The Features It Needs Next: Facebook

By Andrew Sparkes
Guest Blogger

As part of an on-going series, we’ll be looking at the features that top hardware, software, and websites already have and imagining the features it would be logical and useful to add in the next update. Today we’re examining Facebook.

Facebook goes through hell every time it has a redesign. People threaten to leave (though most never do, or come back shortly after) and Facebook applications are put out that try to make your profile look like it used to – though I’ve seen never seen one that actually works. However, when it introduces small features one at a time, like news feeds, instant messaging, and videos, they are usually accepted and well-liked much faster than the redesigns. With this in mind, here are a few extras they should try.

Friends tab

We can see our wall posts in a “Wall” tab, our media in “Photos/Videos” tabs and our info in an “Info” tab. So why is the other major element of Facebook – friends – relegated to a modal box only accessible from a tiny link a ways down the sidebar? Move the content and design from the modal box to its own tab next to the main tabs. How hard could it be? I honestly thought this would be done with the very first redesign that involved tabs and I am shocked it still has not been done as-of-yet.

There is only one small other update I would add to this idea. Actually, I’d re-add it from an old Facebook design – when you clicked on a friend in the modal box, you used to see a few extra details about them before you went to their profile. However, this was limited to their networks and the options to add/message/poke/etc. them. Maybe, if you are on your own profile’s “Friends” tab, you could see the last interaction between you and them, the last few other wall posts on their profile, and their basic profile information, as well the networks/options that were previously listed there.

And if you are on a friend’s profile looking at their friends, you could see their details as if they were your friends. (barring anything that goes against your friend’s friends’ privacy options). Mutual friends would not be separated at first, but you could be given the option of viewing only those mutual friends, just as you can view “Just Yourself” posts on the “Wall” tab.

Custom color schemes

Now, while I said Twitter should have full custom CSS, I don’t think Facebook should have this option… I think that Facebook would slide the way of Myspace faster than Twitter would. It’s one thing to allow a website with minimal CSS classes (such as Twitter) to open up its CSS, but Facebook, with its multitude of styles and containers? I’d hate to imagine the jumble of misaligned boxes all over the place on some fledging web designer’s profile who already thinks they know everything just because they could do the same to Myspace.

Plus, if people complain that much about Facebook’s own, much-researched redesigns from hired, professional designers, what will happen when anyone can do whatever they want?!

Just allow some colors other than blue. That’s all I’m saying. That’s all it needs. Even just a small choice from a color picker can go a long way towards branding, and it can keep the not-so-brand-savvy public happy with a little bit of individualism. All you’d have to do is allow a color picker that changes the hue (but not the brightness/saturation) of the page, for the background to be light with dark text or vice versa, and that’s it.

Chat Logs

A few days ago, a friend sent me a phone number on Facebook’s instant messaging tool. We made small talk for another thirty minutes and he went offline. What happened about two minutes after that? Facebook only keeps the last few messages in the chat box and I had lost the all-important phone number. The same happens if you accidentally click on the ‘X’ and they go offline, even if the important message was the last one sent – there’s no way to re-open the box when a contact isn’t online anymore.

All Facebook would have to do is integrate the two private messaging features it already has – the private messaging of old and the new instant messaging: Whenever a chat is closed, a full-length copy could be sent to both participants’ inboxes. Additionally, the chat logs could be stored in a way that new chats automatically load the previous chat log so that you can restart a conversation exactly where you left off – great for those accidental “X” presses. Multiple instant messaging clients already allow this – why not Facebook?

This feature could be turned off (for individual contacts, whole groups, or simply everyone) if you think you don’t need chat logs cluttering up your inbox, but I’m sure it would be a savior for some. It sounds simple enough, but could save a lot of hassle. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had a problem with information lost in chat.

Your Dream Features

If you could add any feature to Facebook, what would it be? And what do you think of the ideas in this article? Comment below and chip in to give your views!

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24 Responses to The Features It Needs Next: Facebook

  1. "Additionally, the chat logs could be stored in a way that new chats automatically load the previous chat log so that you can restart a conversation exactly where you left off – great for those accidental “X” presses. Multiple instant messaging clients already allow this – why not Facebook?"

    A little bit of clarification: I did not write this quoted section in my emailed draft and it was added by someone else.

    I'm aware that Facebook already does this, to an extent – the last few messages will always be shown whenever you re-open a new chat, just not the whole log.

    However, all this actually shows is that Facebook already has measures to log chats. So why is it impossible to access them when it's needed?

    I'm interested in hearing what features you'd add to Facebook, too. Some of my friends came up with: create new group/event/album/etc more prominent on the homepage and basic photo editing (brightness/saturation/etc).

  2. “Additionally, the chat logs could be stored in a way that new chats automatically load the previous chat log so that you can restart a conversation exactly where you left off – great for those accidental “X” presses. Multiple instant messaging clients already allow this – why not Facebook?”

    A little bit of clarification: I did not write this quoted section in my emailed draft and it was added by someone else.

    I’m aware that Facebook already does this, to an extent – the last few messages will always be shown whenever you re-open a new chat, just not the whole log.

    However, all this actually shows is that Facebook already has measures to log chats. So why is it impossible to access them when it’s needed?

    I’m interested in hearing what features you’d add to Facebook, too. Some of my friends came up with: create new group/event/album/etc more prominent on the homepage and basic photo editing (brightness/saturation/etc).

  3. I seem to remember a site very similar to facebook that had a "How do you know this person?" feature — when you friended someone, you would indicate how you knew them: "We took Chem together in 2004" or "We dated for a couple years in high school and now we're still pretty good friends." Gosh, what site was that?!

    Oh yeah! It was Facebook, in 2006. They don't need more features. (Though there are certainly a few that wouldn't hurt.) They need to stop hiding/eliminating old features every time they implement new ones.

