People Hate Facebook Design, But Their Eyes Don't*

Update: An earlier version of this post mixed up LinkedIn and Facebook. We apologise.
It hasn’t seemed to slow Facebook’s growth any, but lots of people hate Facebook’s most recent redesign. One continuing survey finds that 94% of 1.3 million respondents give it a “thumbs down.”

Can 1.3 million respondents be wrong? Usability testing firm Catalyst Group says yes.

Catalyst built a mockup of Facebook’s 1-column contacts list and compared it to LinkedIn’s 3-column list of friends and asked a group of test users to find people with specific names or titles.

The one-column layout consistently peformed better.

For example, an eye-tracking test revealed that using a 3-column layout like LinkedIn’s, “users felt overwhelmed by the amount of information displayed, making it difficult for them to focus on the information necessary to complete a task.”

Overall, the test participants did not agree on a consistent strategy for scanning the names on the list in the 3-Column layout.  In fact, several users had to orient themselves for a few seconds (often zigzagging around the screen somewhat randomly) before settling on a particular strategy.)

Meanwhile, users spent longer looking for specific names or titles in the one-column layout like Facebook’s, “but said they more confident they had seen all possible names and relevant descriptions.”

In case you’re curious, here’s what the overwhelmed sensation people get when using LinkedIn looks like graphically:


Here is Catalyst’s complete study results:

Catalyst Eye Tracking Study May 2009-1

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