In late April, Mark Zuckerberg stood in front of the audience at Facebook’s F8 conference and announced that the most widely-used digital product that has ever graced this planet was overhauling its design.
Facebook is certainly not without its challenges as a company. But in the hours immediately following the announcement, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative. And not only from rank-and-file Facebook users. But from designers. It’s becoming the kind of thing that seems to happen every time a visible company redesigns.
Now, I can understand a bit of short-term user frustration when something changes. But what does it say about #designtwitter if the majority of the smartest and most followed among us in the industry can’t even muster up a positive—or even neutral—assessment of Facebook’s redesign?
More people use Facebook than live in the Western Hemisphere. In many parts of the world, it is synonymous with the Internet. It is the most financially successful and influential digital product of the past 15 years.
As a designer, you could redesign the entire U.S. government and it would affect fewer people than a Facebook redesign.
Instead of offering at least a little respect for such a massive undertaking, or engaging in some genuine design criticism and critique, we’re mostly left with snark. And hey, I get it, snippy jokes are the bread and butter of Twitter. I enjoy watching the likes pile in as much as anyone.
But if large swaths of the design community can’t at least attempt to positively engage with something like the Facebook redesign, we’re going to lose voices in the design community.
“Instead of offering at least a little respect for such a massive undertaking, or engaging in some genuine design criticism and critique, we’re mostly left with snark.”
It’s going to (if it hasn’t already) create a kind of designer group-think. One where negativity and nihilism are the only acceptable language to discuss digital design changes. Useful analysis and even-handed observation about something as important as the Facebook redesign will move into DMs and into private areas (ironic, given that privacy was the stated reason for Facebook’s new look).
“At every company there are actual people taking actual risks and making complicated design choices that we could learn from.”
This is not to say that we should all grimace and smile if we take issue with a new design. I’m not advocating for blind optimism (save that for superhero movie reviews, please). But we should remember that at every company there are actual people taking actual risks and making complicated design choices that we could learn from. We don’t need to trash things to critique them. It’s not only callous—it’s boring.
Those undergoing a redesign have variables that you may not have ever had to consider (look at how precise the rollout process of the Slack redesign had to be). There are endless amounts of stakeholders, and in Facebook’s case: billions of dollars and users at stake.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve gone through a process like this yourself. You know how difficult it is.
“Making something people will love and make part of their lives is something most of us only accomplish a handful of times in our life.”
So consider this a reminder: design is hard. Making something people will love and make part of their lives is something most of us only accomplish a handful of times in our life. So even if you have your issues with the company or its products, there is always something we can learn from a redesign.
But only if we listen.