What Facebook Home did wrong, and what you can do right
On average, people check their phones 150 times a day. That works out once roughly every 6.5 minutes.
This statistic inspired Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook Home, a family of apps that overhaul your entire device, as close to a Facebook phone as we may see. The main nucleus of Facebook Home, Coverfeed, is an app that takes control of your home and lockscreen, letting you peruse your friends’ updates without launching an app or even unlocking your phone at all. You can do everything you would usually do whilst browsing Facebook, such as like posts, write comments, and update your status.
Just imagine – every 6.5 minutes, you are aware of what your Facebook feed is telling you. You are never disconnected from the world’s most popular social network. Facebook has swallowed the void, that time-wasting middleman, between unlocking your device, finding the Facebook app within your phone and being active within it.
It’s an impressive solution, but what, beyond the easy-to-spot self-serving profits of Facebook Home, are the true benefits? Not for Zuckerberg et al, but for Android users? Do people really want to be forever ‘online’, one click away from being possibly all-too aware? Is it that crucial you learn, within milliseconds of the actual event, that your friend Zack just burnt his finger on the oven?
Present, not omnipresent
In an industry where companies climb over each other to be front and centre, Facebook Home wins the race. But do users really want their Facebook feed constantly at hand?
Reviews of Facebook Home on the Play Store would say it is a mixed bag. One five star review calls Home “slick, flawless”, but deleted it within minutes to revert back to using the standard Facebook app. The appreciation of the construction is there, but the actual need for such a creation is not. Most people don’t require being constantly logged in to Facebook, even if Facebook want you to be.
The line to tread is a tricky one – how can you be present in your users mind, but not omnipresent? Ideally, all developers would love for their app to be right there, opened, on the home screen immediately, on all devices globally. But, like intrusive advertisements, there is just enough and way, way, way too much. Facebook Home seems to be leaning towards the latter.
Facebook Home has solved the conundrum of getting users to come back, time and time again, because they never actually leave. However, solving that problem doesn’t actually address what makes users tick, why they enjoy your app and therefore stifles productive growth and maturation. You can’t expect to learn much from forcing your product on people. The skill is getting them to be aware of what you offer, and come back of their own accord to experience it.
Bridging the gap
When creating or editing an application, weighing up the benefits for both you and your users is critical. You can’t let the balance swing too far in one direction, for fear of alienating users or making a loss. Mutually beneficial products hit the bull’s-eye. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to fully analyse and discover what your audience want unless you test it first. Facebook Home is learning from the initial launch and will no doubt return with an updated version that caters slightly more to their users and slightly less to Facebook as an evolving international brand.
When your app isn’t immediately visible to your target market (and, let’s be honest, other than Facebook Home, this is the reality for most developers), offering something for free after completing a certain action or reaching a set score promotes users to return. For games, it can be coins, or bonuses, or extra characters. With social gaming apps, such as Pocket Arena, it can be badges of achievement and even real money rewards. For strictly social networking apps, users could ‘earn’ an ad-free experience for a month if they log-in 7 days in a row or, if for a business, an opportunity to place an advertisement completely free for a month. Luring users back with rewards and benefits that also help an app’s business model will have long-term effects on the life-cycle Users, who spend longer on your app, becoming habitual visitors, will be more likely to return after they have earned rewards or bonuses and carry a greater likelihood than casual visitors to positively promote your app to friends.
An accumulation model can also be seen on games such as Temple Run 2, promoting return visitors with daily and weekly challenges, with prizes becoming more desirable the more you return and the more you complete. Would user satisfaction be higher if whenever they looked at their device, Temple Run 2 would immediately open? Users would become desensitised to the appeals of even the most attractive, attention-grabbing application if it were laid before them every 6.5 minutes.
Facebook Home is paving the way and highlighting the possibilities that creating launchers to customise Android devices can produce. Reaching millions of users 150 times a day is something only many can dream of. But, while Facebook Home’s innovation sets itself apart and should be applauded, its flaws are there for all to see. Facebook Home is merely questioning visibility and user retention, rather than being the answer.
Android Headlines – Infographic
Telegraph – Facebook Home launches in the UK