How Facebook's redesigned News Feed works

Continuing its streak of product launches and modifications, Facebook has rolled out even more changes to its interface, which include an updated News Feed and an activity ticker. These latest additions follow a privacy centre redesign, the introduction of Subscriptions and Facebook's new friend lists.

The News Feed redesign is intended to help you keep up with people that matter to the user, regardless of how often they visit the site, according to Mark Tonkelowitz, an engineering manager at Facebook. It's heavily influenced by the new "smart lists" introduced last week, as the redesigned news feed "predicts" which stories will be important to the user, and displays these first.

Facebook users, who are notorious for aversion to change, are already voicing their opinions, calling this redesign everything from "unnecessary" to "far too complicated."

Here's we take a tour of the new interface from a UI design point-of-view.

1. What You See Depends on How Often You Visit

Before yesterday's changes, when users logged into Facebook they could toggle between two views of their News Feed: Top News and Most Recent. Yesterday, Facebook combined these two in a single News Feed. Now, what they see when they first log in depends on how frequently they log in.

If they log into Facebook frequently, such as several times a day, they'll likely see the most recent stories first.

Even if they don't log in regularly, they can still view the most recent activity -- they can just scroll down past the top stories until they see the 'Recent Stories' header.

2. What's a Top Story?

According to Facebook, top stories are ones that it thinks users will find interesting, based on a number of factors. These include their relationship to the person who posted the story, how many comments and likes it has, the type of post it is, and more.

Much like Google's Priority Inbox, it appears users may be able to help Facebook fine-tune what it thinks is and isn't important to you. If you hover over the top-right corner of a post that Facebook marks as a top story, a drop-down menu will appear.

If this post isn't something you'd consider important, you can choose the "Unmark as top story" option, which will remove it from that part of your News Feed.

From this drop-down list users can also hide the story from their News Feed, tweak how many updates they see from this person and unsubscribe from the user or just his or her updates. Another way to remove the post from top stories is to click the blue corner.

3. Facebook's New Ticker

On the right side of your News Feed is a new element -- the ticker -- which is a stream of what's happening on Facebook in real-time. Updates in this stream include status updates, friendships, photos, videos, links, likes, apps and games activity and comments.

The ticker shares the right-hand column of your browser with Chat. While users can't close the ticker, they can make it smaller by sliding the bar between the ticker and chat, though this feature is contingent on the size of the browser window.

Sliding the bar up will make the ticker smaller and Chat larger; sliding it down will make ticker larger and chat smaller. Clicking on an item in the ticker will expand it to display more information.

If they want to see fewer stories or fewer types of stories in the ticker, users can click the drop-down menu in the top right of a story and click 'Hide story'. Every time the user selects the hide and unsubscribe settings to control what they see in their News Feed, it will also impact what they in the ticker. For example, if they unsubscribed from a friend's posts via their News Feed, they will also be unsubscribed from the ticker.

4. How Your Privacy Settings Are Affected

Facebook says that the new News Feed and the ticker do not affect a user's privacy settings. Ticker will only display information that the user is already able to see anywhere else on Facebook. Facebook does say, however, that if users start seeing stories that they haven't noticed before, it's likely because "ticker makes things easier to discover. It doesn't mean that privacy around Facebook has changed."


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