Facebook Interface Problems
I have been using Facebook for a while, but I can't understand, why people still overlook the problems at the top of the interface. Here I'll try to explain how it could be possibly improved. On the following image, the top blue bar shows the original Facebook interface, while the bottom—my personal preference.
In both versions the logo remains on the left. Since clicking on it leads to the home page, there isn't a need for a "Home" link, which would only confuse users. In the original Facebook version, a small icon of a house appears when the user moves his mouse over the logo. I think this adds more noise than value. Some people might even think, that they should click exactly on the house icon to go to the home page, which isn't the case. So the same content is then accessed in three different ways: (1) the "Home" link, (2) the logo and (3) the house icon.
When you log in and you want to check your profile, should you click on your own full name? What does your name mean on a link—are you the link or the content behind it? Don't you know who you are? Here Facebook designers have emphasized the uniqueness of every user, but from their own viewpoint. When people speak face-to-face, they can see, hear, touch, smell each other—the person in front of us is tangible, so we can use his/her name. An interface is not a person—it can't go to you directly and tell your name. An interface is only alive within a computer, which can't actively communicate with you. Here Facebook designers must have thought from the user's point of view. A link labelled "Me" seems more natural and user-friendly that your full name. You probably don't forget your name the minute you decide using Facebook. The "Profile" link does the same thing as the link with the full name—again, we have two different ways to access the same information, which is ambiguous. In my version, I have omitted the "Profile" link.
Inbox near Friends?
What has you inbox to do with your friends? Are only friends supposed to write you emails? I think that "Inbox" has more to do with settings than with friends. That's why I changed its place in my version. I went one step further, showing only a pictogram of a letter, which is widespread and intuitive. Such pictograms could save valuable screen space and bring more clarity.
In the original interface the search engine is placed on the right. It makes no sense to first log out before you use the search engine—people expect the interface to lead them gradually from start to finish. Because they read from left to right, they would logically expect that the search engine is the last action they could take, which is wrong. Search engines are too widely used to be buried around links. To highlight it more, I have placed it in the center in my proposal. The purpose of the search field should be crystal-clear—without any explanation,—otherwise that's bad design. So, the explanatory placeholder "Search" is just bad design.
Settings and Logout
In my proposal the links "Settings" and "Logout" are placed on the right of the inbox icon. Their text style (bold) is the same as of the buttons "Me" and "Friends". A different text style isn't needed, since links now are logically ordered. The "Logout" link is the last one you see and click, so it's the rightmost.
I left more distance between the links, to increase their size and make them more easier to click (Fitt's law).
This proposal shows my personal understanding of the interface, which is different from the one of the Facebook's engineers.