Facebook Home: A Post-launch Point of View

by / Wednesday, 24 April 2013 / Published in Experience Design, Facebook, Interaction Design, User Experience
Facebook Home has launched. And it’s been in the marketplace long enough for opinions to be formed. My Tweet-like summary?

Status update: Facebook Home / Phone is more marketing campaign than product innovation. #homesortasweethome

How I described it to my mom: “Facebook Home is a screensaver for your phone that showcases Facebook activity.” I was feeling quite proud of this analogy until I realized that it’s a widely used description.

The exception to this is chat heads – which allow your live chat to carry across the mobile experience. This benefit is comparable to being able to talk on the phone and surf the web at the same time. It makes the user experience seamless instead of siloed. Yay.

The #1 thing Facebook Home has in common with digital commerce?
It achieves the goal of removing a click. It literally brings Facebook one layer up in the user hierarchy. And in the process trumps all other apps.

As anyone involved in digital commerce knows, this is a big deal. A bigger deal if adoption is large (or even a small percentage of Facebook’s users).

That said, I’m not sold that Facebook Home is a big deal. Interesting? Yes. Here are five reasons why…

1. Facebook Phone is not Facebook’s phone:
The phone is an Android. Facebook is usurping Google’s OS and user interface. Okay a different way to put it – Facebook is utilizing Google’s open source operating system. What makes it the Facebook Phone? It’s being marketed as such via Facebook and AT&T. And Facebook becomes the default experience on the Android. This could never happen on the iPhone because Apple’s OS is locked down.

Mark my words: Wherever Steve Jobs is – he is laughing.

At the end of the day, if open source thrives, Google will be laughing too. Who gets the last laugh remains to be seen.

2. There’s no bouncer at the open source door
Google got an unexpected partnership with this product. In fact, Google may not have even known about Facebook’s plans. Eric Schmidt has expressed that Facebook Home is a good thing. It definitely reinforces Google’s open position (and by default, Apple’s closed position). But if I’m on the Google brand team I’m thinking through the implications. If I’m on the Google+ team the gauntlet has been thrown.

Don’t get me wrong I love open source (and um also my iPhone). Open vs. closed is the creativity of a crowd of developers vs. controlled one-source creativity. It’s a dreamy head-to-head. (Although Google and Apple may actually be fighting different fights altogether.)

3. Facebook Home is not unique to Facebook:
Google’s open OS means that anyone or any brand could do this. Hello Kindle Fire. This doesn’t mean they should. This gets more interesting for retailers when location-based functionality is tied in.

Which retailers should care? eBay. And any deal site that has timely offers. Imagine being able to click to buy as an item is revealed on your default, dynamic cell screen.

4. Facebook “likes” Facebook Home more than anyone else:
This move serves Facebook well for two main reasons:

– It strengthens their mobile position. They got seriously dinged for this during their IPO – although it could be argued that the Instagram acquisition helped negate this concern.

– It brings them a layer higher than all other apps. This means direct access and fewer clicks to action. Facebook becomes the user interface for Android.

5. Facebook is following you:
Facebook is following the lead of consumers with this product. It is yet another stake in the ground that the year of mobile has finally fully arrived. Users knew it all along. Facebook Home is validation of everything that Bridget put forth in her pre-launch column.

It’s been fun to see Fluid’s clients now talk about the experience trumping the device. We’ve believed this for a long time. It means that creative ideas are more important now than ever. Knowing Fluid’s creative chops, I’m fired up for our clients.

Take care out there,