Less than a week ago (after months of the try-free option) Facebook unveiled its new timeline, provoking contrary reactions from design experts and regular users of the popular social network, then just a week after, the people from Google released a new layout for Plus, their latest and probably most successful social network. In this article we compare both designs in an attempt to define the pros and contras and how is this going to affect social media and networking.
Facebook Timeline: More attractive, more cluttered
Let’s start with Facebook’s timeline. The first thing you realize when opening the timeline profile is the cover picture, a neat picture that Google Plus had no other chance that adapt it to their own layout. The cover picture is specially useful for companies but any person can make a great use of it (see 75 Surprisingly Creative Facebook Timeline Covers) to show in one image what he likes or does in his life. In our Facebook page we decided to use the cover picture to represent the essence of Mishës, which is graphic and web design from Latin America to the world.
I think the Facebook team did something great with the cover picture, it’s a large amount of space where people can easily let go their creativity, the fact of including the profile picture in one side but also in top of the cover helps you integrate both pictures in clever ways. Now let’s move on to the other areas of the timeline to see how they work.
Once you start scrolling down, you can see the person/company information, number of fans, photos and if you click on the down arrow, more options will display, which can include custom apps and more. It’s from this part of the timeline that things start getting a little messy for some users, let’s scroll down a little more to see how the rest of the timeline looks like.
This is how the rest of the timeline looks. On the left side you can see a small orange label on top of a post, this indicates that the post has been moved to the top and no matter how many posts you publish after, it will remain on top the rest until you stand out another one.
You can also highlight a post without having to place it atop your timeline, a regular highlight will make the post to cover the whole width of the page as you can see on the previous picture, this is useful for highlighting important events and relevant contents on your site. Do you see the small dots between every post?, you can click over them to create an event in your timeline like this one:
At simple view it looks like another highlighted post, however, an event has some important differences such as the fact that you can include a main picture for it, add the date of the event and even a short description, this is very useful for companies that want to showcase their history to their clients to make them look more trustworthy. That’s basically how the new Facebook timeline looks like, of course there are some other changes but we just wanted to give you a general idea.
The problem with timeline is that once you go beyond the amazing cover picture things get a little too messy. Now you only have a small panel featuring the comments of the followers, which gives less relevance to them, therefore why would a person want to leave a message in the wall if it will be buried almost instantly by other comments?.
Then it’s the fact of the posts. People are used to read things from left to right (unless you’re reading in Hebrew) and top to bottom, the new timeline makes them read in zigzag, which makes kinda difficult to understand which publication went first and which one is more relevant than the other. There’s also the fact that when you highlight a post, a big empty space appears in some occasions in the place where a regular post should be.
As a graphic designer, I really like the new Timeline, I think, however, that the Facebook team needs to remember that not all the users will understand how to navigate across their profiles (usability first!).
Google Plus: Leveraging white spaces, still not reaching its audience
If you want to see how the original version of Google Plus used to look like, you can take a look at our article “Google Plus, what’s up for designers?” and you will notice that even though Facebook timeline represents a stronger change in respect of its previous version, Google Plus has also been through a nice revamping process.
As you can see, the new Google Plus interface makes a better use of space, by bringing the main buttons to one side of the page, keeping them available throughout the navigation. The other change that stands out at simple view is something similar to Facebook’s cover picture, they might have copied this from the timeline but well, if an idea works there’s nothing bad in adapting it to your designs haha.
But in the case of Google Plus, it allows you to choose between inserting a large picture for your profile or instead (this looks similar to Facebook’s old style) place several pictures like the previous picture shows. I like that they give you the opportunity to switch between these two styles.
The new Hangouts page shows you all the hangouts that are taking place at that moment, you can either join a hangout or just watch it in case you missed something great. There’s no doubt that hangouts is one of the top features of Plus that Facebook hasn’t been able to match.
While viewing the site at a 1024 x 768 resolution, I noticed how well the guys from Google have harnessed space to show all the important elements without making the site look too cluttered, I definitely have to say that I’m enjoying this new Google Plus layout, what do you think about it?.
It’s not like I’m a Google fan or that I’m not too much into Facebook (actually I rarely visit my Plus profile). I really like the new look of Plus, everything looks more organized, it harnesses the white areas in a smart way, the posts remained in a single column so no readability problems might appear. I cannot approve the fact that they found “inspiration” in Facebook to place their own cover picture, nevertheless I think that they give it a nice touch to it and it doesn’t look like a blatant extraction from Facebook archives.
There’s one thing that really annoys me, when I explore my saved searches, all the searches I have saved suddenly disappear and so I need to go back in order to check another key tag, why don’t just leave the tags in one side while I’m reading?, I’m not asking for something complicated or hard to implement.
Both Facebook timeline and the new Google Plus layout represent a positive advance in these sites, of course there are things to improve but they’re doing things right for the users. The real problem relies in the fact that even though Google Plus looks prettier and has even more features than Facebook, people already have their friends and family in this site and hence they don’t seem to find a reason to start using Plus, maybe we can explore this topic in a future article. What do you think about these two sites?; which one do you use the most?, don’t forget to leave us your comments and messages, thanks for visiting Mishës and we will connect with you soon!.