Consistency is the key to sustainability. Not revenue made by advertising dollars.
When a company, blog or application grows exponentially in a short amount of time there will be growing pains. Even if the growth is rapid consistently over a long period of time. That is the nature of life. You focus on what needs to be done right now and often forget about smaller tasks that need fixing. Business is about maintaining relationships. Not just building them. In our personal life, when the other partner isn’t listening to the core issues and trying to divert attention to other things they are doing what do we do? Speak up. And if nothing changes over a longer course of time we go our separate ways. Is the inevitable breakup looming between Facebook and their users?
Trying to please everyone, but no one at the same time
Like a teenage girl they look at other companies and say “OMG, look at what they are doing. We totally need that so we don’t look unpopular.”
What happens when you continue to add exciting new features and redesign your website in an attempt to make everyone happy? You get Facebook. A social network with over 500 million active users. 50% of which sign in each day. Their numbers are increasing, profits are sky rocketing and brand awareness is at an all time high. But Facebook is ignoring the most important aspect to sustainability on the web. Usability. Providing consistency in how their core users interact with their system. It has been apparent that Facebook is working with a teenage mentality. Here and now. Like a teenage girl they look at other companies like Twitter or Foursquare and say “OMG, look at what they are doing. We totally need that so we don’t look unpopular.” And, as can be expected, we look at them like an unstable teenager.
Imagine if your cell phone changed the location of its keys every 6 months.
The immediate future is all that matters to them. Any problems that arise can be solved by throwing money at it and making more changes. If you ran your business with that mentality how long would you be able to maintain it? They have redesigned their website numerous times in the past 18 months. As soon as everyone gets used to the platform they shake the system like an etch-a-sketch and start over. Reorganize the placement of links and buttons. And expect all of their 500 million active users to shrug their shoulders and not bat an eye. Imagine if your cell phone changed the location of its keys every 6 months. Is that reasonable? Of course not.
For Facebook’s 5th anniversary, Mark Zuckerburg wrote:
“Since its founding, one of the constants of Facebook is that it has continuously evolved to make it easier to share. To give you a sense of how the site has changed, we dug up a few images of how Facebook used to look—you can see them here. Building and moving quickly for five years hasn’t been easy, and we aren’t finished. The challenge motivates us to keep innovating and pushing technical boundaries to produce better ways to share information.“
After he published this, Facebook was redesigned 3 more times in 18 months. It has also been redesigned at least once every year since its inception in 2005.
Be careful in leaving room for your competition
Consistency is the key to sustainability. Not revenue made by advertising dollars. Your customers, paying or not, are the reason you have everything right now. Your popularity. Your big press events. Your fancy new partnerships to create Facebook Places and add more buzz word functionality to your system. If you don’t correct the core problems your brand has you are opening a large board room sized door for a competitor to overtake your business.
Remember MySpace? Facebook was sleaker. Sexier. Users switched platforms. And when your friends are only using one Social Media platform the other becomes useless. This could happen again if the issues are not addressed swiftly by Facebook. And with word of Google developing their own ‘Facebook Killer‘ they should be focused on fixing the holes in their armor.
Great features can bring new users in quickly but to keep them there it requires usability in your design.