Product Design: The Inevitability of Noise

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My biggest problem with my Facebook newsfeed has always been that so much of the content is irrelevant. This is mainly due to the fact that many people I’m friends with I’ve only met once or haven’t seen in a long time. So I acknowledge that the noise is somewhat my own fault.
I made a friend request the other day on Facebook and was presented with an option I hadn’t seen before. I took a picture of it below:


Product Design

If you haven’t noticed, Facebook implemented a smart lists feature. Now each time I make a friend request, it prompts me to assign new friends to one of these lists.
I started thinking about it and realized that the more engaged I become on platforms and applications, the more noise I experience. This holds true on Twitter, Quora, Gmail, Evernote, and even Google Docs. Almost all of these applications try to mitigate the noise by providing filters. Where most of them fall short is the friction accompanied with applying these filters.

Why this new Facebook feature is so clever is that it prompts me to apply this filter within my existing workflow. Each time I want to add a friend I’m always going to click the Add Friend button. I’d never create my own groups and then manually segment my friend graph. I just don’t perceive a high enough ROI on my time. Yet, if one simple click after an action I’m already taking means that I can stay more organized I’m happy to do it. In short, they’ve made the filtering process as frictionless as possible by automatically creating “buckets” and prompting me to segment new friends into them without having to think.

The take-away here is that mechanisms that are aimed to improve the signal to noise on applications should be integrated into our existing workflows. Just because you provide a mechanism to stay organized does not mean people are going to use it. This requires extra work and often teaching users a new behavior. People need to have their hand held and Facebook has done a fantastic job of this throughout the lifecycle of their product.

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