Facebook has begun rolling out a site-wide redesign, shuffling the layout of its home page in an effort to simplify the navigation and give prominent placement to some of the most popular features.
The company also marked its sixth anniversary on Thursday, marking the occasion with the announcement that it expects to sign up its 400 millionth user, extending its runaway lead in the social networking space.
The redesign comes after several months of testing various iterations of the home page, Facebook said.
Facebook has a checkered history with its site redesigns and policy adjustments, often drawing the ire of its large and vocal community of users. But the new changes in large measure aim to address one of the primary complaints previous designs, namely that the site was too confusing and cluttered.
The new home page highlights several content-oriented features such as photos, applications and games with links to dashboards in a column on the left side of the page.
The applications and games dashboards will display the content users have interacted with the most recently, and showcase the recent activities of people’s friends.
“You will also start to see counters next to the applications you have bookmarked on your home page,” Facebook engineer Jing Chen said in a blog post. “Counters will notify you when you have a specific action to take, so that you never miss your turn in a game or an update from a friend in an application.”
In a nod to the privacy concerns that have arisen about third-party applications on the site, Facebook has created a new setting that allows users to prevent their activities in games and other apps from showing up on friends’ pages.
“We’re also working on a more granular set of controls for specific applications, so that you can turn off activity for certain applications while leaving it on for others,” Chen said. “We’ll have more information to share on this soon.”
Facebook’s instant messaging product is also getting more exposure. Now, a partial list of a user’s friends who are online appears on the left side of the page. That list is selective, displaying the people the user communicates with the most frequently. The full list of online friends is still available as a pop-up in the chat bar at the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
Alerts about notifications, requests and messages are now consolidated in the top menu, which displays a red bubble that expands to a drop-down menu displaying the information. That information was previously scattered throughout the right side of the screen.
Like clockwork, the more than 4,000 comments appended to the Facebook blog post announcing the changes contain a mixture of enthusiasm for the new look and invective against the company, both for its design choices and the unilateral decision to impose the redesign on its users.