It’s sad when web-based entities, especially the ones you like, betray you so fundamentally that you can never recover the warm feeling you might once have had for them. The two most flagrant examples of this recently are Facebook and Flickr.
In both cases these F-sites forced a new homepage interface on their members. In both cases they first offered a preview of the coming new design and supposedly were open to feedback. And in both cases, from what I can judge reading the comments, the majority of members hated the new design. This appeared not to have been the kind of feedback that the F-sites wanted or paid any attention to.
Not all members of course. Some liked the new design, or said they’d got used to it, but however you cut it, loyal users have been subjected to one of the worst sins a website can commit: forcing regulars to change how they use the site, with no recourse and no option to bring back the old look or use it as an alternative.
Facebook always baffled me anyway. A lot of it never made sense but I learned how to quickly get to what I wanted to see and I wasn’t forced to look at all the stuff that held no interest for me. After the ‘Facelift’ nothing made sense. And a whole bunch of stuff that didn’t interest me was all over my home page. Perhaps it could be customized away, I don’t know, because I made a decision to leave. I had some acquaintances I really like on Facebook, but no close friends so it was easy for me to pull the plug and lose a time-sucking site in the bargain. I deactivated my account.
The Flickr change bothered me far more. In fact, the Flickr change incensed me. The overwhelming consensus of the comments I’ve read — and I’ve read many — is that the new homepage sucks. And there’s no customizing it to work like the old page. The biggest source of grief was the decision made by someone to combine comments on your photos with the comments you made on the photos of others. Previously these were two independent functions.
Flickr did add a lot of filter options that you can tweak to regain somewhat the previous functionality, but it’s not a toggle. You have to select a bunch of things each time you want to do look at comments one way or the other.
The homepage, like that of Facebook, is now cluttered. The net result, as I said on Flickr, is that it makes me no longer want to visit the site. And I was a seriously active Flickr user — posting frequently on groups (some of which I created), adding photos almost daily, and commenting on those of my friends and contacts almost daily. I loved the exchange and sense of community.
So, what do I do? Acquiesce? Accept the new interface and simply get over it? Indeed that’s what Flickr management counts on — your friends are there, your photos are there, a large part of your Internet social dynamic is there. You won’t leave. They count on it. They’ve got you by the proverbials. I don’t want to leave my friends and contacts, but damned if I’ll just acquiesce.
Not that Flickr is going to care, but my decision, for now, is that I will participate far less frequently. I will post the occasional photo, but I’ve just taken out a Smugmug account and will post most of my new work there, with a link to Smugmug on each of my occasional Flickr postings. I will comment very little on the work of others because following the comment stream has become too painful. And I will no longer reward Flickr financially. I intend to delete most of my Flickr photos, move them to Smugmug, then revert to a free account, rather than the paid Pro account I currently have.
This is what a badly designed, forced new interface can do to a loyal user. How do these interfaces come about? We will never know for sure. There are some expensive and persuasive industry consultants who are skilled at convincing the brass that unless their site now has x, y, and z Web 2.0 features (which they can help with), they will fall hopeless behind and will lose membership. I suspect there is some of that going on. Have you noticed how much the new interfaces of the social networks have started to resemble one another? I think it’s more than coincidence at work.
Another possible scenario that pains me to think about, at least at Flickr, is sheer design incompetence. I’ve read that the lead programmers and founders of the site have moved on. Perhaps their former juniors are now in charge and have been itching for a long time to put their stamp on things. Except, if this is what happened, they don’t fully understand the original vision or how the site should work.
Whatever the reason, we’ll never know. One thing is certain though. I will hit on them for this change at every opportunity and to any ear willing to listen. It will have no effect on them, but it will make me feel better. I hate corporate stupidity and I’ll go down fighting and resisting it to the best of my ability. I refuse to reward them with sheep-like acquiescence.