a lot recently, highlighting the nuances of thoughtful placement and treatment of various elements of a web page. Today I stumbled onto an interesting blog post by Ryan Spoon of Polaris Venture Partners about how small changes or additions, specifically in design, can at times make a huge difference for a product on the Web. In the example Spoon references, Facebook added a post log-out message to their homepage which for some users will suggest they look into using Facebook mobile - a small change that is proving useful for the social media powerhouse.We've talked about design
Now when users log out of Facebook and are redirected to the homepage, an updated graphic directs their attention to the service's mobile offerings. One message says "Leaving? Try Facebook on Your Mobile," and another reads "Headed out? Stay connected: Visit facebook.com on your mobile phone." It's a subtle and easily implemented change from the default image, but in terms of visibility for their mobile efforts, its huge.
Previously the main promotion for Facebook's mobile services came in the form of a small icon and text below the "Connect With Friends" section in the lower right portion of the site. The new promotion is wrangling up users who may or may not have known about the mobile capabilities of Facebook at the exact moment they might need to use the service: when they logout and leave their computer.
Some new data from the blog All Facebook suggests that the site's new promotion has had a significant impact on use of its iPhone application. During the month of February, daily active users of the app hovered between 13 million and 14 million, but last week this figure leaped 20% to over 16.5 million. It is unclear, however, if a similar uptake in text alerts was seen from the promotion, but it may be fair to assume that it did. This represents a significant boost for Facebook's mobile options, but it still falls far short of the site's most used application, FarmVille, which has roughly 30 million daily active users.
Whether or not a 2 million user spike in mobile usage is considered a marketing success for such a large community as Facebook, this still serves as a great example for startups of how small tweaks can make a large difference in the usage of your services. One thing of interest about this data is that it says to me that Facebook mobile, which I would consider a main feature, had gone relatively unnoticed by the majority of Facebook users. Or they just needed a reminder that it existed.
This is a reminder that for the most popular web services, the majority of the users are not like its creators; they are not web savvy geeks. We learned this a few weeks ago with the whole "Facebook login" debacle when wayward Facebook users were directed to an article we had written about Facebook Connect after trying to use Google search to login. What this means is that no matter how obvious you think something is, there will always be a portion of your audience that may be oblivious to it.
In most cases, its better to not constantly bombard users with promotions of secondary services; it can be annoying and it clutters up design. This creates a dilemma for promoting services without taking up precious real-estate for main features, one which Facebook solved with their post log-out promotion. But aside from promoting services, small changes to colors, sizes, and styles for things like call-to-action buttons can make a big difference.
Personally, I was surprised that so many people actually log out of Facebook manually. I always stay logged in on my home computers - I even had to look around to see where the "log out" button was. But once again, the lesson learned here is that not all Facebook users are like me. It also could say that healthy reminders that aren't overdone can be helpful in promoting services. Don't be afraid to make a small change and see how it affects your numbers, you could end up learning something useful about your users from it.