Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube all rely heavily on their users to provide the content. The developers and designers for these companies simply provide a platform for the users to share updates, information, and videos.
Facebook has gone through many iterations since its small beginnings. While most of the interface choices have been acceptable, many users and tech enthusiasts are unhappy with Facebook’s perceived lack of privacy protection. In fact, I refuse to add any facebook apps or games to my profile for fear that my information will be leaked. I have also decided against linking my interests, favorite books, movies, etc. I am not this careful with any other sites.
One change I have personally been disappointed in is the lack of profile change notifications in the news feed. One friend of mine changes her ‘Favorite Quotes’ category often with humorous quotes from her friends. Even the quotes from people I don’t know are generally entertaining, but I almost never remember to check her profile because the notification that she has changed the quotes is no longer on the news feed.
Even with these problems, though I continue to use Facebook to keep in touch with some friends who I don’t see or talk to as regularly as I would like.
In addition to more downtime than any other major site I have encountered, Twitter’s website is lacking so many features that the majority of users use third party developed desktop or mobile apps instead of the website to view and update content. The most glaring omission to me is the inability to see ‘conversations,’ when two people you follow reply to each other back and forth. Despite this (and a lack of a clear financial plan), Twitter continues to grow in members and valuation.
I would love if something like Google Buzz actually took off, but the people I follow on Twitter mostly don’t publicize their Buzz profiles.
Clocking in with the second most error prone major website I use, Youtube.
I use youtube in four ways:
1. Watching videos from my subscribed channels.
2. Watching a video someone links me to.
3. Searching for videos.
4. Uploading videos.
This is the order respective of how often I do each of these tasks. The fact that I can’t sign in and view my subscriptions with the Youtube app on Android is the primary reason I have yet to actually use it more than once.* Additionally, I am almost positive Youtube has broken its own playlist function. I recently have tried to set up playlists to watch a few videos in a row only to find that this feature is completely broken**.
The only way to watch multiple videos in the order I want from my subscription page is to add them to the ‘watch queue’ one at a time, in the order I want to watch them. If I add two at once, they go in on the order they are on the subscription page. While adding a video to my quicklist yields me a text box notification that it has been added, it does not give me a link to get to that page (I am almost positive there was a link there before a recent update). Instead, I need to go from the subscriptions page to the:
1. username drop down
2. select ‘My Videos’
3. select the ‘Watch Queue’ tab.
Once there, I am unable to reorganize the order of the videos. I can only remove videos.
There is also no way to ‘line up’ a series of videos (or even a single video) to follow the one you are currently watching. That is, if I am watching part 1 of 4, there is no way to have part 2 immediately follow part 1. The only way to do this would be to start a list with part 2 and go there after part 1 finishes, or set up a list with parts 1 and 2, and restart part 1 from your current location.
Youtube has seemingly tried to improve the subscription watching experience by adding a pop-up bar at the bottom of the screen that allows me to go through new videos from my subscriptions. However, it is missing the fundamental ability to change the order that those videos exist in.
It baffles me that the designers at Youtube/Google could create so many different ways to attempt to get people to use their subscriptions function without understanding that people might want a little control over the order in which they watch these videos. In addition to problems with advanced usability, Youtube also has some fundamental errors.
When trying to upload a video, Youtube’s status bars (which have changed numerous times over the time I have used the service) have nearly always failed to inform me of how long a video had left to upload. I understand that with variable uploading rates, an accurate time is not always possible, but seeing the status bar race to 100% and waiting for another 10 minutes to find that the video still hasn’t finished uploading (with no other heavy uploading occurring) is awful design. Even with the current design showing which frame of the video is currently uploading, videos often finish without uploading the information I have set (title, description, etc.), and I am forced to edit these fields for a second time. This is usually after I have waited some arbitrary amount of time and realized Youtube has failed to finish the upload appropriately. Again.
Another recent update to the mobile site has made it impossible for me to see new videos for my subscriptions all in one list. Instead, I can see a list of new videos from my subscriptions mixed with highly rated videos, newly added videos, and others. I can also see what videos my subscribed channels have posted individually. But I can no longer look at a single list showing what all the channels I have subscribed to have added recently. **
I have no idea how these can be looked at as ‘improvements’. It baffles me that someone decided that users would prefer to not have a link to their quicklist or queue (the name has changed recently) or that they would not want to see the newest videos from all of the channels they subscribe to.
So why do we continue to use these sites?
Despite some awful design decisions, it is the communities that make these sites worth using. I can’t tell all of my friends to stop using Facebook and hop on a new site with a better interface and less privacy concerns and hope they will all comply. I can’t tell all of the people I follow on twitter to find a better site to post links that are relevant to my interests and see a change. I can’t force all of the channels on youtube that I subscribe to to move to a site with a better user interface.
I guess the only thing left to do is design a better social networking site that everyone will flock to, a better site for posting 140 word quips, and a better site for video sharing. Shouldn’t be a problem…
*Update: I was wrong. I can log in on the Android app, but it does not have a ‘new videos’ feature under subscriptions that I could find. It gaveme errors 4/5 times I tried to access it, though so it may be in there eventually.
**Update: This was true when I drafted this article, but has since been fixed. In the meantime, the subscription page on the full version of the site was offline for nearly a day.