the first place.

But every design has its day of reckoning. And that reckoning is with the people you design for. If the change you’re introducing is better for them—if it helps them do the things they want to do more easily, if it’s more loved—then your design has succeeded. If it does not achieve these things, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves, learn which of your assumptions were wrong, and get to fixing.

Here’s what we learned: the design we tested a year ago wasn’t better for the majority of people.

It turns out, while I (and maybe you as well) have sharp, stunning super high-resolution 27-inch monitors, many more people in the world do not. Low-res, small screens are more common across the world than hi-res Apple or Dell monitors. And the old design we tested didn’t work very well on a 10-inch Netbook. A single story might not even fit on the viewport. Not to mention, many people who access the website every day only use Facebook through their PC—no mobile phones or tablets. Scrolling by clicking or dragging the browser scrollbar is still commonly done because not everyone has trackpads or scroll wheels. If more scrolling is required because every story is taller, or navigation requires greater mouse movement because it’s further away, then the site becomes harder to use. These people may not be early adopters or use the same hardware we do, but the quality of their experience matters just as much.

At the heart of developing any product is the question of what defines better? Dustin suggests that it shouldn’t be about short-term revenue and metrics. I couldn’t agree more.

The old design we tested last year would actually have been positive for revenue. But that’s not a reason to ship a worse design.

The old design was worse for many of the things we value and try to improve. Like how much people share and converse with their friends. Or how easy it is to navigate to your groups. Or how efficiently you can get the information that’s important to you. On top of all that, most of the people we showed the design to told us they didn’t like it more than what they previously had.

This isn’t about short-term metrics versus long-term value. (The dangers of that I’ve articulated here). This is about designing something that works for the hundreds of millions of people who use the Facebook website every day, from all over the world, on all types of computers.

The new design we’re currently rolling out to everyone delivers richer and larger photos, videos, and statuses. It cleans up a lot of clutter. People like it more than the design we tested a year ago. All of this, without making Facebook harder to use.

As a designer, that’s something I’m proud to stand behind.

After much learning and iterating, this is the version of News Feed rolling out to people everywhere



Julie Zhuo

Building Sundial (sundial.so). Former Product Design VP @ FB. Author of The Making of a Manager. Find me @joulee. I love people, nuance, and systems.