Facebook’s ‘personalised newspaper’ news feed built on mobile-first principles

7 Mar 2013

Facebook has just revealed its new-look news feed, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg described as “the best personalised newspaper that we can create.” The new news feed will be identical across desktops, tablets and notebooks, and will allow users to drill into the content they are looking for, including real-time photos, music and news.

“We believe the best personalised newspaper should have a broad diversity of content, with world-renowned sources alongside socially and locally relevant content,” Zuckerberg explained. “You can drill down into any topic you want and get visually rich and engaging content.”

The new news feed will present photos much larger than currently presented in the news feed that users are currently using, in what is clearly a swipe at Google+.

Facebook’s vice-president of product Chris Cox said the new-look news feed will roll out on a limited basis today on the web and users will start seeing it appear in phone and tablet form over the next few weeks.

“We want to be careful and slow about how we roll it out. A small amount of people first, we’ll take their feedback and as soon as it is super-polished we will be rolling it out more broadly.”

Zuckerberg said almost 50pc of content in the average news feed consists of photos and videos.

“How we are all sharing is changing and the design of news feed needs to reflect this in terms of updates from publications and artists and world leaders.”

Photos will be front and centre on the new-look news feed


Facebook’s director of design Julie Zhuo said the new design takes photos and puts them front and centre. “It means a more visual and immersive sense of experience of friends in daily lives. But it is not only photos, we are giving photo albums a major facelift, too.”

Zhuo said that place check-ins will also be revamped to provide more information about places where friends have visited.

The new news feed will also give more prominence to content shared from third-party apps like Pinterest, playing to the visual strength of the photography shared on that site.

The new design will also feature some new tweaks, including pictures of friends who have shared the content and captures the conversations that are springing up around a photo or video that was shared.

Diving into content

Chris Struhar, the tech lead in charge of news feed, said a switcher panel will exist on the top right of the page allowing users to jump directly into the kind of content they are looking for, be it music, sports or movies.

“For example, in music you will be able to see what the bands you like are saying, what your friends are listening to and what concerts are going on around you.

“In the photos feed, you will be able to see what people are posting.

“You will be able to see the world around you as your friends have seen it and as they are seeing it right now.”

Cox said Facebook borrowed heavily from the social network’s smartphone and tablet apps and brought this back into the desktop world.

For example, the grey panel from the smartphone and tablet apps that lists news feed, Messages and other groups and settings, as well as the search bar, will become universal and will make its appearance on the desktop PC version of Facebook’s news feed.

In addition, a new News Stories bubble will appear to capture the sense of momentum on the news feed.

“One of the tools we had was taking our mobile designs and porting them over. A lot of what you are seeing is a mobile-inspired web design. We grabbed the same visual model for getting around Facebook,” he said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years