Ye old Facebook

If you use Facebook, you’ve undoubtedly seen this at least once.

I hate the new Facebook! Join my petition group! Let's bring back the old Facebook!

It happens any time Facebook changes anything significant. People are enraged for a while. After a few weeks, it peters out and things go back to normal. Until the next change, at least. Rinse, repeat.

Think about this. What are they really saying?

I have learned how this site works. You changed it, so now I have to learn it all over again. I'm pissed off.

This isn’t what people think they’re saying. People don’t like to think of themselves as incapable or inflexible, so they resist the idea that it’s not the new design they dislike, but that a change has occurred at all. Yet time after time (after a short adaptation period), users figure out where things are, and the gripes recede.

Fast forward to the next change. Even though people had bemoaned the previous version, they now eagerly jump to its defense, apparently having even more hatred for the newest design. There’s a certain sort of amnesia at work.

Sites like Facebook face the constant problem of keeping users coming back, and adding new features is a big part of that task. They also need to keep their interface both useful and desirable to average people. This butts up against a huge problem: most people don’t have much flexibility in their habits when it comes to using computers. They don’t understand the fundamentals building blocks of interfaces, the way technical people do; they learn by rote. Any time something changes, confusion and resentment result.

I wonder what these people would think if Facebook really did stop developing the site. No new features, no evolution. Would they start complaining that they want to do x or y, creating petitions asking Facebook to enable new features?