"Right or wrong, it's very pleasant to break something from time to time."
— Fyodor Dostoevsky
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Facebook Home Android app flop
Many of you may have heard that the new Facebook
Home app for Android has been a dud. Here are a couple of articles bySFGateandBusiness Insider.
The San Francisco Gate article caught my
attention as it talked about a theory raised by Josh Constine from TechCrunch as
to why this may have happened.Lack of “droidfooding". The Android app
was essentially created by iOS developers who didn’t understand how Android
devices work and did not realize how "important
widgets, docks, and app folders were to Android users, and that leaving them
out of Home was a huge mistake".
If that is true, then it
makes me wonder how the Facebook’s product management and testing (including
Usability/UX testing) works. Despite the fact that most of the Facebook
employees are reported as iPhone users it's quite possible that some folks from the
in-house Android UX experts and test teams voiced their opinion about obvious
differences between Android and iPhone devices interfaces and the potential
impact on the users and business. The sad part about this story is that I can
relate to what happened. I too was in a situation when I worked on a native app
project that looked like a web site. My reasonings and sentiments were shared
by others. Decision makers on the project took all the UX feedback
and research information into consideration but moved forward with the release
of the app without incorporating much of the feedback. Results were similar
to the Facebook app. It hurt but there was little I could do.
As Michael Bolton said
in hisblog - "We are not the
brains of the project. That is to say, we don’t control it. Our role is to
provide ESP—not extra-sensory perception, but extra sensory perception. We’re extra eyes,
ears, fingertips, noses, and taste buds for the programmers and the managers.
We’re extensions of their senses. At our best, we’re like extremely sensitive
and well-calibrated instruments—microscopes, telescopes, super-sensitive
microphones, vernier calipers, mass spectrometers. We help the programmers and
the managers to see and hear and otherwise sense things that, in the limited
time available to them, and in the mindset that they need to do their work,
they might not be able to sense on their own."
many tech companies, was Facebook driven by artificial deadlines that had
to be kept or else "the company will cease to exist"? There is always
pressure from management, especially management who are not involved in any technical
aspect of the product’s lifecycle. And they can, and do, override any
legitimate concerns caught by the implementation team. “We’ll address it later,
let’s get the product out Yesterday!”
The sad thing is that this is not uncommon. It
happens in large and small IT shops. And it seems so ingrained that even
customers and users expect new technology to be buggy. It is changing with
mobile apps. As soon as you release an app with media hype, people will
download and use it. And they will promptly post feedback. This initial
feedback can make or break a product. When mobile app users see negative
reviews and less than 3-4 star ratings they are unlikely to come
back. Worse for the company is that those users will spread the
word among people that they know. Facebook Home currently has 2.5 stars onGoogle Play.Would you download it?
Facebook just learned that the hard way. Users
dislike the app and AT&T/HTC have to practically give away the phone that came
with it installed. I hope they and other companies do enough dogfooding as well as usability testing and listen better to their internal users’s feedback
next time around.