    • To be fair, while that was nice in theory, it failed immensely in practice.

      No-one really filled all of them out, leaving massive gaps.

      And there were cases where it was too complicated as to how you knew them – met in playschool, were in an orchestra together, dated a bit on and off, saw each other years later on a random night out, etc. Which do you choose? What if you just couldn't remember how you met?

      I can see why that fell by the practical wayside. With Facebook's new AJAX design though, I'm sure it could be more cohesive, so maybe it should make a return? Next to the friends list when you go to add someone, maybe?

      • I always have to add them as a "friend" whether I think I knew them or not. It is the only way I can take a look at their profile. I think they should at least keep the profile page up. Then again, I suppose that goes against the privacy standard. But, it is such a pain in the neck to add someone as a friend,not know them, and then de-friend them.

        • When it comes to the friends list. It's best to create groups and add people into certain groups such as, "People I went to school with.. Family.. Unknown Adds.. RL Friends.. ect". Using this feature allows us to quickly find someone to either send a message or for removal if need be. I believe this feature is already used by the majority of FB users.

  4. I seem to remember a site very similar to facebook that had a “How do you know this person?” feature — when you friended someone, you would indicate how you knew them: “We took Chem together in 2004” or “We dated for a couple years in high school and now we’re still pretty good friends.” Gosh, what site was that?!

    Oh yeah! It was Facebook, in 2006. They don’t need more features. (Though there are certainly a few that wouldn’t hurt.) They need to stop hiding/eliminating old features every time they implement new ones.

    • To be fair, while that was nice in theory, it failed immensely in practice.

      No-one really filled all of them out, leaving massive gaps.

      And there were cases where it was too complicated as to how you knew them – met in playschool, were in an orchestra together, dated a bit on and off, saw each other years later on a random night out, etc. Which do you choose? What if you just couldn’t remember how you met?

      I can see why that fell by the practical wayside. With Facebook’s new AJAX design though, I’m sure it could be more cohesive, so maybe it should make a return? Next to the friends list when you go to add someone, maybe?

      • I always have to add them as a “friend” whether I think I knew them or not. It is the only way I can take a look at their profile. I think they should at least keep the profile page up. Then again, I suppose that goes against the privacy standard. But, it is such a pain in the neck to add someone as a friend,not know them, and then de-friend them.

        • When it comes to the friends list. It’s best to create groups and add people into certain groups such as, “People I went to school with.. Family.. Unknown Adds.. RL Friends.. ect”. Using this feature allows us to quickly find someone to either send a message or for removal if need be. I believe this feature is already used by the majority of FB users.

  5. I think integrating video chat is a no brainer. Would keep people on FB and not trying to figure out the best vidchat connection (Skype, ooVoo, iChat).

  6. I think integrating video chat is a no brainer. Would keep people on FB and not trying to figure out the best vidchat connection (Skype, ooVoo, iChat).

  7. I completely agree with the chat logs, I've lost important numbers or addresses multiple times because they were given to me over facebook chat. I also think they should work on making the chat sturdier, it bugs out way too much.

  8. I completely agree with the chat logs, I’ve lost important numbers or addresses multiple times because they were given to me over facebook chat. I also think they should work on making the chat sturdier, it bugs out way too much.

  9. The thing is, most IM softwares log the chats on the hard drive, in a folder dedicated to your profile.

    But facebook is web-based and internet security policies make it hard to write anything on your hdd. Well, except for cookies and such.

    So facebook would have to log every chat on their own database or file system. Any idea how much space it would take, even in text-only ? It would be possible for them to do it, but it must be too expensive to do it yet.

    One possibility could still be to add a "save" button in the bottom of the chat window, and generate a file extension that is recognized as downloadable content by browsers, so that you can save it on your hdd, but still, many users wouldn't be able to use it… Or maybe send it by email as a notification…

  10. The thing is, most IM softwares log the chats on the hard drive, in a folder dedicated to your profile.

    But facebook is web-based and internet security policies make it hard to write anything on your hdd. Well, except for cookies and such.

    So facebook would have to log every chat on their own database or file system. Any idea how much space it would take, even in text-only ? It would be possible for them to do it, but it must be too expensive to do it yet.

    One possibility could still be to add a “save” button in the bottom of the chat window, and generate a file extension that is recognized as downloadable content by browsers, so that you can save it on your hdd, but still, many users wouldn’t be able to use it… Or maybe send it by email as a notification…

  11. I don't know if it's been mentioned but in Facebook chat whenever you scroll up in the chat box and someone says something it immediately skips back down to the bottom. It's impossible to go over something you said earlier or that you'd like to take down, copy and paste or whatever when the window keeps on skipping down to the latest line of conversation. I'll know if someone says something new thanks to that popping sound, is it really necessary to skip to the bottom too??? It's the absolute most irritating thing.

  12. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned but in Facebook chat whenever you scroll up in the chat box and someone says something it immediately skips back down to the bottom. It’s impossible to go over something you said earlier or that you’d like to take down, copy and paste or whatever when the window keeps on skipping down to the latest line of conversation. I’ll know if someone says something new thanks to that popping sound, is it really necessary to skip to the bottom too??? It’s the absolute most irritating thing.

  13. Color and design improvements and customization are always a plus.

    Chat logs is a good idea and it wouldn't need much space in Facebook's servers, specially if they delete the old ones (do you even know how many KBs simple txt files take?).

    The friend's tab thing is just a personal preference, I don't see the big deal.

  14. Color and design improvements and customization are always a plus.

    Chat logs is a good idea and it wouldn’t need much space in Facebook’s servers, specially if they delete the old ones (do you even know how many KBs simple txt files take?).

    The friend’s tab thing is just a personal preference, I don’t see the big deal.