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How netbooks forced Facebook to scrap its bold redesign

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A Facebook director has dismissed claims that the social network ditched last year's big redesign because it was bad for ad revenues. Those claims came from Dustin Curtis, a UX designer and writer who owns the publishing platform Svbtle. In a blog post on Friday, Curtis cited several sources saying Facebook found that testers of the redesigned News Feed were spending less time in user profiles and event pages. "The new News Feed was performing too well," says Curtis. "This change in user behavior led to fewer advertisement impressions, which led, ultimately, to less revenue." However, according to Facebook's product design director Julie Zhuo, Curtis' sources are incorrect.

"The design we tested a year ago wasn’t better for the majority of people."

In a post on her blog, Zhuo explains that the reason for ditching the new design was poor performance on older and less-expensive computers. "The design we tested a year ago wasn’t better for the majority of people," says Zhuo. "While I (and maybe you as well) have sharp, stunning super high-resolution 27-inch monitors, many more people in the world do not." During testing, the redesign "didn't work very well on a 10-inch netbook ... a single story might not even fit on the viewport." Put simply, for those on lesser machines, the site was harder to use than the current design. "These people may not be early adopters or use the same hardware we do, but the quality of their experience matters just as much."

Regarding advertising revenues, Zhuo says the beautified Facebook "would actually have been positive for revenue," a statement that directly conflicts with Curtis' sources. "But that’s not a reason to ship a worse design." The result of Facebook's testing and tweaking is a milder redesign that started rolling out to users earlier this month.