Confused? Facebook Suggests Help Center Answers In-Line About Your Current Page

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Facebook is complicated, but most users don’t have the patience to dig through the Help Center to find answers. But thanks to a brilliant new update Facebook is testing, they won’t have to.

I just discovered that for some users, clicking “Help” in the Account drop-down atop any Facebook page now shows Help topics relevant to the page you’re viewing. Instead of directing you to the Help Center, answers open right in the drop-down. If rolled out, Facebook could expect fewer users bouncing out of frustration, and you could expect fewer customer service calls from your parents.

If you’re in the test base and click Help in the top right drop-down while on the home page, you’ll see articles about the news feed, notifications, and sharing, which in turn reveal sub-questions. From the profile you’re shown Timeline and privacy answers, while the photos page suggests how to upload, tag, and edit photos. Facebook even proceeds suggestions with benevolent HAL9000-style “Hi Josh, what do you need help with?”

Not all sections of the site have tailored suggestions yet, but I expect them to be added for Messages, apps, and the most baffling page of all — privacy settings. If you don’t see the right article suggested, there’s always a button to go to the full, searchable Help Center. This is the first major change to Help Center since a set of gamification leaderboards were launched in September 2010 and later scrapped. I expect it will perform well and be rolled out globally.

When Facebook started, it was for Ivy League college students, and was basically a network of profiles. Few options, smart users. Now the average Facebook page lets users take 20-30 different actions and its user base includes a wide range of education backgrounds, ages, and levels of Internet understanding.

The most common complaints I hear about Facebook are it’s too confusing, or stem from a misunderstanding leading people to assume Facebook is being evil or deliberately hard to use. People fear what they don’t understand, and fear leads to hate. When you can’t figure out how a feature works, you’re likely to either leave the site or abandon that feature. Confusion could be costing Facebook tons of engagement and ad views.

That’s why in-line Help suggestions is a great pre-IPO move. It could assist monetization by directly improving the user experience. With time, Facebook could optimize suggestions to surface commonly checked articles and what you actually clicked on last.

To avoid disruption, Facebook needs to combine functionality not necessarily with simplicity, but with usability. In-line Help suggestions could permit Facebook some more leeway to add options, and improve adoption of those already available. Making people more connected will be a lot easier when they don’t feel lost amongst a thousand features.